Coverage of mental health has increased in both popular press and academic research. The recent, tragic death of Caroline Flack, a well-known TV presenter, has dominated both the media and the nation’s hearts. I didn’t know Caroline personally, but I have to say, this really did impact me emotionally and it truly saddened me to think how lost and alone she must have felt.
Whilst the passing of Caroline has raised deeply uncomfortable questions about online culture and media intrusion, it’s got me wondering how genuinely empathetic businesses are around the subject of Mental Health? Furthermore, can an evident lack of emotional intelligence at board level within a business be responsible for a decline in their staff’s mental health/well-being? It’s certainly worth considering.
So, it begs the question, why is emotional intelligence so important in the workplace?
At least 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem each year. That said, if we assume the average SME has an estimated headcount of 20, that’s a quarter of your workforce (at least) that will be suffering. It’s frightening to think how many leadership teams are ill prepared and can’t confidently say emotional intelligence is prevalent and valued at the top.
According to Daniel Goleman, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence;
- Social Skills
Self-awareness is the ability to assess your own emotions and understanding the impact they can have on yourself and others. Through self-awareness you can identify your own strengths, your areas to improve upon and in turn understand others.
People with high EI understand their emotions and they don’t let their feelings rule them. This lends itself to strong leadership, as you’re evidently better equipped to help others identify areas of concern and more importantly, help others control and manage their emotions.
By empathising with your staff and through open, regular communication, you really could make a difference to both performance and well-being.
According to research by PwC, 83% of employees feel their well-being influences productivity, and 33% said poor well-being had been a factor in leaving a job.
What positive steps are being taken in the workplace to ensure the people at the top are continuously upskilling themselves and investing in understanding themselves and others as part of their development?
I’ve personally spent 10 years seeing a number of professionals, be it counsellors, life coaches, leadership coaches, psychotherapists etc. The main reason for this is that I find human beings fascinating and I’ve made a commitment to understanding myself, my emotions and my reactions, in order to become the best version of myself and ultimately fulfil my goal of helping others.
This doesn’t mean I’m perfect (far from it), it’s simply an ongoing, continuous journey of self-improvement, that both myself and my leadership team find ourselves on. We’re always learning and are openminded enough to embrace change and offer our workforce support through a number of initiatives, including a well-being timebank for staff to invest in themselves and take time out.
In 2017 I hired my number 2, a Director for Baltimore Consulting. It took me 2 whole years and 20 interviews to find the right person. Why did it take me 2 years to find the right candidate? At the very top of my job specification, the list of skills I wasn’t willing to compromise on, was EI. He was worth the wait and I’m confident my staff would agree.
Your staff are your business. Richard Branson famously quoted, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first.
If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”. I believe this to be true and think the more businesses that make the conscious decision to identify skills gaps around EI and positively start making it a mandatory requirement within their recruitment process, when hiring leaders, the more we will see positive change.
A rise in retention rates, an increase in productivity and profits and hopefully a decrease in the number of staff afraid to speak up and suffering in silence.
#BeKind has snowballed across social media in the past couple of weeks. I can only hope this is a concept all employers endorse and fully get behind.
It’s time that we all sit up, listen and invest in EI in the workplace.
Take immediate action and make the difference today!