Opinion
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DOING LEADERSHIP COMMS IN STYLE

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, considers how a manager’s communication style can help people feel happy and valued at work.

31st July 2019

There is an idea that we all feel pressure at points during our work, but if we enjoy our jobs, we are likely to feel well at work and part of something meaningful.

EMMA MAMO, MIND


More than ever, managers need to focus less on getting the work done and more on supporting the people who are getting the work done. I currently oversee about 45 people and, understandably, they want to know where Mind is going and how their role contributes to that journey.

Leading a team is not just about getting stuff out the door. It’s about reviewing what is working well, so that together you can build on the successes, and what isn’t working, so you can tackle the issues.

We all know a distant manager isn’t helpful. Nor is a micro-manager. How do you get the balance right? It’s about situational leadership.

There’s no one leadership style that works at every point of every day, so it’s helpful to understand each team member’s needs on an ongoing basis by asking them what they need and how they like to be managed. If I’m delegating a task or project, I ask the person how they want to proceed and when they want me to be involved. Do they want to take it and run with it, or would they rather check in with me regularly?

The best business managers are good people managers. They take time to understand their team members as individuals. There is a constant dialogue. They invest in one-to-ones every few weeks. Face-to-face communication – being able to see the non-verbal cues – can be critical for building open relationships.

Be led by your team on their communication preferences. You might think you are being brief and efficient, but are you coming across as abrupt? Talk to your team to identify what your style is and what does and doesn’t work for them. Your approach may not be suitable on some days or in certain situations, so it’s important to be able to adapt.

Consider how and when you use technology, rather than face to face, and the effect this can have on your team’s wellbeing. Yes, emails and smartphones enable us all to work in a more agile way, which can help our work-life balance, but we still need downtime.

If you manage people who are based remotely, this can be more of a challenge. Again, ask them what they’d prefer – could Skype or video conferencing help them feel more included than phone or email?

At Mind, we have a policy that discourages working between 8pm and 8am, with no emails to be sent during this time except in special circumstances. If people are on leave or unwell, that should be respected. Make sure there is clarity around expectations and the parameters of working practices. 

The Health & Safety Executive has identified the areas that most contribute to people experiencing stress. Two of the key ones are control and demand. When emails come constantly, it can be hard to feel in control. You are more likely to experience stress when what is being asked of you is greater than the resources you have to manage those tasks.

Try to take control back. I look at email as a support tool – for when I need it. I try not to have my email open all the time. And I put messages into folders: referenceread and to action. I ask my team members to save non-urgent topics and requests for our weekly catch-ups rather than email, so I can keep my Inbox down. 

At Mind, we carry out a Workplace Wellbeing Index every year, assessing organisations to see if they have appropriate policies and practices in place. In our 2018/19 survey, nearly 44,000 employees across more than 100 organisations took part. The data we gather from the Index gives us real insight into what makes people feel well at work. 

Recent research from Mind found that motivation was a key driver when it comes to workplace wellbeing. There is an idea that we all feel pressure at points during our work, but if we enjoy our jobs, we are likely to feel well at work and part of something meaningful. Other factors that contributed to wellbeing at work were having a manageable workload; mindfulness and being able to take notice of the task at hand during the day; relationships with managers; and the physical workplace environment.

If these factors are present in a positive way then they will contribute positively to our wellbeing but if they’re present in a negative way then they will have a negative impact. Having a great office is not going to make much difference if the other factors are not in place – they all play a role in feeling valued.


QUICK TIPS

1 Have regular face-to-face catch-ups. Even if you can’t physically be in the same room, Skype or other videoconferencing tools can be just as effective.

2 If your organisation sets a rule of no working or emailing out of hours, encourage leaders to model this and set the tone.

3 Ask for feedback on what you do as a manager that is helpful and what isn’t, so that everyone is learning how best to work with and support each other. 

 

There is an idea that we all feel pressure at points during our work, but if we enjoy our jobs, we are likely to feel well at work and part of something meaningful.

EMMA MAMO, MIND

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