The client sounded worried on the phone. We’d just been getting to know each other for the past few weeks; discussing the very real, and worrying, mental health needs of their staff, and today’s call was about setting up some dates for training. To my surprise, my new friend and colleague, had come come back with an unexpected answer: “At this time, it’s not at the top of our priority list”. I was dumbfounded. A little like a rabbit in the headlights. What did that mean? That the mental health of their people was not a priority? I knew that not to be true. These are caring and compassionate people interested in the wellbeing of their staff and their families. My conversations with them over the past few weeks had left no doubt in my mind. But why were we now having this particular ‘not-at-the-top-of-our-priority-list’ conversation?
Thank god, ‘not-priority’ conversations are not daily occurrences. But, I have found that, unfortunately, they do happen often enough. It does bring up some questions for me – what is at the top of the priority list for businesses? and is that what should be there for them to get better outcomes? and, more importantly, SHOULD a robust mental health initiative be a part of it?
We’re not going to get easy answers to any of those questions, but I can follow a thought trail to shed some light on the matter.
1) follow the results – whatever is on their priority list is what’s giving them the results they are getting now. From our conversations, we know the mental health of their people is suffering, not a good result in my books!;
2) since they are not getting the results they want in that area, that means that those priorities need some readjustment. But only IF they want better results in the area of mental health.
3) Which brings up the next question: do they really want better mental health for their teams? well, what would that require? it would require commitment, time and resources. And here’s where the problem starts to unravel, in business, as everywhere else, these three are precious and limited commodities. Which translates into the need to do an analysis of our business aims, values and options to get us there. Which brings us to point
4) Is the mental health of our teams going to get us closer to our business aims? how? By the way, these are highly valid questions. If the mental health of our teams has no correlation whatsoever to the business aims of the organisation then we should not use our precious time and resources on this, period. So what does the research say?
As a fellow business leader and manager, I also have to look at the business case. I need, want, to make sure something is not just an expense and it’s going to bring some hard, tangible benefits to our business. It’s my responsibility. I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t. So, what’s the Business Case?
Download the Silent Expectations report to get the facts.
For now, stay well and keep mentally healthy.