8th CEO Dialogue: CEO Communications – Leading Conversations on Mental Wellbeing

October 20, 2023

WorkWell Leaders held the 8th CEO Dialogue this morning, with 37 leaders in our twice-yearly closed-door session, this time to discuss CEO Communications: Leading Conversations on Mental Wellbeing.

62 percent of employees feel uncomfortable sharing about mental wellness with their supervisors, managers, and other relevant staff, with half citing fear of being judged or discriminated against as the primary reason (Milieu Insight, 2023). At the same time, when employees strongly agree that the leadership of their organisation communicates effectively with the rest of the organisation, they are 73 percent less likely to feel burned out at work (Gallup, 2022).

Leaders heard from guest speaker, Matthew Harrington Global President and COO of  Edelman who is a seasoned communications advisor to CEOs around the world and also initiated Edelman’s wellbeing and mental health programmes. Matthew shared four key takeaways for leaders to effectively communicate about wellbeing:

  1. Lead by example in role modelling personal well-being approaches and being open about your own wellbeing habits (Matt runs every morning before even peeking at email)
  2. Don’t discount the role of managers – the front-line communicators, who bridge communication gaps and have the most impact on employee engagement day-to-day
  3. Remember to celebrate wins and successes. As leaders we often focus on how the business can be better and what we can be learning and evolving. Internal meetings could benefit from giving more oxygen to celebrating wins and successes, and not just focus on the financials or the pressing challenges.
  4. Engage consistently: A culture of wellbeing must be always on across every aspect of the organisation.

Matthew ended his sharing with the profound thought: Empathy is “mission critical” for today’s leaders. 

Before diving into breakout discussions, Karine Scelles and Akash Mohapatra, representing the senior wellbeing partner community of WorkWell Leaders, shared the key conclusions from the last quarterly learning session with HR leads on empowering middle managers. Notably, they highlighted that managers need more guidance on becoming caring coaches of teams, not just supervisors who are responsible for delivering results.
Leaders enjoyed a candid discussion and shared among other things: how to build non-tokenistic channels for communication; making wellbeing not just a leader’s priority but a leadership priority; and the challenges and importance of influencing micro-culture at a local level in large organisations. The leaders also shared how being prepared to be vulnerable with their teams takes real courage and is a step-by-step process, starting first with direct reports to build up confidence.
Many thanks to Patrick Ang and the team at Rajah & Tann Asia for hosting the session. 

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