In times of crisis, leaders who preoccupy themselves solely with financial survival can unconsciously neglect the wellbeing of their teams and impact their ability to thrive.
More than a century of research has shown the significant impact that stress and change has on poor health outcomes for individuals and organisations. One of the most significant factors from SuperFriend’s research is that leaders need to ‘walk the talk’ and be seen to model what is expected. This is particularly important in the face of social and economic trauma.
The old saying “nobody’s perfect” applies to both leaders and employees alike. One of the drawbacks to being in a position of influence is that your emotions can have a ripple effect throughout your team. Emotions are contagious, and a leader’s reaction to change can have a lasting impact on their people, customers and community.
Inspiring and effective leaders are able to balance the head and the heart when making decisions. They consider both the effect that their decision will have on the wellbeing and economic impact of others and provide empathetic and compassionate responses to staff when taking action. This is even more critical when delivering ‘hard news’ to your teams.
Over the past few weeks, many organisations have rapidly switched from physical to virtual work arrangements. This drastic change has forced employees to completely alter the structure of their work and lives in a short period of time.
Although technology allows us to exchange information and collaborate online, virtual communication can have a lasting negative impact if mismanaged.
As leaders, it is so incredibly important in times of change that we over-communicate with our staff and members. This includes going back to our core principles, advocating our organisations’ values, explaining the rationale behind our decisions and most importantly, acknowledging the hard work and challenging times that people are facing.
It is okay to not have all the answers. Listening to the needs of your people, and showing you are committed to bringing them as much information as you can, will reduce the spread of uncertainty and misinformation. Your authentic and appropriate vulnerability is key to building a two-way sense of empathy and compassion.
Protecting the mental health of workers is a group effort. Too many leaders rely solely on employee assistance programs to solve any mental health issues that occur. This a limited solution that will not cut it in this current environment.
Our research into thriving workplaces found that one of the most important steps that organisations can take is for leaders to regularly undertake mental health and wellbeing training. This demonstrates their commitment and creates a mechanism to ensure the issue does not slip through the cracks when things get busy. It also has a positive influence on culture, policy and connectedness across the whole organisation.
Challenging times provide leaders with an opportunity to look for ways to collaborate with peers to establish meaningful mental health policies and practices throughout their organisation.
Leaders in the insurance and superannuation industries are familiar with external change.
At the beginning of this year, Mercer published a report that interviewed Australian superannuation fund executives about the changes they think will happen in future and how they’re strategically preparing themselves. About half of these leaders ranked government regulation as a top risk, nominating it as a dominant force shaping the industry.
Humans are naturally resistant to change when faced with threats that we feel are out of our control. If we underestimate our ability to adapt to changes, it can lead to increased uncertainty and anxiety.
Our job as business leaders is to provide employees with as much control over their lives and confidence in their future as possible. Leaders can engage them in the decision-making process and create solutions to issues encountered during times of change.