How to talk with your team about mental health

How to talk with your teams about mental health

How comfortable are you when chatting to a team member about their mental health? Or something which is going on in their life which is impacting their well-being?

Do you feel relaxed and confident? Or do you find yourself in your head wondering what to say to them? Or wondering what questions to ask? Or feel you have to fix the issue in some way?

If you experience the latter, know that you are not alone!

When it comes to the task of managing mental health you may feel out of your depth. Worried about saying the wrong thing, or making things worse. You may find it easier to chat about stress, something we can all relate to. But if you are chatting to your team member about neurodiversity, anxiety, bereavement or cancer, for example, you may feel out of your comfort zone.

The important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to have all the answers.

When you’re engaging with a team member about something that’s impacting how they are showing up, this isn’t about you having a magic wand and resolving the issue for them! You may work in a role or an organisation which is very focused on problem-solving. But this is one problem you don’t have to fix!

But it’s also something which you shouldn’t ignore.

How to chat with your team about their mental health

Don’t wait for the red flags to chat with your team members

As the saying goes, words don’t teach, but experience does. Therefore a great rule of thumb is not to wait to see the red flags before engaging with a team member about their mental health or well-being.

Checking in with your team on a weekly basis and asking how they are doing, instead of jumping straight into work mode will help you get more familiar and comfortable with having human conversations! A lot of managers admit that conversations with their team are focused on the task at hand, projects and objectives.

If you’ve not had many, of what we refer to as human conversations, then it may feel a little uncomfortable to begin with. But like anything, the more you do something, the easier it becomes.

In addition, the more you ask the question ‘How are you doing – really?’ you will send out the right signal to your team that you care. That you are invested in their well-being. And you will start to build trust.

How to chat with your team about their mental health

Don’t wait for the red flags to chat with your team members

As the saying goes, words don’t teach, but experience does. Therefore a great rule of thumb is not to wait to see the red flags before engaging with a team member about their mental health or well-being.

Checking in with your team every week and asking how they are doing, instead of jumping straight into work mode will help you get more familiar and comfortable with having human conversations! A lot of managers admit that conversations with their team are focused on the task at hand, projects and objectives.

If you’ve not had many, of what we refer to as human conversations, then it may feel a little uncomfortable to begin with. But like anything, the more you do something, the easier it becomes.

In addition, the more you ask the question ‘How are you doing – really?’ you will send out the right signal to your team that you care. That you are invested in their well-being. And you will start to build trust.

Get into the right headspace

leadership coaching transformation

The power of presence is one which shouldn’t be underestimated. When you’re having conversations with your team how present are you? Are you fully engaged, listening to them or are you in your head? Waiting to respond or with your mind already in the next meeting?

The truth is that people are crying out to be listened to. And the power of being listened to, when you are fully present, can have a tremendous impact on the other person.

Before speaking to a team member about their mental health (or anything come to that matter!) check in with yourself. How are you feeling?

If you feel like your mind is racing, you’re stressed or haven’t got a handle on your emotions try this…

Sit with both feet on the floor. Take your focus of attention down to your stomach. Keep your shoulders and your jaw nice and relaxed. Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4. When you breathe in, inflate your stomach with air. Then exhale for the count of 4. Exhale out of the mouth and use the sound ‘ahhhhhh’.

Repeat this pattern of breathing for a minute or two. This will calm down the mind and your central nervous system. Enabling you to come back into the present moment.

Ask Solution Focused Questions

One of the things we teach on our mental health training for managers is how to use solution-focused questions to have effective conversations about mental health and well-being. When you are focused on the problem, you can find yourself going around and around in circles, which is very draining and not a good use of your time!

Asking simple solution-focused questions can cut through a lot of the detail and get the other person’s mind thinking from a different perspective.

Try these questions to get clear on what the other person needs…..

  • What would really help you right now?
  • What do you need from me?
  • What’s a simple solution here?
  • What’s the easiest thing for you to do next?
  • What do you need to have happen right now?
  • What’s the one that you can do today to achieve X?
  • What internal resources can you reach out to support you?

Listen

We’ve come across hundreds of managers on our mental health training for managers who thought they were pretty good listeners! Then they did the listening exercises we gave them and most realised there was room for improvement!

Life Coaching

Managers recognised they were often listening to respond. They also saw they were not fully present in the conversation.

Listening is a skill and the great thing about that is you have LOTS of opportunity to practice listening!

When you are next speaking to a colleague, client or team member, start by being aware. Are you waiting to respond? Do you talk over the other person? Do you try and finish what you think they are going to say? Are you in your head thinking of the next thing you want to say or ask the person? Are you too quick to jump in and share your point of view?

The more you recognise these patterns, the more you can learn how to settle yourself down, bring yourself back into the present moment and focus on listening to the other person. And if you are on one of our mental health training for managers programmes we’ll show you exactly how to do that!

Empathy

We are often quick to judge people. Think about the last time you felt judged. How did that feel? Did you feel vulnerable, embarrassed, shame or stupid? That feeling of being judged shuts you down. You go into survival mode.

Whatever someone is experiencing is very real for them. This is where listening is such a valuable tool. In listening you are stepping into that person’s world to get a sense of what’s going on for them. To create understanding, clarity and connection.

Sadly there is still a lot of stigma around mental health. People are scared to talk about what they are feeling for fear of being judged. Of being treated differently. Of being labelled.

Having empathy for someone is showing that you care. We love the video by Brene Brown on the difference between Empathy and Sympathy and recommend you check it out!

Overall, when it comes to managing mental health and chatting with your teams, it’s not about getting it perfect. You won’t know how to respond to every situation that comes across your path as a manager. But using the guidance we’ve described in this post will give you a solid foundation for navigating that conversation with a greater sense of ease.

Interested in finding out more about our mental health training for managers programmes? Get in touch by dropping an email to [email protected]

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