Thursday, 26 June 2014

Happy, healthy, resilient people do it better

In my last post I talked about the importance of having a wellbeing perspective in the front of our minds when teaching others. I talked about happy, healthy, resilient people learning better. 
As I was writing it I kept thinking that this doesn't only apply to teaching and learning, in fact I think it applies to so many different settings it is kind of a good mantra for life really. 



How we feel influences how we think which then influences how we act. Happy healthy people make better decisions, they have the brain space to think more clearly and therefore respond more thoughtfully. Their sense of esteem is higher and generally speaking I think when we are happier, healthier and more resilient we feel more competent and confident.   

Happy, healthy, resilient people work better 
The wellbeing of those we work with is important. I genuinely believe that part of my role as a leader is to be aware of what is happening for the people I work with because I am then in a better position to support and empower them to do the best job they can in the circumstances. Feeling like you are doing a good job and that what you do is important and valued is a helpful part of building self esteem which contributes to a greater sense of wellbeing which in turn creates better outcomes at work. If our people are able to perform well then our whole organisation succeeds so it makes business sense to encourage wellbeing in the team as well as the obvious moral obligation.
As a leader of a geographically diverse team it meant that communication was key. I read and re-read messages before I sent them out to ensure that as much as possible I was avoiding mixed messages or increasing anxiety or stress, to be fair I didn't always get it right but I tried. Listening to what people said about themselves and others, listening out for anything that was a bit out of character and following up in some way was vital. I guess it came down to knowing my team, staying aware and being available as well as encouraging networks where possible to provide support. 

Happy, healthy, resilient people play better
If you are involved in a team or social group of any description then this is a useful thought to keep in mind. Recently in our little township we went through quite an upheaval when a major employer in the district downsized significantly. This had an impact on our small group of volunteer parents at our local playcentre, and remaining mindful about that was vital in keeping things moving along and our children continuing to have a great time learning in a positive social environment. In order to do this checking in with people helped. Asking every so often asking how people were getting on and if they were OK helped, but listening helped most. It is great that we have a community of parents who ensured that people were supported and had someone to talk to. 
If everyone on the team is working to support the others then all can be at their best, it goes back to what a theatrical director of mine used to say (in fact she still does) that if everyone on stage is working to make everyone else look great then we will have a great performance. This is relates so beautifully to any team. 

Happy, healthy, resilient people behave better 
I have a three year old and he is amazing (of course I am biased). One of the things that makes him amazing is that when things are out of balance he will let me know, often it is behavioural rather than verbally stated. For example, when I have been on the computer for too long he will climb on my knee, pushing the laptop away and grab my face telling me to look at him. Now, at that time I have a choice, I can give him a little of what he needs to get back in balance or push him away. Pushing him away does not solve my problem nor does it resolve his. I am not advocating giving in to every whim of our children, they need to learn to delay gratification and being able to wait for something they want is important, but it's about being aware and connecting so we can help them learn to manage their own needs. This sometimes means putting down the computer for five minutes and having a tickle time before resuming work. 
This does not only relate to children. If we are out of balance and our needs are going unmet even as adults we may act out. Potentially we act out in more subtle ways but it still impacts on our relationships. In the workplace we may find that people start gossiping, holding back information, undermining others, becoming aggressive or withdrawn, avoiding responsibility, missing deadlines, becoming unwell and the list goes on. Not really productive behaviours. At home we may see some of the same things, and again they won't help make a happy home. I am not suggesting that we need to instigate a tickle time policy for the workplace (although it could make it a whole lot more fun) but encouraging that instead of reacting to the behaviour of others first exploring why that behaviour is occuring. As someone once said 'all behaviour is communication'. 

Happy, healthy, resilient people lead better 
I know as leaders (at work, in social or community groups, in our homes) we need to be mindful of the needs of those around us but we also need to be aware of our own levels of health, happiness and resilience. Seeking support and guidance is not weakness, it is a key tool to build positive resilience. Taking a measure of your own wellbeing regularly will help you recognise when things are getting out of balance so you can act early rather than fall into a downward spiral of stress-overload, unnecessary mistakes, time mismangement and increasing dismay. 
As followers, supporters, colleagues of leaders we also need to be mindful of where they are at as well. We want our leaders to be as well and strong as they can be, not in an aggressive manner, but in those skills that can make them a positive influence on our workplaces, community/social groups and homes. Often as a leader people don't ask you how you are, you are expected to be on form and if you are not then assumptions are made that may not be fair or reasonable. I go back to what I said earlier about all behaviour being communication... these leaders in our lives are people too and to have the opportunity to be able to be human and still respected really does make a difference. 

At the end of the day I guess this all boils down to communication and relationships
Forming positive relationships with those around you supports that sense of wellbeing. What makes individuals feel happy and healthy and resilient will differ, we are all unique after all, so being able to support those around you appropriately is key (or at least making an attempt to!) 
How we communicate is just as important as what we say, sometimes more so. Some people just need someone to listen to them, others want advice, some just want peace and quiet whist others may want to get out and about and do something new. Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about communicating with loved ones and suggests that if we listen, empathise, appreciate and affirm then that will help. There are many ways to communicate, just be aware that the message you are sending is not always the message that is received so it is best to tune in to others, be mindful and truly connect. 

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