Tag Archives: 7 Pillars

Pillar-7-Wrap-Around-Strategies

Building A Mentally Wealthy Workplace: 7th Pillar

How does your organisation demonstrate a commitment to developing its mental wealth?A clear tell tale sign is a preference for considered mental health initiatives over band aid solutions. That demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to developing its mental wealth. And these carefully considered and designed mental health initiatives must be ‘wrap around strategies’. That means that your mental health initiatives are, at its basic core, complex and have to take a holistic view of a person’s journey through a mental health problem. As I mentioned in the previous Pillar, awareness programs are useful, but they can’t be the only strategy. Likewise with Employee Assistance Programs. And with anti-bullying and harassment training. And with wellness programs. And so on. Each of these initiatives by themselves is useful, but when used in isolation, they have little sustainable impact.

  • We need to think more broadly than the bookend strategies of making people aware of the potential for trouble and mopping up after it happens.
  • You need to look at your prevention strategies. What are those? Are they a part of a complete strategy or an add on?
  • You need to look at your early intervention strategies. Do they move beyond the basis of EAP referral and leave?
  • You need to look at your wellness programs. Are they eclectic and are they giving you the results you are after?
  • You need to look at your leadership development programs. Are they complete?
  • Do these programs exist? Are they being used?

Building a mentally wealthy culture doesn’t require a massive bolt on program, but it does require you to ensure the psychological needs of a diverse workforce are catered for. Diverse not just in age, gender or ethnicity, but diversity in work style, talent and life outlook.

Recognition of mental wealth is a paradigm shift. I realise that. So kudos for you still being here, not throwing the book down and running away. What you have been told about leading successfully: the macho, tough leadership style (even when dressed up with some sophistication and political correctness) creates less valuable companies in the long run than displaying genuine compassion and a willingness to work with people to achieve a common goal. This is not a ‘soft’ approach, it’s a proven approach. One that gets results.

And that’s such a game changer. Highly worth it, don’t you think?


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Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Pillar-6-Understanding-Complexity

Building a Mentally Wealthy Workplace: 6th Pillar



I was chatting about life and medicine with an experienced doctor recently and he looked at me intently and said ‘you know what Peter? Wherever there is a human being there is a variable. We never have any certainty. Anything can happen’ He was talking about medicine specifically but doesn’t this also apply to any other area of life? Organisations need to understand this if they are to respond appropriately to mental health problems. How do they do that?

When an organisation makes informed responses, as opposed to knee-jerk, simplistic actions, it demonstrates the principle of ‘understanding complexity’.

People are complex. That much is obvious. But it’s depressing how quick people are to label someone who is different to them. My wife loves structure: a room, computer, a desk, somewhere to focus and crank stuff out. But to me, just talking about it… ugh. Give me a laptop at the beach, anytime, or a coffee shop, and then my mind starts flowing. To me, I couldn’t imagine putting someone at a desk and asking them to sit there for eight hours a day – surely that would be torture or they must be incredibly dull and lacking creativity. While to someone like Emi, wanting to take a laptop to the beach looks like some sort of weird learning disorder / ADD thing, lack of commitment, or simply ‘taking the piss’. And therefore we’d better put some controls in place to make sure they work and act how I think they should. That control rankles and it forces the person to perform from a position of weakness, not in a way that amplifies their talents. This is where we need to examine ourselves and say, “Are we unfairly judging someone because they are different? Is there a mental health disorder here, or a killer hidden talent?

Remember the canary. What at first instance may look like a weakness, may in fact be a sign of strength.

We are starting to see organisations respond to the mental health challenges in our workplaces. You can see it in initiatives designed to build awareness, like ‘R U OK?Day’. Building awareness is a good first step, but what happens when you ask someone, ‘are you ok?’, and the answer is ‘No.’ Awareness is powerful, but without knowing what to do next, it’s next to useless.


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I’ve often reflected on the role of the manager being ‘to bring certainty and structure to unstructured situations.’ That’s a tough job. We are surrounded by unstructured situations. It’s called life. I think it was John Lennon that said, ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans’. We can expect things not to go exactly to plan. And when things don’t go to plan, managers like to have a process for figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it. That’s smart! Unfortunately people are incredibly complex. They have different goals and values. Different work styles and preferences. Different belief structures. And events affect them differently. There is no manual for ‘fixing’ a mental health problem – only a range of approaches you can try, some of which seem to work better than others. Would you believe the professionals still disagree about what mental illness even is? They argue amongst themselves and they write long, impressive papers about it, but in the end, there isn’t a consensus.

