Yesterday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day. In honor of this day, John and I decided to write about mental health this week. If you missed John’s blog post earlier in the week, I want to encourage you to go back and read it as well.
Just to echo John before we go too much further, we are not
mental health experts. We recognize that this is a very common struggle among
many people, and want to make every effort to help people in the midst of it.
Now, this may feel like a heavy burden, especially for those of you reading this that lead large organizations or teams. Please let me make this clear: it is not your job to replace a professional counselor or a doctor. But you should prioritize the mental health of your team.
A healthy culture is the leaders responsibility.
Unfortunately, for many leaders, the health of the bottom line becomes a greater priority than the health of the culture. Ironically, these leaders actually sabotage their ability to succeed because they aren’t focusing on their people.
And, as I’m sure you’ve heard John teach on many occasions, people
are your most appreciable asset.
My friend Simon Sinek has some great insights on a healthy
organizational culture in his book Leaders Eat Last. Simon says (see
what I did there?), “We need to build more organizations that prioritize the
care of human beings. As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our
people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the
So, what are the characteristics of a healthy culture?
1. A Culture of Safety
Stress and anxious feelings are both natural responses to
pressure. But, most often, the answer to easing these responses is not to
decrease workload; it’s actually to create a culture where your people feel
safe. Safe to fail and learn from it; safe to try new things and grow; safe to
stand up for what is right with a client and know that your boss has your back.
When people feel safe, they have less stress and anxiety when under pressure,
which leads to higher levels of performance.
2. A Culture of Purpose
Show me a leader who is not casting a vision full of purpose and I will show you a team that has grown hopeless and unhealthy. The leader’s responsibility is to paint a clear picture of the future for his or her people. And that vision should be connected back to the purpose of the organization. King Solomon was wise in saying, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But when people are able to see the purpose, they are more hopeful and excited to fight for it.
3. A Culture of Authenticity
A healthy work environment is
one that not only encourages people to be open about their struggles, but also
focuses on meeting that openness with empathy and assistance. A leader’s most
important tool when building a healthy culture is empathy. When a leader is
empathetic, the people of the organization are much more inclined to be
authentic about what they are going through. Authenticity in turn allows people
to grow through their challenges, instead of shrinking away from them.
4. A Culture of Connection
I recently heard Marcus Buckingham say, “Loneliness is a
killer. If you want to kill me, ignore me.” The truth of what he said shook me
to the core. As leaders, we must fight to create a culture where our people
feel seen and known. I’m talking about a transformational culture vs. a transactional
culture. The day you see your people as metrics to be managed will be the
beginning of the end for your organization.
At the John Maxwell Enterprise, we have made it a priority to build a culture that supports the health of our people.
We focus a lot of time and energy on applying the four characteristics above. I want to encourage you to do the same.
Earlier this week, John introduced the thought that there is little separation between what is good for your life and what is good for your leadership. Focus on your people, help them find health in their lives, and the entire organization will reap the benefits.