How Diverse Leadership Can Improve Workplace Wellbeing & Mental Health

How Diverse Leadership Can Improve Workplace Wellbeing & Mental Health

Cultural and personal context affects the ways in which different communities consider and talk about mental health, and how members of that community research and access services which might support them.

Consider this – the definition of diversity is ‘differing from one another’ or ‘composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities’. People are different in numerous ways – race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and health

An important consideration for workplaces is the role that diverse leadership can play in identifying and removing ‘blind spots’ that naturally can occur, resulting in a more inclusive workplace culture, which recognises mental health and offers solid support signposts.

‘Diverse leadership’ in this context is not limited to a leadership team that incorporates members of different demographics and communities, but individuals within leadership roles who continually work to improve their ‘diversity intelligence’.

When considering mental health in the workplace, it’s important that the workplace culture is open and supportive around mental health, but also that it acknowledges how diversity and difference impacts each person’s identity and their experience of mental health, both for themselves and that of their colleagues.

Therefore, organisations that embrace diversity to develop, motivate and empower their employees to achieve success are the ones which will ensure their businesses thrive. In our increasingly diverse workplace, improving the qualities of leadership to mirror this is critical to success. 

The Benefits Of Diverse Leadership 

By aligning diversity with leadership strategies, communication practices and workplace culture, this creates an inclusive workplace where people can thrive, and business goals are achieved. Having collaboration and inclusivity as part of the natural working environment is inspiring for employees, which improves their personal performance and in turn improves the organisation’s success. 

Leadership which is inclusive and supportive ensures that understanding and supporting mental health in the workplace is aligned with business goals, which only improves the overall success of the organisation, de-stigmatises mental health, and embeds inclusivity into the everyday workplace culture. This creates a business which is open-minded, and ready for success in our ever-changing world.

Diverse leadership acknowledges numerous different personal and cultural contexts which impact how a person works, what they need access to from their workplace, and how they understand and experience mental health. 

Traditional models of leadership often made up of one particular demographic or community are no longer enough and benefit from incorporating different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions and heritages, representing the make up the globe’s populations. 

Ensuring that your business does not operate on a basis of prejudice is a critical step in creating an inclusive workplace culture where employees feel supported, validated and encouraged to speak openly about their experiences – with regards to workplace matters and mental health.

While this can seem too broad subject for a business to tackle head-on, it is crucial to being a successful organisation. Some organisations may choose to start with inclusivity checklists to ensure that even simple things such as workplace activities are inclusive.

Improving Diversity Intelligence

One of the key steps to having a diverse leadership and one that reaps the most benefits for businesses is improving diversity intelligence.

Diversity intelligence is the basic theory that involves people understanding one another, and moving beyond simple tolerance to ‘embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.’

Overcoming blind spots within leadership is part and parcel of improving an organisation’s diversity intelligence because it requires managers, project leaders and HR professionals to be self-aware and critical of their own leadership styles, unconscious prejudices and how they perceive a person’s characteristics.

Improving diversity also allows a business to see multiple perspectives, embracing cultures and experiences that differ from perhaps those that founded the business. This means that the business will be better received in a broader range of demographics – which is surely what all businesses want.

By improving the diversity intelligence of a workplace, this encourages by default a workplace culture which is accepting, respectful and encouraging. Managing and supporting mental health at work, therefore, becomes almost second nature to a workplace culture which is self-aware of the differences in how mental health is perceived, and experienced by different people.

The way to improve a workplace’s diversity intelligence is to:

  • Integrate employees from culturally diverse backgrounds into teams, management and organisations at all levels
  • Ensure that diversity is an integral part of the business plan to ensure successful projects, programs and sales.
  • Uncover personal biases, prejudices within existing leadership, and actively challenge these

Of course, we won’t always get it completely right when it comes to diversity intelligence. This is why successful leaders are wise to incorporate advice and mentoring from both internal sources and external coaches, practitioners and experts to ensure that their leadership styles are not excluding members of particular communities due to ‘diversity blind spots’. 

Why Are Blind Spots Negative To The Workplace?

Having blind spots within a business in terms of its management, will eventually lead to misunderstandings, disputes, an ill-integrated workforce, and one that does not work well together. 

What is a blind spot? 

A blind spot is something that indicates a person’s lack of diversity awareness, prejudice or ill-conceived notions about other people. This is particularly prevalent in the workplace where traditional cultural roles are still very much in place, one indication of which is the prevalent gender pay gap. 

Having a blind spot in a business can lead to unintended insensitivity and tension. It is also can damage the understanding of mental health in the workplace. A team which does not feel supported by their management will be less productive and engaged with the business. 

How Mental Health Training For Managers Increases Diversity Intelligence

When it comes to managing mental health in the workplace, acknowledging diverse leadership and blind spots can be a helpful step.

Conducting an audit of leadership styles and areas of management including policy and procedure that are not supportive of inclusivity around mental health is critical. Engaging an external organisation such Mental Health at Work can be very beneficial at this stage, bringing impartiality and expertise. 

Bringing in skilled facilitators, Mental Health at Work can identify areas of strength and improvement and use this to develop a customised programme that empowers businesses and leadership teams, or individuals, to embed mental health and cultural inclusivity into organisational best practices. 

This is crucial to the success of businesses and taking steps to improve diversity in leadership and improved diversity intelligence can help understand biases, and ensure action is taken to change. 

Incorporating mental health in the workplace programmes into businesses leadership practices improves employee experience, satisfaction and ensures a productive workplace where employees thrive and business goals are can be met. 

Mental Health at Work uses a framework approach for all programmes, based around the foundations of Understand, Manage, Promote. These governing principles ensure that each programme is customised for a client, building knowledge, identifying and addressing skills gaps and providing consideration for the most effective leadership styles for each workplace. 

After an initial comprehensive assessment and scoping, the Mental Health at Work teams can develop and deliver a tailored mental health training programme that provides the key practical skills and knowledge needed for workplace culture to be inclusive and supportive of mental health, and other factors of diversity. 

These programmes are facilitated by an experienced Mental Health at Work practitioner, in the form of face-to-face or virtual workshops, which can be supplemented by e-learning resources. 

Ensuring that a business provides mental health support at work is a critical first step in the journey to creating a workplace with high diversity intelligence because it involves making a conscious change in workplace culture, and the language used to address diversity and difference. 

Of course, inclusivity is not just limited to mental health, gender, religion or the aspects mentioned previously – inclusive workplaces are mindful and supportive of all factors of diversity. Whether that is ensuring that all resources are suitable for those with hearing impairments or are in accessible reading formats, to wheelchair access, supportive LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace, dietary considerations, and inclusive of different cultural experiences. 

Encouraging a de-stigmatised narrative regarding mental health is just the first step in creating a supportive and successful workplace. This eventually leads to an environment where difference is appreciated, respected and valued.

To see how Mental Health at Work can improve the diverse leadership in your organisation, contact  team@mhaw.uk.com for information on customised mental health in the workplace training.

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