The point I’m trying to make is that, for a manager, there isn’t much to be gained by being able to diagnose a mental illness and prescribe a treatment plan. It’s not your job to do so. But by recognising that people and situations are complex, taking a step back, and coming at the problem with an enquiring mind, and an intention to help the individual, you can achieve a lot.

Take care, and talk soon.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Pillar-4-Total-Integration

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 4th Pillar

What do mentally wealthy organisations differently to others? Good question, right?

What Mentally wealthy organisations do is they see resilience and wellbeing as an integral part of their culture, in the extraordinary cases – it IS their culture. It’s not just an add on.

Think back to your time in organisations over the past maybe 10 to 20 years or so.  How many ‘strategic initiatives’ can you recall?  I can think of a stack of them: Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Employee Onboarding, Activity Based Costing, Management by Objectives, Triple Bottom Line Accounting…  And quite a few more.  How many of these really stuck and became part of the fabric of the organisation?  How many are you actively practicing today?

Probably not many, right?

And this is the problem with bolt on initiatives.  The Board or the leadership team will get hold of an idea from somewhere and decide it will be the next silver bullet that’s going to give them a strategic advantage over competitors and transform the industry landscape.  Project teams are established, consultants are hired, strategic plans are announced, budgets are approved and work begins.  But before long the project team encounters the headwinds of organisational inertia.  When push comes to shove, for example when a leader’s bonus rides on hitting a sales target, they will prioritise business as usual over supporting the project team.  With bolt on initiatives, what looks like commitment is actually in-principle support, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of ‘the important stuff’.


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There is a ROI of 2.3 on average direct correlation between the mental health of your employees and your organisation’s financial performance.  It is no-brainer.  Therefore it is too important to chance employee mental health to the success of your ‘Wellness Program’ or ‘RUOK Awareness Day’.  Mental health built into everything you do cannot be an add-on to what you do. It needs to be in built into everything you do. It needs to be part of the how you think or how you talk in your organization. It needs to permeate your policies. It needs to permeate how you move the organization.

You can cut logs and carry them to the nearest town and then put them on a truck. Or, you can chug the logs onto the river and let the flow take it to the nearest town. Which one is easier? Don’t make your employee mental health initiative a bolt on that you have to expend additional energy to execute.  Make it flow by incorporating it into the way your leaders lead.

It can’t be like, “Oh, did we talk about mental health this quarter? We need to put something in the Board report.” No, it happens as a matter of course.  It’s what we do. It’s not a bolt-on, it’s totally integrated.

That’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Pillar.

Talk soon and have a mentally healthy day.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Pillar-3-Nothing-about-me-without-me

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 3rd Pillar

A lot of managers ask me ‘Peter, how can we tell if someone REALLY has got a mental illness?’ They want to know if they are being manipulated and taken advantage of. Have you ever walked away with the feeling that someone was taking advantage of you in this area? It’s possible. And today I will show you how you can minimise these occurrences.

The secret to protect yourself and your team from manipulation and harassment claims; to boost your teams performance to unprecedented levels and get unique wisdom as to what really is going in your team relies on the application of Pillar 3 of the 7 Pillars of a Mentally Healthy Workplace.

Pillar 3 is Nothing About Me Without Me.

It is common for teams, due to the pressures of the work environment, to not quite get each other, start competing with each other detrimentally and for distrust to creep into the dynamics of the team. And Distrust is the toxic fume that Pillar 3 – Nothing About Me Without Me, focuses on. As a leader, you want to eradicate from your team any cause for distrust in your team. Both between team members and yourself. Distrust is the cancer of a high performing team. You must get rid of it. But, how do you do that?


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One thing a lot of managers dont understand is that, one of the first, if not THE first, thing that suffers when people become distressed and mentally unwell is REAL TRUST in the relationship they have with their boss and with other team members. They don’t lose all trust but they lose trust that their relationship with you and others is robust enough for them to communicate openly and honestly; and they’ve lost trust that you have their back. Most managers miss this. And why wouldn’t they? They are not supposed to know, they are not Mental Health experts. By the way, this is missed by most mental health experts too! This is where Pillar 3 comes in so handy.

Pillar 3 makes the bold but well supported assertion to introduce real transparency into the way you communicate in your team. As an effective way to build trust, it says stop talking about others and bring them into the conversation from very early on.

Great advice.

