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Webinar with Geoff McDonald - A masterclass on Mental Health and Wellbeing during Home Working and Self-Isolation - how do we cope?

In this webinar Geoff shares his personal experience with mental health and what we can all do to help to manage our own and our colleagues' mental health and wellbeing, especially during these challenging times of home working and self-isolation.

Let's start with Geoff’s final message, surely a leadership mantra for our time…

“Also highly contagious is Kindness; Patience; Love; Enthusiasm; and a Positive Attitude.
Don’t wait to catch it from others – be the CARRIER.”

Mental health is without doubt one of society’s biggest challenges. It was the case pre-Covid-19 and the current crisis will surely compound its importance. As governments and health systems struggle to support the health of our population it increasingly falls to leaders of our organisations to play a proactive role.

Geoff has been at the forefront of this movement for some years, both within Unilever and now as a consultant and campaigner. His work stems from very personal experience and he now advocates and advises organisations on a practical approach to a prescient problem.

I have picked out just a few of the themes from the webinar that really resonated with Wavelength

Geoff spoke about the opportunity to create a new form of capitalism, one that is based on care and compassion. Surely a crisis such as Covid-19 puts this opportunity front and centre, challenging leaders to accelerate these principles into the heart of the new business model. Indeed Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO, said recently “moral behaviour is the better path to financial performance.”

In this perspective, mental health sits alongside the sustainability agenda as core pillars of the new form or capitalism. Neither should require a ‘business case’, they are simply the right thing to do, and both our environment and our peoples’ energy are finite resources and need careful stewardship.

This brings me to Geoff’s point about energy as a strategic priority. I love this! It's a big idea! Most execs talk about ‘people are our biggest assets’ but we tend to sweat assets and even off-load them or strip them when we need the cash.

If our peoples’ energy becomes a strategic priority then as leaders we must become skilled at nurturing and balancing the four energies that Geoff spoke about.

  • Physical – getting stuff done, active

  • Mental – thinking, solving, planning, making sense!

  • Emotional – Feeling, sensing, intuiting

  • Spiritual – purpose, meaning, inspiration

So, in your company or your team now where is the balance, the expectation of your people? Which energies do you reward and nurture, which get neglected or avoided?

Leading energy as a strategic priority might need a graphic equaliser kind of approach – seeing the energies as complimentary, spotting where energy is lacking and dialling up and down accordingly.

Geoff’s approach to nurturing the energy and health of both yourself and those around you looks at both reactive and proactive skills. He showed and talked through a number of practical things you can do to bring this into your leadership practice, from psychological and physical symptom awareness, tips on staying connected and ways you can coach others to share and express their concerns. I was particularly struck by a couple of points:

Practice self-compassion

Geoff had spoken very personally about breaking the stigma of mental health in the workplace but first you have to break the stigma you yourself attach to it - “Be gentle with yourself”. In this time of isolation and terrible uncertainty, allowing yourself to feel low, to say you are having a tough day, to feel lost and to seek help is the major step in the battle. Our ability to see it in ourselves enhances our ability to see it in others – it's the building block of empathy.

Just listen

As leaders we train ourselves to solve, to have answers, to judge quickly and move forward. Geoff kept coming back to the skill of listening – active, without judgement, without leaping to solution. Perhaps during Covid-19 our opportunity to really listen is actually enhanced as we have more 1:1 time with fewer office environment distractions. Any coach would know that outside of the office the ego guard is down and the honesty goes up, so leaders can take the opportunity to give people a damn good listening to!

I loved the check-list for leaders that Geoff went through, simple practices to be conscious of now more than ever.

I’ve picked out a few…

  • Check-ins at the beginning of meetings to genuinely ask how people are (and actively listen to their answers!);

  • Being mindful of and spotting symptoms of worrying energy in others;

  • Ensuring inclusivity in meetings by using he technology to share airtime;

  • Reassuring when you can, but also showing vulnerability which allows it in others;

  • Relaxing the rules – people are trying to cope with many life demands, work is just one of them!

Essentially this is caring and compassionate leadership in practice.

Many of the questions during the webinar revolved around practical approaches to workplace health. We spoke about mental health audits to galvanise leadership, awareness and communication training, signposting, campaigns and storytelling. There is a great chart at the end of Geoff’s presentation which signposts some resources for further information as well as Geoff own company, minds@work movement.

The main message here however, is, if in doubt, start! This is not going to go away and Covid is shining a bright light on it so it is time to accelerate your approach.

And finally, lets just repeat Geoff’s closing words here as anything this brilliant is worth saying over and over again…

“Also highly contagious is Kindness; Patience; Love; Enthusiasm; and a Positive Attitude.
Don’t wait to catch it from others – be the CARRIER.”

Written by Matt White, Wavelength Associate


Geoff McDonald is also part of SpeakersHub and one of our most sought after speakers. To view his full biography to book her to speak at your own event please click here

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