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  • Writer's pictureAwatif Yahya

A Leader's Obligation to Mental Health

October 10th was the World Mental Health Day; in light of recent societal and political events, focusing on employee’s mental health becomes a top leadership priority.

The legendary Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs described five stages of human needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, these must be satisfied first before working up to self-fulfillment needs at the top of the pyramid where performance excels.

As shown in the figure above, recent global challenges have affected the fundamental stages of basic and psychological human needs.

Leaders cannot afford to ignore these global challenges. They have an obligation to protect their employees, as much as feasibly possible, by addressing external factors affecting employee’s wellbeing and state of mind. It is a leadership responsibility to ensure all employees, those facing mental health challenges as well as those who aren’t, work in a safe environment.

There are five skills leaders need to focus on to meet their responsibilities towards employee mental health:

1. Effective Listening Skills

There is a huge difference between hearing someone speak and truly listening to what they are conveying with their choice of words, voice tonality and body language. Listening skills require a true desire to want to help a person, it is achieved by establishing a foundation of trust and empathy. Mastering listening skills is not as easy as it might seem; it entails continuous practice through a structured framework.

2. Constructive Conversations

Listening skills lead to constructive conversations. In such conversations, leaders are not looking for loopholes to blame, criticize or prove their personal points. For a conversation to be constructive, a leader must view it as an opportunity to gain knowledge and mutual understanding. As with listening skills, partaking in constructive conversations require practice and structure.

3. Coaching and Support

Coaching is an essential leadership skill; it is different from managing or giving instructions. Good leaders coach regularly to support employees in achieving their goals or overcoming their challenges. Coaching discussions could be on a personal level, a professional level or an intersection of the two. There are many coaching methodologies leaders can adopt depending on their own styles and preferences.

4. Regular Check-ins

Check-ins are good follow up to coaching. Check-ins are not means to micromanage, spy or intimidate employees. They are tools to uplift employees, see how they are coping and offer guidance or resources when warranted. For this reason, check-ins are planned according to the employee schedule and preference.

5. Team Building

Last but not least, leaders are accountable for how effective (or not) their teams work together. There are five levels of a team life cycle: undeveloped team, experimenting team, consolidating team, mature team and declining team. A great leader would know what level their team is operating in and use the right tools to inject energy and empowerment to maintain team momentum.

We hope this blog motivates you to strengthen the skills discussed above and continue to grow your leadership toolbox. As always, feel free to contact us or book a free session to brainstorm ideas for your, and your team’s, leadership development journey.

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