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Prioritising Wellbeing: Strategies for Women in Leadership

leadership wellbeing May 10, 2024


Guest post by Dr Lynn Morgan MBE

The last few years have, without doubt, been very stressful. We have contended with the pandemic, significant absences due to stress and mental health issues, and the economic challenges have exerted further pressure on our workforces, businesses, and personal lives. It is vital that despite these external challenges, leaders prioritise their well-being and that of their staff.

Putting in Place the Foundations

Creating the right culture within an organisation can, to a large extent, establish a baseline of calmness. Organisations that adopt an ethos of transformational rather than transactional management will foster a more respectful and tolerant environment. Moreover, people are more invested in an organisation if they feel they have agency, rather than feeling overlooked and rigid in their roles. Leading by example is key. If a leader ensures that the employees reporting to them are treated fairly and with respect, these employees are more likely to adopt this approach with their own reports. However, this does need to be backed up by an explicit statement of the culture and standards expected within the organisation. This is fundamental to an organisation-wide Wellbeing Strategy. Providing support and respect means that employees will be more willing to discuss work challenges and engage in collaborative problem-solving. If people enjoy coming to work and feel connected with their colleagues, they are less likely to leave; they will be positive about their work and feel valued within the organisation.

If a leader inherits a disaffected or dysfunctional team, a strategy for change is needed—it cannot be ignored. An unhappy team creates tension, and a loss of focus on business goals, and is detrimental to people’s mental health.

Incentivisation, Listening with Purpose – and Fun

Different organisations have different budget constraints and flexibility when it comes to incentivising. However, some incentives can be free. Acknowledging success—whether it is 'Employee of the Month', a shout-out at a management team meeting, or citing someone’s success in board papers when relevant—can be highly motivating. Ask the team for ideas—even if it is 'Cake Friday', or perhaps since we are discussing wellbeing, that ought to be 'Fruit and Nuts Friday'!

Leaders truly listening to feedback and responding is crucial. Letting people know they have been listened to can be as simple as using the public sector example of 'You said, We did'. Sometimes it is not possible to accommodate all the requests that employees may have, but it is still worth taking the time to explain why.

Fun activities such as in-house bake-offs, and having a worldwide lunch where everyone brings a dish representing their country—though perhaps the culinary delights on offer are less exciting from Ipswich, Stevenage, and Cambridge! Fundraising events for charity can also be great team-building exercises. Encourage people to get fresh air at lunchtime by taking a walk around the car park or eating their packed lunch outdoors.

…And Don’t Forget to Look After Your Own Wellbeing

If a leader is stressed, anxious, or overworked, it will affect the mood of the organisation. People sense when someone in charge seems to be distracted and mentally unavailable. Create your own work hygiene rules to improve your well-being. Make working late the exception rather than the norm. Take time at lunchtime to get some outside air, even if it is only for 15 minutes. Discourage people from sending emails that copy everyone in, unless absolutely necessary. If you feel it is the coffee keeping you going, ensure you swap at least one cup a day for water or herbal tea. Although our offices today are supposed to be paperless, most people end up with a paper pile of 'to do' things. Try the old rule of only touching a piece of paper once and deal with it then.

If you are feeling particularly under pressure, find somewhere where you can take some deep breaths and exhale slowly. Visualise a place that makes you happy and focus on that for a few minutes. Quietly setting your intentions for the day can seem a bit flaky, but it is worth taking those few minutes before the day becomes hectic. This was a tip I picked up at a previous Rising Festival, and it works.

If the pressure or the stress is getting out of hand, a more fundamental change in the way you are working is needed. Think more radically about what support framework you could put in place to help you. Could you delegate an area of your workload unless you are completely overloading someone else, giving opportunities for people to step up and gain experience is good for their careers.

Seek time out of the office and open up your mind to different ways of doing things and meeting like-minded women. The Rising Festival brings together wonderful speakers and a real mix of attendees, all coming together with an open mind and to learn from each other. It really is worth investing a little time and money in yourself. You will leave with your power bank recharged and brimming with ideas that you can’t wait to implement. To learn more and to register to attend the Rising Festival set to take place on Saturday 21st September in Cambridge CLICK HERE.


About Dr Lynn Morgan MBE

Lynn has been constant throughout her varied career in her desire to support and develop women to achieve their potential.  She has had a wide and varied career working in the public and third sector. As the former CEO of the Arthur Rank Hospice, she took on a major project working with her team, to transform the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, providing independence from the NHS and building a brand new state-of-the-art hospice.

Lynn has a Phd in Organisational Psychology.  Her research focused on the way gender can affect mentoring relationships and the barriers women can face in achieving their career goals.  She continues to support women in their careers and is often called upon to provide advice for charities.




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