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Germanwings Crash Why Leaders Must Discuss Mental Health Issues

Alexandria Joy - Monday, April 06, 2015

In the wake of the recent tragic Germanwings crash, the working world is reminded of just how far we still have to go to identify, treat and manage employees living with mental illness and experiencing extreme stress or anxiety in the workplace, especially in high-risk, high-pressure professions.

The tragedy raises many questions for leaders and organisations today and not just should we allow pilots with a history of depression to fly passenger planes? Here are some questions you should consider as a leader:

  • Should we promote employees who have required psychiatric care?
  • Should we approach a workmate we suspect of experiencing depression or anxiety?
  • Should someone on medication for mental illness be allowed to drive vehicles or operate heavy machinery on job sites?
  • Should we permit a person with a mental illness to be promoted to a stressful job?
  • Should an employee ask a supervisor or upline RUOK?

This is a complex issue and has no simple answers. When faced with such complexity it is valuable to begin with the facts:

Fact: Smart workplaces provide support. If profitability and responsible business practices are part of your company’s vision, mental health should also be a priority. Your commitment to mental health should be communicated openly and frequently to all employees. For example as part of induction, displayed in tearooms on posters, as policies and procedures that everyone is aware of and visibly reinforced through the practices of management.

It's one thing to have a policy in place to to accommodate employees with mental health issues, but it is another to create a supportive environment where they don't feel inhibited to take advantage of them.

Fact: Healthy workplaces discuss Mental Health openly. Mental illness is a cloak and dagger affair in many organizations, mentally healthy organisations on the other hand start and continue the conversation. A good test of how supportive your organisation is is to ask yourself this question: “How safe is it in your company for an employee to let their manager know that they are on medication for depression and/or visits a therapist?”

Addressing the issue of mental illness in the workplace has to begin with an acknowledgement that it exists and needs to be discussed openly.

Fact: Healthy workplaces promote a culture of respect. Sometimes the greatest help to mentally ill employees comes not from some kind of official policy but from peers or line bosses who are willing to listen and offer genuine support. The fish rots from the head - organisational leaders and business owners need to make visible, long-term commitments to mental health in their workplaces as they are in the strongest position to positively influence the company culture.

Ensuring robust policies around bullying and harassment is also important, as well as encouraging employees to call out or report any inappropriate behaviour they witness or experience.

My heart goes out to the passengers, crew, families and all those affected by the Germanwings crash, especially the family of our two Australian passengers. The loss of life is heartbreaking and yet it may have opened a door to many employers to start having difficult, compassionate discussions about mental illness. As tragic as it has been, let us not waste this opportunity to create more awareness.

PWC research shows $2.30 is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Better productivity begins with a mentally healthy workplace

A positive workplace environment and good mental health go hand in hand. Let's honour those lost by beginning this conversation today.

If you are a leader in your organisation have you tackled any of these questions? How have you opened up dialogue? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of creating a healthy workplace environment then you may also like the following articles and videos:

How Balanced Leaders Create Healthy Workplaces

How Workplaces Are Making Us Sick

How Toxic Workplaces Are Killing Us

Ridding your vocabulary of the "F" bomb

Alexandria Joy - Thursday, December 26, 2013

Everybody uses the “F” bomb. It’s a word that we attach so much negative emotion to – ego, pride, fear. Too many people connect their self-worth to the word – failure.

Failure is not an end point

If scientists saw their first attempts at creating cures for disease as a failure, we would not have any known cures in the world. If you think about it, we would be living a VERY simple, primitive lifestyle if everyone throughout history saw their mistakes as an end point – a time to give up on curiosity and discovery.   

 Replace “failure” with “lesson”

When an infant learns to walk, she has to find her centre of gravity by trial and error. She will wobble and stumble and fall for some time before she walks on her own two feet without support. When she leans to the left too much, she learns that it will tip her sideways. When she leans too far forward, she learns that she’ll tumble to the ground.

