Wellbeing in context
Wellbeing is another abstract concept that risks becoming a business cliché. When we label a concept, the label influences how we understand it. For some, ‘wellbeing’ represents a world devoid of resilience. To others, it denotes mindfulness practice, accompanied by whale music. Both interpretations make ‘wellbeing’ sound unbusinesslike, and this is because it is a vague, distant concept, just like ‘happiness’ or ‘diversity’. Concepts only take on real-world meaning when they become ‘intimate’.
Wellbeing relates to understanding and improving a person’s subjective reality; but organisations must identify what it means for them in a business context.
If I work in a culture that reinforces my personal and professional value, has clarity of purpose, and helps me to ‘make meaning’, I feel a sense of belonging – which improves performance and outcomes.
Leaders cannot truly serve individual and team wellbeing simultaneously. A critical aspect of leadership is meeting the needs of your team. First, you must be aware of needs that are common to all. These include a sense of belonging, dignified interaction, having a voice, and being respected for who you are and what you bring to the team. You must then consider distinct needs that emerge from the groups to which we belong such as ethnicity; gender; sexuality; disability; faith; community.
Only when you have considered and identified each individual’s common and distinct needs can you identify their individual needs – needs that nobody else has at that particular time, in that particular place. As a leader, you have to see people in this way:
- Everyone is the same
- Groups of people are similar
- Everyone is different
In terms of your wellbeing focus, you are always weaving in and out of this framework.
Understanding the wellbeing of individuals in your team, and subsequently addressing the wellbeing of the team as a whole, is mostly about finding time to listen and talk. Listening is paying full attention to what the person, or team, is communicating.
For example, if a team member experiences a bereavement, this highlights an individual need. You must listen to them, and offer support. If you have concerns about your team’s morale, read the team’s ‘inner story’ and see if it meets common needs.
Create time for reflection. Every leader must have a model in mind for meeting their team’s needs.