Before you read any further, stop and consider what you believe your most important business assets are.
Take a minute. I’ll wait.
Personally, Dr Edward de Bono is one of my heroes, and I’m fortunate that I had the great pleasure to work with him.
It was Dr de Bono who coined the terms ‘parallel’ and ‘lateral’ thinking, but he is perhaps better known for his ‘Six Thinking Hats’; a theory that errors in our thinking are not errors in process, but errors in perception.
Psychologists are quick to remind us that our thinking is confused and confounded by internal biases, preconceived notions, and the stories we tell ourselves about our potential. Philosophically, it could be argued that every situation we encounter is understood through our projections and expectations.
To help us to process thoughts more effectively, we can employ some simple tools to better focus our thinking.
One of Dr de Bono’s lesser known tools was the ‘Six Value Medals’. He suggested that we would do well to run any business decision through the perceptual filters of six reminders related to our stated values and attitudes, or the ‘Medals’, in de Bono’s system.
Dr de Bono would suggest that when we make a business choice, it is worth asking the question “What impact will this decision make?”, answering it through the ‘lens’ of each of the Six Medals.
Briefly, his Six Medals are:
Brass: appearances and perceptions
Wood: ecology, sustainability
Glass: change, innovation, simplicity, and creativity
Steel: quality, strength
Silver: goals, aims, objectives
Now, you may note that there are only five medals in the list above; the ‘Gold Medal’ being the obvious omission.
Dr de Bono defined the Gold Medal thus:
‘Gold is precious, and so are people. The gold medal asks, what matters to the people? Human values include pride, achievement, a sense of belonging, hope, trust, and growth.’
This takes us back to the very question asked at the beginning of this article.
Are you ignoring the most important asset of your business – the people in it?
Too many businesses put their customers and their clients in this ‘gold position’ and miss the point that unless those within the business are put first, there can be no quality of service for their clients – let alone innovation, creativity, and all those other essential elements for business productivity and success.
According to the Mental Health First Aid website:
1 in 6 workers experience depression, anxiety, or problems related to stress, at any one time
1 in 5 people will take a day off work due to stress, yet 90% will cite a different reason for their absence
Presenteeism accounts for double the businesses losses of absenteeism, through lower rates of productivity
Studies show that poor mental health costs businesses between £74 billion and £99 billion a year
15% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their managers reported being disciplined, dismissed, or demoted
84% of line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 24% have received any training, and 49% reported a wish for basic training in mental health conditions
So, Are Businesses Really Ignoring Their Most Important Asset?
There are a couple of key challenges here.
The first is the wide lack of understanding about Mental and Emotional Wellbeing. There has been a societal culture of not wanting to ask too many questions about someone’s mental or emotional health, because of not really knowing what to do if that ‘can of worms’ is opened.
The second is possibly the confusion between mental illness and mental health. ‘Mental health’ refers to our mental and psychological state, our social-wellbeing, and how we feel about ourselves and our interactions. ‘Mental illness’ refers to a wide range of disorders which affect mood, thinking, and behaviour.
So, while poor mental health can lead to mental illness, they are two different things.
Mental health impacts on emotional resilience, mental flexibility, and ability to focus on tasks; all of which can affect personal relationships, sleep patterns, and general health.
Pressures from work, of work, and about work, combine with professional, personal, and social expectations to create a ‘perfect storm’ of mental health challenges.
Corporate Mental Health Is Not Just About Corporations!
It could be thought that mental health was more of an issue in the world of high-pressure business and finance, which exists at major corporate levels. This is clearly not the case. The solo-entrepreneur is as much at risk as the small business and the multinational company.
In the current climate, all business owners and employees are facing uncertainty at both economic and social levels. With potential job losses and business closures, now is the time to start looking at your mental wellbeing as a business owner, manager, and employee.
Top Tips Overview
If you are a solo-entrepreneur, manager, or business owner:
Recognise that your mental health affects those you work with.
Recognise the value of having work-based strategies that support and promote mental and emotional wellbeing.
As an employee or lone worker:
Recognise your own mental health needs.
Review your work-life balance.
Create a working pattern that includes reflection and time for creativity.
Track where and how you are spending your time.