People who have all four quarters of their UQ Power House in balance, in particular their IQ quadrant, understand that failures provide lessons by a process of elimination.

When you’re mentally strong, you know: what not to do, what chemical compound doesn’t belong in the cure, leaning to the left will make you stumble, and what success doesn’t look like. So you try again with a more informed foundation of knowledge.  

The saying “Success never comes without failure” should really say “Success never comes without a lesson to be learnt”.

A leader with a strong IQ also knows when it’s time to call it quits. The difference with this leader is that he takes with him is a better idea of how he can succeed.

A recent Forbes article that went viral with popularity also pointed out that mentally strong people know when it’s time to move on.  

We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.”

The end of year is a great time to reflect. Today, power up your IQ quadrant by contemplating all the wonderful lessons you’ve learned throughout the year.

 Please share with us below how your past “failures” have helped to move you closer to your goals (because that’s exactly what they do!).

Office Christmas Party Ettiquette

Alexandria Joy - Sunday, December 15, 2013

From hitting on your boss' wife to humiliating party games and the indignity of forced merriment, office Christmas parties are a minefield when it comes to maintaining your personal brand.

Here's four office party mistakes we suggest you don't make:

1. Singing karaoke

Regardless if you have a voice like Celine Dion, never partake in singing karaoke if you are in a Western workplace. In the days of smart phones your rendition of "I'm too sexy" could end up on You Tube or Facebook well before Monday morning's Board meeting.

2. Drinking in excess

Obvious, duh, however the most common mistake made by up and comings. While many organisations offer a full bar at their party, many people take advantage and don't realise the number of drinks they've had. If you don't want to make any career limiting moves like chatting up the bosses partner or urinating in the hallway pot plant, limit yourself to 2-3 drinks all night.

3. Finger food faux pas

Picture this: sticky spicy chicken wing in one hand, wet drink hand in the other, your boss crosses the floor with the Chairman of the board in tow, to introduce you. No napkin in sight you have to choose...shove the sticky wing in your pocket, drop it into your cup or offer a kiss on the cheek to the Chairman. (Oh yeah and one other food tip - don't double dip).

4. Whining while dining

The office Christmas party is meant to be a time when everyone can celebrate the successes of the year. That means a cheerful mood. If you feel yourself or the conversation slipping into whingeing, whining or bitching territory about work, colleagues, clients or anything switch topics before the complaints gather momentum.

Stick to these basics and you should find the Christmas party provides a boost to your brand rather than seeing you slipping off the potential promotion list. And if you think we're being conservative check out this top 10 list of the most embarrassing moments. This may be enough to put you off partying for life!

Leave a comment below and tell us your most your or "your friends" most embarrassing office party misstep!

While we're on the subject of Christmas check out our UQ Power Christmas video here. Did you photobomb us in 2013?

Are White Lies In Business OK?

Alexandria Joy - Monday, December 09, 2013

Have you ever covered for someone at work? Have you exaggerated (even just a little) on your resume, in a job interview, or in a business performance report? Have you told a white lie to avoid messy consequences, like hurting someone’s feelings? You have haven’t you? Go on – admit it!

If The White Lie Isn’t “Hurting” Anybody Is It OK To Tell Tiny Tales?

Think back to a burger television advertisement (I’m sure we’re thinking of the same brand right now). The people eating the burgers use two hands to hold it. Their thumb and fingers are stretched out to form a wide open C shape. You can see all the ingredients stacked heartily between the buns; it forms a tempting tower tall enough to need the jaw flexibility of a Boa Constrictor.

Then, when you buy that same burger, you feel just as deflated as it looks. It’s flat, you need to separate the buns to see what’s between it, and you can hold it comfortably with one hand. You still feel hungry and a little ripped off.

The advertisers were clever enough to showcase the value that you get when you buy the burger as well as the satisfying sensation of eating it. But, because it wasn’t congruent with reality, with what they actually delivered, you felt betrayed.

