Can the talks be made to fit in a 1 hour lunch and learn?
Yes, we can adjust the timings and content to fit congested schedules but I’d recommend allowing the Q&A to a full 30 minutes on an optional basis.
What do you prefer/offer – face to face, virtual or hybrid?
Personally, I prefer face to face but have done plenty of each to good effect. If we’re doing hybrid, we need to much more attention to using microphones to make sure the online audience also have a good experience.
Can we record the session?
Yes but only the main content, not the Q&A (to ensure confidentiality and safety) and only for internal use.
How do you handle difficult or personal questions?
I use Slido for all my sessions regardless of format. Anonymity and safety are key and Slido is perfect for that. I can share examples in advance of tricky questions and it usually helps if we post a few to get the ball rolling. I sometimes choose not to answer questions in the moment and the 1-2-1s help with that.
Is 15 or 30 minutes enough time for the Q&A?
Not usually, no. Every session ends up with unanswered questions. Once we get going, they flow very easily but we have to respectful of people’s time and energy, including mine. The 1-2-1s are a great place for people to ask anything we didn’t cover.
Do we have to use the confidential 1-2-1s?
No, but I strongly urge you to do so. For some, it represents an opportunity to say things out loud that they’ve never dared say before and from that, take their first steps towards appropriate support they otherwise might not take.
Will you let us know who you’ve spoken to in a 1-2-1?
No. They are strictly confidential unless I have express permission from the person to disclose their identity. I will tell you how many I’ve spoken to though.
Will you pass on anything disclosed in the 1-2-1s?
Not without permission unless there’s a safety issue. I will share however anonymised themes where appropriate.
What do you do if you speak to someone who is in real difficulty?
I follow Mental Health First Aid England guidelines on appropriate support and will direct them towards any existing facilities offered by your company such as MH first aiders, Employee Assistance Schemes or their local GP.
Should we separate the Leadership team from the rest of the team or present to everyone at once?
I’m often brought in to ‘speak to the team’ which doesn’t always include the LT by default. I much prefer to include the LT in the talks, ideally first as a distinct group then involve them again in the main talk to the team. They are after all, usually the people under the most pressure and also the ones that need to support their team while also being the last to ask for help.
How do you direct people to the support we have available?
Just knowing exactly what’s available and how to access it is usually enough though ideally, I’d know who else has successfully used it before within your company that I can introduce the person to. In moments of high stress, clear decision making can be difficult and to have to sift through e-mails or an intranet for a half remembered wellbeing deck can be a step too far. If I have it instantly to hand, I can help them take their first step.
How can we encourage people to ask open questions?
People tend to follow examples that they see so the best thing to do is you go first and ask some yourself. Your colleagues will usually quickly follow. If that’s uncomfortable, I can share a (huge) list of typical questions from other sessions to get us started.
We have lots of provision in this area already, how does having you in help?
I’m there to help people pause, reflect and answer honestly to the question ‘how are you really?’ Most companies I speak at also have lots of provision but it’s no good if people don’t use it. Often this kind of topic is only engaged with when people reach crisis point by which time they’re already suffering. My role is help people engage with it before they really need it – prevention is much better than cure.
(Frequently Not Asked Questions)
What if people use this as an excuse to jump on the mental ill-health bandwagon?
Talking openly about this can’t cause mental ill health, it can only shine light on what already exists. If you think you have people in the team that will exploit this for time off, you have a culture issue. If they’ll exploit this, they are already exploiting other things and are probably displaying presenteeism. Ignoring it is unlikely to change it for the better.
If we open up the topic, people might go off sick
Yes they might and that has happened more than once. The sooner the better I say – they’re already suffering but trying to hide it while it likely gets worse. The sooner they begin seeking help, the sooner they’ll get better. The longer they hide it, the worse they’ll be and will probably be off for longer or, what often happens, resign when they can’t take it any more.
Bringing this topic into the open may well reveal some people that need help. They already exist, you just don’t about it yet. This way we get to have all the support readily available just in case.
I need the team to push through and deliver against our targets – I don’t want them distracted
What’s if your fault and they’re not speaking up? You can’t fix what you don’t about. It’s rarely one way traffic anyway – the manager, organisational culture AND the employee are all responsible for wellbeing. It should be an adult to adult dialogue. It’s not usually the job that’s the problem, but the relationship with the job that needs to change.
I’m worried that if we run this event and lots of people speak up about being ill, it’ll reflect badly on me
Yes – that’s a totally understandable concern, people management can be tough and many of us were never actually trained in it when we were promoted. We can only impact today and tomorrow though so what support can you ask for from your boss to better support you and your team as you take this brave step? The alternative is doing nothing and having high turnover.
What if we encourage people to speak up and they actually do? I’m scared of not handling tricky conversations well enough – I don’t handle conflict or emotional people very well – I don’t really want them to open up.
We often feel like it’s our job to solve the problem that’s presented to us but that’s usually the case when it comes to mental health. There are lots of properly trainedto step in. Often the most helpful thing you can do in that moment, is say less, listen more and help the person ride the immediate storm, then help them access the appropriate professional. Not everyone has all the skills they need or is comfortable enough to do it – that’s ok….just make sure you know someone else that is and help the person find them.
I know I’m putting people under lots of pressure but I don’t know how to get the results I need any other way
I’m a manager and I’m at breaking point but I can’t speak up as it’ll disrupt my team – I need to show strength
My company culture won’t change – this is lip service
Let’s see if we can get the senior leaders in the room first. If they turn up, there’s a really good chance we can take some important first steps. If they refuse, you’re probably right I’m not the right speaker for you as I’ll likely call them out on it in the session.
We’re happy to have you in to tick as box but have no intention of changing anything
Book someone else.
Our senior leadership are old school and won’t turn up or engage with any of this
They’re piloting a sinking ship and they either don’t know or don’t care….or it just might be that they don’t yet know how to turn up. Perhaps they need some support? They can’t hold back the tide either way.
Our senior leaders are too busy to turn up for these events
Then we probably need to start with them on their own. I hear that a lot and once they’ve engaged in a smaller group, they usually find the time to show up for the rest.