Usually, when a staff member start showing signs and symptoms that something is not mentally well, many managers panic and go and talk to someone else. It is possible that it may have come to their attention because someone else raised it. And then they proceed to talk to others, maybe HR or their senior supervisor, trying to get direction on what to do. By the time the staff member with the problem is approached, very often others have had robust conversations during which decisions have been made…on the life and career of someone else not present – the staff member in distress. This doesn’t go well in building trust. Why?

Several reasons:

  • Contributes to the paranoia of the staff member: Who Else Is Talking About Me?
  • Having the person in conversations contributes to transparency
  • Its a sign of respect. Respect shows the person they are valued
  • It protects you from reaching the wrong conclusions about what is really going on. Oftentimes what is going on is not so bad and can be addressed easily if we work together as a team
  • Competency and confidence goes a long way to increase trust in your abilities; and they both get a better chance when aided with transparency

And these are just some of the very good reasons as to why creating a culture of inclusion, Nothing About Me Without Me, can have a positive impact on your attempts to create a mentally healthy culture.

Its a nice and efficient way to let your team know that you have their back and you trust them. When was the last time that happened to you? Felt good, right? That’s what we are encouraging you to do.

At our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders, we operationalise this pillar and we show managers how to take their skills to the next level. If you’ve done this Masterclass, you know what we are talking about, right? If you haven’t, I invite you to join us for the next Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders.

I hope to see you soon and remember to be nice to each other.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Pillar-2-Organisational-Plasticity

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 2nd Pillar

Workplace mental health is a growing concern for many managers. Many of the traditional approaches to addressing mental health at work, are simply not working, and in some cases, are even making things worse!

In this video series, the 7 Pillars of a Mentally Healthy Workplace, we take an honest look at 7 principles, or 7 areas, that if addressed can minimise the impact of mental ill-health at work, and create a healthy and safe workplace culture that performs really well, even under high pressure situations.

Today, I will be talking about Pillar number 2 – Organisational Plasticity.

Pillar, or principle, number 2 – Organisational Plasticity helps managers like you address a Toxic Fume that often creeps into teams inadvertently, the toxic fume of the ‘Fear of Making a Mistake’.

You see, managers are expected to avoid risk at all costs these days. And that means they are looking for a definite process, that will deliver a definite result.

But when it comes to Mental Health, there is no definite solution for all employees. There is no one size fits all process to be followed.

Unfortunately, when someone becomes mentally unwell at work, most workplaces tend to apply just 2 default options – either send the person to an EAP service (that’s an employee assistance program), or send them away on leave. While these two options are a good start, they are just not enough. And the underlying message that staff can hear is go take your problem somewhere else. Now I know that’s not what is meant, but that is what some people will hear.

In our mental health workshops for managers, we educate participants about the concept of frames in mental health. A frame, is a specific way that a person makes sense of their world – their life view.

Square businessman fitting in formThat means that they come to you with an understanding, and an explanation, of what life is about, what is happening for them, and what needs to be done, that might be completely opposite to yours.

Our workplaces, and indeed our society right now favours the Medical and Psychological frames. That is why, when someone is unwell, most workplaces encourage the person to seek medical help, or counseling (usually through EAP). But not everyone views mental health through these lenses.

And this is important because your colleague is going to access the help they need through their preferred frame, not yours. And, if they are to recover, they will do so by taking steps through their preferred frame.

If we, as managers or as organisations, push our own frame onto the person, the likely result will be one of conflict, resistance and, in some cases, complaints of harassment and/or bullying.

So what can we do? Firstly, we need to find out the persons Frame – their preferred explanation of what is happening. Once you know their frame, you know what motivates them, now you are ready to elicit solutions from them and get better outcomes. We talk more about how to do this in our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders course.

And what can we do as organisations? We need to be willing to be very flexible in our approach, and provide a range of possible solutions & supports for people to access.

Now, this can be difficult for managers, and when faced with a complicated mental health situation, many feel out of their depth. And that’s to be expected. After all, managers are trained in management, not in mental health or psychology. Why would we expect them to be experts in this area?

But because of that unknown, more often than you think, managers hope that the problem will go away and, when it doesn’t, they do what we all do in difficult situations: overreact and become rigid, even controlling. Why? Because we fear making a mistake that will hurt our reputation and we become defensive.

Instead of becoming very rigid in our approach, we need to do just the opposite, open up to alternative solutions, that are chosen by the individual. These are the ones that are most likely to work – getting the best outcomes for the person involved, the whole team, and the business.

How else can we demonstrate this second pillar – Organisational Plasticity?

