Be Well, Lead Well

Khanyi Tshabalala
Written by Khanyi Tshabalala

The UK’s leading body for management and leadership conducted a study in partnership with YouGov which found that 82 per cent of those who enter management positions have not had any proper training, known as ‘accidental managers’(CMI Report).

I guess the question which you may now be asking yourself is how exactly these accidental managers are bred.

Right place, right time?

Good luck?

Well, we must back track and consider internal promotion structures. Organisations measure performance based on technical ability, ignoring behaviour and other key leadership traits.

How are those who find themselves reporting to this accidental leader impacted?

Well, I guess all you can do is hope that your accidental leader is not only technically competent but also possesses other key leadership traits and practices positive behaviours.

But what happens if all the immediately mentioned are absent?

Well, according to the CMI Report, not only is a toxic work culture created but one in three staff decide to quit.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

A separate study conducted by the CIPD (CIPD study) explores how a toxic work culture is created. Managers have the ability to make a direct impact on employee wellbeing by shaping the right conditions to promote and enhance an individual’s positive health-related behaviour in the workplace. They do so by influencing psychosocial job conditions, supporting wellbeing initiatives and creating a wellbeing focused environment for employees. Based on this, it is evident that assuming leadership is dangerous. Further evidence indicating that assuming leadership is dangerous is that regulators are scrutinising how workplaces are mitigating health and safety risks. If the impact of the exit of employees was not felt, perhaps once these organisations begin to pay the price, psychological safety and overall wellbeing will be taken a lot more seriously and no longer be categorised as lip service initiatives.

Managers are human too. Although many of them may be slow to acknowledge this, it is true. Those who have spent more time on this earth are not exonerated from having life continue to challenge them. Did you know that bereavement laws within the UK only allow an employee to receive bereavement pay and leave “if they are a parent who has a child that died under the age of 18 or had a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy” (Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave). The employee is then allowed to take 2 weeks leave to grieve. If an employee loses a close friend, they are not entitled to paid bereavement leave.

Can you imagine how an accidental manager without any soft skills training would handle this situation?

Historically, workplaces and beyond favoured technical skills over soft skills. However, with the expanding use of AI to assist with technical tasks, the focus has now shifted, and soft skills are now the new currency.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

According to Forbes, soft skills such as mentoring, emotional intelligence, and resilience are not only highly sought after but also highly transferable across industries. This welcomed change will hopefully decrease the continued emergence of accidental managers.

So, how can those who intentionally want to become managers acquire soft skills?

There are many ways which one can acquire soft skills but for the purposes of this article we will explore how soft skills such as mentoring, emotional intelligence and resilience can be acquired using mindfulness techniques.

As a precursor, a flaw with any leadership program is that it is infrequent and usually only attended before or shortly after promotion. The missing gap is what happens in the everyday. Even intentional managers can find themselves in circumstances where they do not feel supported, motivated or even capable to deal with the daily realities which come with leadership. Let’s not overlook how those in management also require ongoing support. This support can look like working 1 on 1 with a wellness coach/consultant.

Practicing mindfulness daily encourages individuals to observe their experiences without attachment or reaction, allowing for greater clarity, insight, resilience and emotional regulation. By cultivating a consistent mindfulness practice, individuals develop enhanced self-awareness, empathy, social skills, motivation and agility.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

An example of some mindfulness practices is breathing, meditation and journalling. Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice and consistency. Practicing mindfulness consistently is beneficial for problem solving, reducing stress and anxiety and improving focus and concentration. Perhaps the missing elements in externally focused leadership development programs, are elements which educate about and encourage self-leadership. When managers lead themselves, they will be better at leading others. When managers are well, they lead well. Resulting in increased productivity, increased retention and an integrated culture of wellbeing.

Managers are humans who are leading humans. Acquiring soft skills and continuing to nurture these skills will not only be beneficial for managers and their direct teams but also to the overall health and well-being of any organisation. One thing to keep in mind is that, change always starts from within. If you want to make a change, you must start with changing yourself – lead by example. When people see well-balanced managers who are leading well, this will motivate them to maintain their own well-being and inspire them to become intentional leaders.

Main – Photo by Rebrand Cities