If you want to build a powerful brand that people love, feel a sense of loyalty to, and help to spread the word about your offerings, you need to be completely truthful about the value and benefits.

So, the answer is – it’s not OK to lie in business. (Even if some of the BIG brands do it).

When You Tell White Lies In Business, You Create A False Reality

Rebekah Campbell from Posse.com explains how any form of lying in business can hurt your success and longevity:

“… the #1 reason why entrepreneurs fail. Not because telling lies makes you a bad person, but because the act of lying takes you out of the present moment and prevents you from facing the truth about your business. Every time you exaggerate a metric, under-report a cost, or are less than transparent with your team, you create a false reality, and start living in it."

Sweeping a problem under the rug, and covering it up with fibs, stops you from improving, growing, and reaching your full potential. If your people think everything is bubbling along “OK”, they will continue doing what they’re doing and the problem will start to make its way out from under the rug.

If you tend to exaggerate outcomes or benefits (like the example above), you may get what you want in the short term, but you’ll constantly struggle to meet expectations in the long run.

Tell The Whole Truth

Shining the light on your not-so-perfect parts means that you’ll be more likely to face them, overcome them, and grow and improve as a result of learning from that experience. Yes, it may put you in a vulnerable position, but people will connect with you more on a personal level. They’ll trust you completely and feel more compelled to join your movement and help you in your plight. When you’re open about the holes in your business and talk about them, you’ll be surprised at how many people will then offer advice or assistance to help you patch them up.

If it’s raving fans you want, you need to deliver (even over deliver) on your promise. If you promise big towering burgers, deliver it. Apple promises seamless functionality, innovation, and prestige. They certainly deliver on that and that’s why their fans line up for hours for each new product release.

On a personal level, telling the whole truth leaves you feeling more peaceful. Creating an authentic, unique brand is about staying true to who you are – warts and all.

How Engaged Are Your Customers?

Alexandria Joy - Monday, May 27, 2013

There is a clear link between customer engagement and a company’s bottom line. Organisations that engage with their customers and stakeholders are constantly in contact with them, whether it’s via social media, advertising, or post sales contact.  But it’s not just the frequency of the contact that is important – stakeholders have to believe that the organisation genuinely wants to know what they think and that its leaders will act on what has been said.

Communities are becoming increasingly demanding in their need for officials to engage in meaningful dialogue; they want their needs understood; they want local representation in the planning process. Businesses must engage local communities much more intimately to gain trust and increase buy-in.

In order for organisation leaders to deliver a genuine engagement experience they must know how to ignite people’s thought processes, have empathy for others, and communicate in a way that can influence others.

Benefits of Customer Engagement

Trust – Organisations that build up a relationship with a customer through engagement, build up a level of trust. By being open and accessible, customers learn they can rely on your brand for a certain level of service or quality of product.

Better communication – Strong engagement is all about communication. Listening to customer feedback, acting on it, delivering on promises, and then sharing that with the wider public helps to show that your organisation understands its customers and is prepared to work with them to deliver a better product or service.

Tap into customer knowledge – Customer engagement can be a real-time source of market research. By asking the right questions and listening to customers’ feedback you will learn valuable lessons about your products and services from the perspective of the customer. You then have the opportunity to fix issues before they have a chance to spiral out of control.

Loyalty- A recent survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey found 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from or recommend a brand they follow. Give a customer great service and they might come back. Combine that great service with engaging follow up to show you really appreciate their business and you’ll create loyal customers.

Know Your UQ Factor and Engage Stakeholders to Build Trust

Organisations with a strong sense of their UQ Factor understand their community’s perceptions and are engaged in open, two-way dialogue.

Our UQ Factor Stakeholder Influence Program can assist leaders to unlock their UQ Factor and become persuasive communicators who can deliver powerful messages to gain customer and stakeholder buy-in. 

"Getting that constant feedback from customers is the only way you can learn and continue to become better at what you do." Lorna Jane Clarkson, Founder and Chief Creative Director, Lorna Jane.