Make sure that you engage your team in coming up with a variety of honest and truly flexible arrangements that encourage wellbeing in your teams. This can be a very useful & healthy exercise for all, especially if everyone can benefit, regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not. Or course, this doesn’t mean that anything goes. We understand that these Authentically Flexible arrangements will, out of necessity, vary from one organisation to another. But these are a great start.

The other thing you can do is to make sure you get to be known by your team as someone able and willing to adjust and adapt as necessary. Someone able to let go of old ways and embrace new ways. This will build the trust you need to build a great team that has fun and enjoys good mental health – while also performing at high levels! ☺

And there you have it, Pillar number 2 Organisational Plasticity – address the fear of making a mistake that creeps into teams when it comes to mental health and encourage authentic & flexible arrangements as a way to build trust.

I hope you enjoyed this video. I wonder if it would be ok with you that I ask that you share this video with other managers or HR and WHS professionals that you think might benefit. Thank you. Bye for now ☺

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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canary-in-coal-mine

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 1st Pillar

I’m guessing that you are probably a manager and that you don’t need much convincing that working in a mentally healthy place is imperative. And you would also agree that managing mental health issues at work can be tricky.

I agree! That’s why today I want to share with you one of The 7 Pillars for a Mentally Healthy Workplace. The 7 Pillars model is a simple but powerful guide to show you what to change and how in order to create a mentally healthy workplace

The 7 Pillars are core principles that need to underpin everything you do as a leader. If you really take this on board and really follow it, this will improve your practice as a manager, and it will save you time and energy managing mental health issues at work. These principles have been distilled from the extensive and rich qualitative and quantitative research conducted since the 1970’s that highlights what really works for people recovering from mental health problems.

I’ll start with pillar number 1 – “Us, not you.”

This principle helps you take your organisation or your team from stigma to unconditional positive regard for the person. What does it mean? In today’s workplaces, research shows that people are afraid to come out and tell their managers they are experiencing mental distress. Why? Because they feel it will hurt their careers. That’s what stigma is – discrimination because of a mental health problem. These beliefs run deep and create a lack of trust between management and staff. We need a paradigm shift. A shift of perspective that helps turn the problem into a competitive advantage. But how do we do that? We create and promote Unconditional Positive Regard.

But what does an organisation with Unconditional Positive Regard look like? It’s one where people are convinced that you value and appreciate them as a contributing member in spite of mental health challenges and, at times, because of having experienced mental health problems. Now, that sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? How does that even work?

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Let me illustrate – In days gone by, miners used to take a little canary into the mine. You know why they used to do that?

Because in the mines there are dangerous gases that can come up, toxic gases. So miners used to take a canary because the canary, being a more sensitive animal, would start feeling sick, unwell before anyone else would…so they would watch the canary and if the canary started feeling unwell, what do you think they did? Well, I can tell you what they didn’t do. They didn’t say: “Don’t worry about it. He’s faking it! I’m sure he’s faking it.” “He’s not pulling his weight, is he?” No, they didn’t, did they? They got out of that mine immediately! They took care of the canary. They understood that the canary had a more sensitive nature. But they knew that that sensitivity itself IS the strength of the canary! That’s what made the canary such a good and valuable member of the team, didn’t it? You get it? So then going, “He’s faking it. Don’t worry about it. Let’s keep him out of the group.” “I am so busy, I don’t have time for this! This is most inconvenient, we’re producing so well, and now he goes crazy, this canary…” it’s not going to work!

So maybe there’s room for us to change, to revolutionize how we look at mental health and start thinking, “Is there something that we can learn together from this member of our team that seems to be in a more sensitive space at the moment?” Almost like a canary’s space. What are the toxic fumes that can possibly be in this team that no one else seems to have picked up yet, but that everyone is breathing? … It’s a more useful approach, isn’t it? So that’s what this first principle is about – “Us, not You”, acknowledging that we are in this together. To really start thinking and breathing as a team, “Hang on. One of our members is not well. That member is actually expressing what quite a few members in the team are not expressing.” And this is what the first Pillar is about: it’s not Your problem, but OUR problem, OUR opportunity.

So how do we put this into action at work? Well, ask yourself: do people feel safe to disclose to their manager when they are experiencing a mental health problem? Do your leaders know how to address stigma and discrimination when it arises at work? Do you have initiatives to support mental health for ALL employees, not just those who are having a mental health problem. Are reasonable adjustments (or flexible arrangements) accessible to ALL employees? These are some starting points to ensure Pillar 1 ‘Us not Them’ is upheld.

Till next time, take care of each other.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn