Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently said, “As we will see as the recession takes hold, loss, grief, and anxiety are traumas. You can’t just do it just with the stiff upper lip.”
Although we might all be getting more used to our new working normal, the issues surrounding wellbeing aren’t just going to go away. With increasing numbers of people struggling on many different fronts, mental health is rightly at the forefront of many organisations’ agendas and initiatives.
According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 of us will suffer from some form of mental health issue each year, and these numbers are only likely to rise given the current situation we find ourselves in. Anxiety levels are rising as individuals are faced with an uncertain future, so it’s not surprising that over 6 in 10 are feeling afraid (source: Mental Health Foundation/Cambridge University’s Institute of Public Health).
Kindness takes courage
The theme of May’s Mental Health Awareness week was kindness and this is what we want to discuss in this article. Showing empathy and compassion towards others are the hallmarks of the best leaders, and especially now with so many people working from home, it’s even more important to show that you care. Kindness, empathy and altruism are all noted leadership skills – and as research and evidence keeps reminding us, soft skills are just as important, if not more so, than technical or subject matter knowledge.
This doesn’t only apply to those with management responsibilities, this is a time for us all to step up and help each other as much as possible. Sadly, we may not know the full realities of what each individual is going through but we can reach out to as many as possible within our close networks to make sure they’re OK. Whether it’s calling a colleague, getting together with friends for a virtual get together or helping a neighbour, there are many ways to get involved.
To be kind also takes courage. While it is perceived to be a ‘soft’ skill, sometimes kindness involves giving truthful feedback in a warm way, to help someone grow professionally. Think of those difficult conversations you might have to have at work with your direct reports. But if you withhold that honest feedback then you won’t be helping that person develop. Just be clear and make sure you stick to the facts when doing so.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, neatly summed up the positive chain reaction that kindness can spread, “We know that one act of kindness can lead to many more. This is the type of community action that we need to inspire others as we discover our connection to each other and extend kindness to ourselves.”
And being kind to one another makes us happier. What better payoff than that?