How to create a culture of workplace wellness

Alexandria Joy - Thursday, May 09, 2013

Are you that person who drags themselves out of bed and sniffles and coughs their way through the day just so you can be seen to be putting in the hours? As a leader, are you fostering a culture that values work output over the health of your staff?

All too often the culture of a workplace is all about putting your head down and working hard. A culture that overlooks employee health can have staggering effects on business output.

Employee health can impact your business bottom line

The number one health issue in Australian workplaces is stress, the second is workplace safety and the third is depression and anxiety.

Research published by the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that presenteeism (when employees continue turning up for work but their productivity and effectiveness is reduced due to illness) is eating away at company profits and costs Australian businesses almost $6 billion in lost productivity each year. 

Isn’t it time we changed our workplace culture and started to value the health of our employees as much as we value profit and productivity?

Create a culture of workplace wellness

Think about how you feel when you have a cold. You brain is muddled and stuffy, and you are sniffling and sneezing (which doesn’t exactly project a professional image) so it’s no wonder that everyday tasks seem more taxing than usual. No one does their best work when they’re sick.

Unhealthy high-pressure cultures are detrimental to workplace wellness and leave employees feeling stressed. Stress can manifest itself in a number of ways, most of which can lead to employees needing extra time off work, reduced productivity, low morale, and high staff turnover.

Build a “healthy” workplace culture and encourage staff to maintain a reasonable work/life balance.  How do you build a healthy workplace culture? Here are a just a few ideas:

  • Recognise when employees are low on energy or stressed. Speak with them; listen to them. Reinforce that they’re health is a top priority and that they are entitled to use their sick leave for legitimate bouts of dreaded bugs.
  • Engage your HR Department to develop employee programs that promote health and wellness. This may include a corporate fitness program, mental health program and ongoing support channels, access to health and wellbeing information, provision of corporate discounts for services such as physio or remedial massage or consultations with a nutritionist, or implement ongoing communication campaigns about workplace health.
  • Lead by example. Make your body your number one priority. (This means staying at home with that cold or flu!).  Encourage staff to take time out to care their body.
  • Incorporate physical activity into team building exercises or company social outings. Make prioritising health and wellness the norm.
  • Start a walking group. Get a bunch of people together to get out of the office at lunch, before work, or after hours. Make it fun and social for extra motivation.

To truly let your company’s UQ Power shine through, your employees need to be in tip top physical shape. If they’re not feeling fully in tune, how can you expect them to perform at their best? As Buddha said: “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”



Does your business serve the greater good?

Alexandria Joy - Friday, May 03, 2013

Every business has a higher purpose, no matter of the industry in which it operates. A part of what makes an organisation unique is how it contributes to the lives of its people, the broader the community, and the rest of the world.

Sadly, many companies have a fuzzy view of how their business contributes to the greater good or lose sight of how their organisational “mission” fits in with what they do.

Why is this even important? Firstly, organisations that live and breathe their values retain engaged and satisfied employees who feel a sense of social responsibility and contribution. Employees have high morale and value how their efforts at work contribute to the greater good of society.

Understanding how your organisation makes a difference within the community will help you to hone your mission and purpose, not to mention give you and your staff extra motivation to succeed. On an organisational level, it will contribute to a healthy workforce culture.

Tara Powers, a group program expert, explains that the results of a healthy organisational culture outside of the workplace can be tremendous. 

“Happier families, increased volunteerism and sense of community, continuous learning, less stress, more active adults, less disease, stronger family relationships, less divorce. The list goes on and on.”

On a greater, global level your organisation can live its UQ Power and demonstrate its values through philanthropic activities. You can contribute resources, knowledge, or funding to communities, scientific research, or causes that help people, animals, or the environment from anywhere across the globe.  

