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  • Writer's picturePhil Marsland

How are you, today?

I borrow this great question from the excellent Ian Pettigrew of Kingfisher Coaching. Ian and I have often talked about how we are and how our respective businesses are progressing.

But this isn't just a question for a couple of consultants. It is one that every leader and manager should have in their toolkit.

It's a question that shows that you care. It's a question that delivered in the right way, with space for the person to reply, may get more than "fine", in response.

Its gives permission, and shows that you're not just being polite, and terribly British, but that you care.

This showing that you care is a kindness that is a fundamental part of workplace well being. It is a fundamental part of leadership. It is a fundamental part of showing people that there is someone who will listen, not just someone that wants you to "get on with your bloody jobs". And we know that if workplace well being is led in such a way, businesses can reap the rewards of greater productivity, greater retention, greater advocacy and great innovation.

I was at a CIPD event last month where amongst other things an App was demonstrated. This app analyses job adverts for words that have gender bias. I am sorry to say that the knee jerk reaction of HR people in the room was "we must remove words like care, compassion, supportive...." because they conjure up female images. I was the only person in the room that strongly disagreed. Don't we want all our people, especially leaders and managers to show these qualities? Shouldn't we be reclaiming these words?

Unfortunately these words 'to care' and 'kindness' for any of us brought up in 70s and 80s workplaces would have been alien. And tragically that macho legacy often lives on, and not just in men. Strong, tough, uncompromising leaders were once de rigueur.

Recent research from RobertsonCooper from 200,000 data points show that great leaders and managers balance “challenge" behaviours with “support" behaviours creating better workplace well being. Their research also show that those who are best at this are older women. Which supports my point above. Put simply, you cant have great wellbeing in a business without great leadership and great HR.

Leaders set the culture - the way things are done around here - often based on their own values and beliefs. - and this is manifested in relationships and language. Leaders should set direction and expectations and create enthusiasm and clarity, not pressure, confusion and stress. Leaders should enable people to play to their strengths to bring their enthusiasm, ideas and contribution, not set boundaries, control, and disengage people.

HR have a great opportunity to support leaders in providing such things, to be that sounding board, to be the ones who hold up the mirror.

Nuffield Health recently published their research showing that the cost of absence due to mental health related reasons is £8bn. That health and wellbeing is only a strategic priority for 41% of employers and that only 18% of the UK population experiences a high level of wellbeing and can be said to be flourishing.

As a society we may have some way to go, but at least there is a focus and a raised profile on mental health awareness and good wellbeing. And not just in the workplace.

So, as ever I will close with a question, (well in fact 2 questions). Firstly,

"How are you today?"

And secondly, who are you going to ask,

"How are you today?"

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