Podcast: co-founder Audrey speaks about leader wellbeing and the GLWS

Podcast: co-founder Audrey speaks about leader wellbeing and the GLWS

by | Aug 29, 2019 | Wellbeing |

I was recently a guest on Murray Wright’s Leadership Moments podcast. I spoke in detail about my career, partnership with Karen Gillespie and the creation of GLWS, and discussed how leader wellbeing and performance go hand in hand.

Listen to the audio here – and see the main talking points below.

 

How to spot a ‘well’ leader compared to an unwell one

There’s a lot written about nightmare leaders’ who are psychopaths at the top of organisations and clearly those individuals don’t create positive wellbeing ripples across their organisations – they create cultures of fear and they can often be pretty toxic.

But thankfully, whilst they’re very well-documented, high profile and written about extensively, they form a tiny minority of the leaders at senior levels in organisations.

The broader majority of leaders have an impact on others’ wellbeing, not through being toxic – but probably just through not being terribly aware of how they impact and land on others. Leaders cast a wellbeing shadow over an organisation, and over the people in that organisation.

The extent to which they had a decent night’s sleep, their relationships with family, loved ones and friends are in a good place; how they’re organising their time and prioritising where they place their energy; how clear they are about why it is they’re doing what they’re doing – those are the things which have a huge impact on how they show up in the office and how others experience them.

 

Why the absence of ill health is not the same as having high levels of wellbeing

There’ve been huge inroads made over the last five years in relation to destigmatising mental health and putting a bigger spotlight on physical health – and that is terrific. But mental and physical health and the absence of ill health in those two areas does not equate – it’s not synonymous to having high levels of wellbeing.

What I would like to be bold enough to suggest to my clients is to think beyond that. What do most of us need? Most of us are very fortunate in being in comparatively good physical health and comparatively good mental health and yet we don’t necessarily feel we’re well.

 

How much of our own wellbeing is up to the choices that we make (which might surprise you)

The rule of thumb that we work to, based on an amalgamation of the research, is that about 20% to 50% of our own wellbeing is up to the choices that we make. Depending on whether you’re a pessimist or an optimist, that will either strike you as appallingly low or as a pleasingly high figure!

But whilst as individuals we can have a lot of impact over our own wellbeing, I’m very nervous about overstating this. Why? Because I think that when taken too simplistically, it leads to victim-blaming. I think wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility and we do have choices – and often we have more choices than we feel that we do. But still, everyone has a boss, everyone has clients, everyone has colleagues, everyone has a family and friends, everyone is part of an organisation and society, and these can have as much if not more bearing on our wellbeing as personal choice. That’s why workplace wellbeing is both an individual and systemic issue.

 

Wellbeing ‘assets’ that most senior leaders enjoy

The majority of leaders report being able to construct their experiences in a way that gives them a great deal of meaning and purpose, that they feel they’re doing roles that are of significance, where they are making a difference.

They usually have some autonomy and they’re roles that are stretching them intellectually and allow them to develop some sense of fulfilment through becoming more expert and masters of their domain.

As for the people who are in a really good space, we’re also seeing that they have strong authentic relationships, that they are able to bring their whole selves into the workplace. They feel trusted, respected, wanted, and needed. Outside of work that goes deeper –  the wellest leaders are those reporting high levels of love and affection and warmth and security.

And of course, the trick is to ensure your meaningful, purposeful job doesn’t destroy the love and affection derived from a great family life.

 

Wellbeing ‘liabilities’ associated with being a leader

One of our items is around the extent to which people experience self-doubt – and that is pinged at a rate you just wouldn’t believe. And it’s interesting because the people that we’re working with are at very senior levels. That insecurity seems to be a shadow that follows around a large proportion of professionals.

 

What many leaders don’t do (that they really should)

What’s the missing ingredient? It’s difficult to know exactly where to start, but one of the things that springs to mind most is having the courage to write our own rulebooks for success in life. And before you can write your own rulebook for success, that means you need to stop and think about what success and happiness and wellbeing look like for you in your life.

You are the only person that walks in your shoes, so how about daring to have the vision for your life as you want it to be?

And when you’re a bit clearer about what’s important to you, then the question becomes, “What are my boundaries? How do I lead my life in a way that continually tips me towards achieving that vision of success for myself, rather than somebody else’s or society’s definition of success taking me down a different path?”

 

Everyday tips for better wellbeing

There’s not exactly a silver bullet, but if you haven’t been taught how to do belly breathing, how to do self-check-ins around how you’re pacing and what’s going on for you, then those would be some things I would strongly suggest.

And make the time to do a wellbeing audit. To hold the mirror up and look at how you’re leading your life (both at work and outside of life) and evaluate for yourself the choices that you’re making in relation to how you’re looking after or not, your key relationships. How you’re looking after yourself or not. And that’s where the GLWS comes in!

It’s incumbent upon you to carve out the space to do this because we are all under so much pressure. 90% of the information floating around today has been created in the last two years alone. We are bombarded. ‘Brain bombing’ is here to stay!

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