The trick though is not to force it for the sake of “donating” or “contributing”.  John Mackey said: “Business social responsibility should not be coerced; it is a voluntary decision that the entrepreneurial leadership of every company must make on its own.” Efforts otherwise may come across as mere marketing tactics rather than an act of living a company’s values and UQ Power.

Whether you’re in fast food, retail, heavy industry, government, or any type of business, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you understand how you may already be fulfilling community and social responsibilities:

  • How does your organisation add value to the lives of the people who work within your business? Do they return home satisfied, fulfilled and inspired by their day’s work or are they heading home stressed and exhausted?
  • How can you better serve your employees and add further value to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families?
  • How do your products or services improve the lives of your customers? What can you do to contribute to the wellbeing of your customers at an even higher level?
  • What are your organisational values? How can you demonstrate those values through daily actions? If you value the state of our environment, how can you live that value? If you care for the people within your endless web of networks, how can you show that to be true?
  • Apart from earning a living or building wealth, why was your organisation founded (or why did you go into business?). How can you maintain alignment with that original purpose?

Leverage your UQ Power by understanding how your business contributes to the greater good – whatever that may be.

PS - Others may learn from your experience - please share below what you do to serve the greater good.

How stressed are your staff?

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Did you know that over half of global business workers have been experiencing a rise in workplace stress over the past few years?  A study of trends in workplace stress across the globe by Regus called "Stress out" found:                                          

  • 'Increased focus on profitability' is the most cited cause of workplace stress internationally
  • The US experienced the highest increase in the business community (35%)
  • In France 49% of workers indicated they do not have enough time to finish their work due to increased pace and unrealistic targets from management
  • China reported the greatest overall rise in workplace stress (85.9%)
  • In Australia, 48% of people cited their job as the main stress factor.

Every business has a culture – some are inspiring and healthy, others are crippling and toxic. The level of an organisation’s efficiency and wellness is a direct reflection of its culture.

Workplace wellness isn’t just a factor of the employees fitness or BMI ratings, it is particularly characterised by how motivated, inspired and engaged the workforce are to do great work. Key indicators of healthy workplaces are having a shared vision, open leaders with emotional intelligence, a presence of creativity and innovation and an energy of action.

Unhealthy cultures tend to devalue creativity, stifle innovation and leave their workers feeling frustrated, stuck in the rut of the daily grind and stressed by the demands of productivity they no longer have the energy to face. The result, major disengagement that sucks the life out of the organisation, its people and its results.

The good news is, it is possible to convert low-engagement teams and cultures into fully engaged, high-performance UQ Cultures with the right strategy and a slight shift focus. You can begin to build a UQ Culture by:

  • telling your people WHAT needs to be done and WHY but letting them figure out HOW
  • COACHING team members to find ways to improve or refine their ideas
  • Treating their people as human BEINGS not DOINGS and getting to know their Uniqueness 
  • Recognising and rewarding achievement, progress and innovative behaviours.

At the end of the day as Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Until 30 June 2013, UQ Power are conducting 'house calls' to help you take the pulse of your team or company and see how healthy your workplace culture is. These UQ Culture Pulse Checks are only $497 and are a great way to boost your team engagement.

Ready to jump right in? Book in or find out more about how a UQ Pulse Check could help your team and culture here.

Win a free Culture Pulse Check

As a special offer to our blog readers in Australia, until June 30, we will be awarding two Complimentary UQ Culture Pulse Checks per month to selected businesses. To enter and put your company or team forward as one of the six winners simply email us at support@uqpower.com.au and tell us what your biggest company culture, employee engagement or leadership development challenge is. (Make sure you enter before your industry competitors do!)

The key to your competitive edge

Alexandria Joy - Monday, April 15, 2013

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

The decision-making process is one of the most effective ways to keep your staff engaged and contribute to building a unique and powerful workforce culture.

People who believe they have played a significant part in solving a problem or developing an idea feel empowered. They feel valued and motivated to rise to any challenge.

