When discussing Luminary’s plans for R U OK? Day, People & Culture Director, Leah Champion noted that “If we only asked our team members how they were tracking one day a year, we would be in some trouble.” This got us thinking about how often we should be checking in with our team members and what frameworks and work culture examples encouraged team members to seek help when experiencing a rough time. There are standard policies in place for most organisations, sure, but what else could we be doing to destigmatise mental health?
Given Leah’s commitment to supporting positive work cultures, through the mental health needs and personal growth of our 85 team members spread across two continents, we wanted to know her thoughts.
Why is it important that workplaces prioritise destigmatising mental health?
According to the National Study for Mental Health and Wellbeing, over two in five Australians have experienced mental health issues at some stage of their life. It's not a case of ‘if’ we will face poor mental health, we know that a population will, with anxiety reported to be the most common experience faced.
From my experience in People and Culture, a lot of organisations promote specific benefits to support mental health, although everyone's experience with poor mental health is so different. There is never going to be a one-size-fits-all to suit every unique person.
For many businesses, there is a temptation to be shortsighted when assessing work and scheduling challenges that might present when accommodating the mental health needs of a team member. Ultimately, it is that trust and communication piece that delivers the best performance and output. We are fortunate to have a very high tenure relative to the industry at 5.5 years, and I think that is largely due to how we treat our people and the ways we have destigmatised mental health at Luminary.
We have great diversity in our organisation, and it’s important to be aware that this can sometimes contribute to different sensitivities regarding mental health, similarly, some cultures have different stress points at home and at work. It is not all equal. Our CEO, Marty, has played a critical role in destigmatising mental health in the way he is vulnerable and transparent with his broad and one-on-one communications and by fostering an empathy-led leadership team. I do think this example has to be generated from the top as destigmatising leads to team members self-reporting when they are experiencing mental health issues, allowing Luminary to be both cognisant of what is going on and directly addressing it within our culture.
What does destigmatising mental health look like at Luminary?
With a distributed team, it can be difficult at times to understand what is going on in the lives of our team members. When Marty and our leaders are demonstrating empathy with themselves and one another, that’s when we see people self-reporting. Marty’s desire is that everyone feels valued, heard, seen and is able to make a contribution. Being valued means that everyone is a partner, and being a partner you can ride a bump with one another - and that goes both ways between leaders and team members.
Luminary also has a Performance Coach, Lisa Hough, who all employees are invited to book an appointment with to address any issues they may be facing. Lisa helps the team reframe challenges into opportunities and also runs a PQ®️ (Positive Intelligence) Program to develop mental muscles with the team. Access to a coach demonstrates that we expect our team will have hurdles that they need to overcome, and these appointments are respected with no judgment or scheduling push-back.
This year's R U OK? Day theme is ‘I’m here to hear’, how does Luminary exemplify that theme?
The most integral part of trying to support good mental health is the listening component. It doesn’t mean that we always get it right, but it helps to find a starting point. From there, the team member and Discipline Lead might come up with a plan, and that early conversation helps us to continue to understand and explore other options to relieve stressors or better roadmap some of the issues they are facing. We work at it together by creating personalised individual plans for our team members. Some of us need to be in the office, while others thrive working from home with access to exercise. Others like skills and training to feel supported and in control at work. In order to be genuinely empathy-led, there needs to be a strategy and plan that is not templated. Being an independent, Australian-owned business allows us to do just that and be flexible.
We also allow the team to design the way in which they work, and re-negotiate our social contract regularly so that it works for them and has currency. Even new starters get an opportunity to vote so that they have a connection to the social contract, rather than inheriting what is already there. Our feedback culture ensures that we are talking and listening to the ideas and behaviours of the wider team.
The mental health landscape continues to change, making it more challenging with distributed teams. What do you think Luminary really gets right?
Luminary has grown over the last 12-18 months, and so there is regular discussion and focus on retaining our great culture as we change and adapt. For us, we identify where those golden touch-points are, like the onboarding, the job offer and those critical moments of central understanding. These moments are delivered by Marty, who exemplifies our empathy-led leadership and will start that partnership and expectation with that team member from the outset. After 24 years he still gets a huge buzz out of final interviews!
We also have company check-ins to keep on track and to identify and diagnose where and why challenges might be arising. We make a point of never scrutinising the person, but rather trying to understand the circumstances and what it is the organisation is not giving them to do their best.
Luminary is an agile agency, and so by design, everyone has a voice. This really promotes the cross-pollination of ideas, as no one is siloed or in a position where they are not contributing to our impact. Lisa, our Performance Coach, will also take our team through the DiSC profile work regularly, and we encourage our team to explore the DiSC profiles of those they are working with on projects to better understand how their team prefer to communicate and where they sit on a variety of emotional and behavioural spectrums. This peer-to-peer understanding is essential for a distributed team and we come to this from a real place of empathy.
The team’s approach is to seek to understand and then be understood. It is a huge part of our culture that ultimately ensures we communicate well and everyone is heard.
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