We recently attended the MAD World summit – dedicated to making a difference to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. We met some amazing, inspirational people, hell bent on improving our nation’s workspaces. Dr Shaun Davis was no exception.
The Global Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability at Royal Mail oversaw the complete overhaul of the business culture, transforming the way in which mental health is talked about and supported within this very British institution. With an 85% male workforce, this was no mean feat and his success brought him a downstairs loo full of awards and accolades.
Following the success of his approach, Dr Shaun embarked on a mission to help other organisations follow suit and better support mental health issues in the workplace, particularly for men. His book ‘Positive Male Mind: Overcoming Mental Health Problems’ part of his ‘Positive Wellbeing’ series, provides some real insight into what can be done at a very practical level to help support men in business. In his book Dr Shaun destigmatises the language around mental health, encourages early intervention and shows businesses how to establish a preventative rather than reactive approach.
Of course we jumped at the chance to interview Dr Shaun. He is very much aligned with what we do here at Rising Vibe with our Calling Out The Men Culture Development Programmes. Here’s what he had to say.
What advice would you give to people in business to talk more openly about their feelings?
“Don’t wait for perfection. If you’re waiting for the perfect day to do it, or for the perfect environment, or the perfect set of circumstances, you’ll be waiting a long time. So just do something. Small changes and actions can have massive results, massive impact and massive effect. Be brave and do something. However small you think it is, it can really make a difference.”
At Rising Vibe we have a problem with perfection. The trouble with perfection is, we never, ever get there and ironically, perfectionists seek out imperfection! When we’re really low down on the Rising Vibrational Scale (link here) the transition to joy is a quantum leap. We believe in progress not perfection, using baby steps to make those small gains. If we stay committed to the milestones and connect with the progress, taking it one step or one day at a time, we can achieve greatness.
What impact could we expect if more people were their authentic self at work?
“It’s really, really difficult, in fact, I would say impossible, to keep the façade up. To try to pretend to be something that you’re not is just difficult. Plus it’s not healthy. So encouraging people to bring their whole self to work, to talk about their vulnerabilities, to show who they are, is really important. In my personal experience, I’ve talked about mental health. I suffered a bereavement when I was really young. The impact that had on me at that particular time. Sharing that with other people that I work with and encouraging them to open up has been really helpful. We all have off days. We all have times when we need to gather people around us to act as a blind spot monitor, or as a critical friend. I think showing that vulnerability and respecting the contribution that your team can make to strengthen you in your role is really powerful”.
We talk a lot about ‘Functioning Fakeaholics’ here at Rising Vibe. Also known as Corporate Contortionists, these guys show up in a way in which they think they need to, in order to fit in. But underneath they’re really struggling. Struggling, not only to continue doing their job as best they can, but also struggling with the fear around being seen as weak, unable to cope and therefore unable to do their job. Rising Vibe believe that, to get the very best out of people, we must consider how they’re feeling and create an environment where they can be human. We show businesses the importance of role modelling vulnerability and being real, to drive cultural change, supporting senior leaders to go first and demonstrate to the wider organisation the impact that emotion can have on business performance.
Did you get resistance moving from a ‘macho culture’ to one where staff are encouraged to talk openly? (At Royal Mail)
“We haven’t – that’s not to say we won’t. I’m originally from South Yorkshire, so my construct, my stereotype is big men don’t cry. You keep your emotions in. You don’t tell anybody about how you’re really feeling – it’s a weakness. So trying to overcome some of these challenges and getting people to say it’s a strength to open up and is also permission giving, it enables people to open up about these things. If I was to reflect on it, some of the areas where I thought we might get some real resistance in those areas that I can relate to, we’ve not seen. So that’s been really encouraging. We’ve gone at it in a real Adult-to-Adult sort of way, rather than a Parent-Child, which I think has been really key.”
Our men only programmes provide a practical approach to feeling better, using the tools and the language that resonates with the way men talk, think and function. We use emotion to challenge low vibe behaviour with compassion and care, creating safe spaces in which men have the permission they need to talk, own and ultimately change how they feel.
Dr Shaun also spoke about the importance of a personal check in with people at work. If you ask how someone is, make sure you really listen to what they have to say. It might be the only opportunity they’ve had that day to talk about how they really feel. Dr Shaun also advises managers and leaders to invest the time in personal check-in’s. He says it can take a while to get going and it might not happen straight away, but when it does, it can be really powerful.
At Rising Vibe, we devised the Rising Vibrational Scale as a tool for managers to do just that. And we also emphasise the importance of sticking at it and using it regularly, rather than using it once to ‘tick-a box.’ People need time to get to grips with cultural change and are wary of it at first. But keep showing up with it and eventually it will work. Why? Because it gives men and woman the permission they need to talk openly about how they really feel. And this is the first step on the journey to feeling better.