Unfortunately, most organisations don’t encourage involvement in these processes. They recruit leaders that are experts in their field and who show signs of an ability to make hard-lined decisions quickly, under extreme pressures. Because these qualities are viewed as strengths, these leaders trust in their own ability to make decisions; they have clear views of what needs to be done and act on them autonomously.

The tendency to make decisions alone and impose views of what’s right and wrong
can adversely affect your UQ Culture

 A recent study has revealed that people who are in a position of power are more likely to view wrongdoing unambiguously and are more likely to punish transgressors.

“What a manager sees as appropriate punishment could be seen as absolutely draconian by other people,” explained Scott Wiltermuth, of USC Marshall School of Business. “Organisational culture could be destabilised, if those without power protest their managers’ decisions, undermining their authority.”

Read the full article here.

You are the best in your field, but you still need to open up to others’ views

The lesson to be learnt from this study is to be mindful that you may be prone to making hard-lined decisions.

Building a sustainable and successful business is as much about building the best team as it is about providing the best product or service. To build the best team you need to attract and retain the best people. That means creating an attractive UQ Culture that values and engages its workforce.

You don’t have to make every decision “by committee”, just ask more, listen more, and you’ll tap into what gives your business the most powerful competitive edge – your people.

Do You Let your Inner Child Out to Play?

Alexandria Joy - Friday, March 29, 2013

Give a child a seemingly mundane object, like a cardboard box, and they’ll  create a magical environment for herself. It will turn into an elaborate castle, a cave deep in the jungle, a ship set sail on the ocean or a steam train ready for work.

As children, we feel free to create as far-fetched as our mind can take us. Once we’ve grownup, unfortunately most of us never tap into the fullness of our creativity as we did as youngsters.

Our creativity is something that makes each and every one of us unique. It’s something that’s inside all of us, but something that most of us don’t express fully.

Creativity cannot be taught, but there is still a lesson to be learnt…

Push boundaries by letting your creative, inner child out

The boundless creativity we experience as children gets suppressed as we age, by our need to do things the “right” way. Sometimes, we’re plagued with grownup symptoms of self-doubt and embarrassment, which can stop us from fully embracing and expressing our creativity. Unlike children, we work within the boundaries of procedures and how things “ought to be done”.

Give a small child a bunch of puzzle pieces, or any random set of items and the young child will go to work with them. The one thing the child won't do is look for the instruction manual. It's more fun to play around and create something crazy original!” Wes Hopper

At UQ Power when we conduct workshops with groups of suited corporates, we avoid offering pen and paper as the tool to solve a problem or create an idea. Instead, we’ll take all sorts of uncommon items. They form part of the problem-solving process; participants have to really think creatively how they can express their idea or solution using the items. Every time we’ve used this method – it works, it makes them think laterally.

"UQ Power offered a new and alternative experience compared to your typical leadership training session. It was very tactile. We had to paint our own story and vision for the organisation, but without any brushes! We really had to think differently not only abut how to share our thoughts with the team without any words, but also how we could execute the work," said Leah Flint, Executive Manager, Corporate Planning and Engagement, Maitland City Council.

"Their methods made us all think differently. It made it memorable - importantly - it made the key messages and learning points stick."

Read more about our work with Maitland City Council's Leadership Team here.

It’s time to let your inner child out! The next time you have to solve a problem, develop a strategy, or innovate within your business, shut down the computer, and pick up whatever else comes to mind… A paint brush, a collection of random office objects, pasta noodles, plasticine, or timber, nails and a hammer!

Depriving yourself of your typical tools and opening up your mind to using unconventional aids will retrain your brain and reconnect you with your inner child.

Begin to think more like the child you used to be. It's not about learning how to be creative, but more about remembering how creative you used to be. Look at problems or issues through the eyes of a child, and you may find surprisingly simple solutions that you never would've considered. Simplicity, creativity, and innovation are not just part of a child's environment, but belong in the adult world and workplace as well.

The poet tells us that “the child is father of the man.” And so it is.

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