When I was speaking at a Mental Health Asia webinar last week (15 September), it struck me that the majority of audience questions were about “how” to gain the support of leadership for wellbeing initiatives.
There is an emerging awareness of the profound benefits of creating productive work environments. Yet, there is a sense of helplessness in getting decision-makers to take action.
My experience taught me that doing anything new in organisations require a planned change management intervention. This applies to Mental Health and Wellbeing initiatives (MH&WB) as much as any other business strategy. Although complex in implementation, three simple principles can be applied to get the change process going.
Principle 1, use an evidence-based approach – DATA. Do an audit – using a survey or assessment and measure the level of wellbeing in your organisation. When I use wellbeing assessments and create “heat maps” for my clients, it often facilitates insights and a willingness to take action.
Principle 2, we need not change the world in one go. A coaching principle I adhere to is to find the smallest possible step that we can take in the right direction – towards goal achievement. A succession of small, impactful changes is often more powerful than trying to take quantum leaps forward. Find a leader in the organisation who is open to the concept and has been supportive of the insights from your audit and start working with them and their team. Track the results and make it publicly visible. Of course, if you have the support to create organisation-wide change in one go, by all means, do it!
Principle 3, explore and understand the reasons for the perceived resistance to change. Is it due to lack of knowledge (not knowing), lack of capability (not able) or a lack of motivation (not willing)? You require a different strategy for each of these causes. For example, sharing the overwhelming evidence for mental health and wellbeing will work if knowledge is absent. If capability is the problem, you have to develop the capacity to take action – e.g. create a project team, hire a consultant, leverage internal resources etc. Lastly, if motivation is the issue, try to link your initiative to something important to them, think “bottom line”, “brand image” or “personal legacy”.
I find that most organisations who resist MH&WB initiatives do so out of lack of knowledge or have the erroneous belief that it will harm the business and overall performance. Thus, following the guidance of Principle 3 and showing how MH&WB enhances the brand image, productivity and bottom line is an essential part of this process. In fact, at HCC we don’t talk about MH&WB, we call it Sustainable Performance. By changing the name, we acknowledge the fact that this is a direct performance enhancer, not just another “touchy-feely” initiative.