I was privileged to take part in an interview on BBC’s national radio show Wake up to Money in January 2020 on mental health in the workplace. This was directly following a Deloitte report that highlighted the £40 billion cost to business per year. The programme also interviewed Lloyds Bank CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio who had shared his own mental health struggles in his call to the business world to start paying closer attention to the mental well-being of employees – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51201550. I was on the show to present the small business perspective.
As both a small business owner and someone who has continually struggled with my own mental well-being over the last 20 years, I enjoy talking about this topic more than any other. In my world, balancing the chemicals in my brain is a constant challenge. Sometimes there is an overwhelming temptation to hit the quick fixes like alcohol and I always have to remain vigilant to the threat of dark holes that my mind risks falling into. I enjoying talking about it because I hope by being open about my struggles and the effects (both positive and negative) that it will help others process and understand their own difficulties.
And it is very important to acknowledge that the effects of my long term living with depression and anxiety do have huge benefits for my style of leadership. I am more empathetic and more approachable to my team. I am better able to listen and understand. I am more forgiving of others because I know I often seek forgiveness myself. I talk in my interview about leading by example and that means showing up even when I cannot put a ‘game face’ on. I have lost track of the amount of times I have apologised to those I work with (and even more to those I live with) for the more negative ways my struggles have manifested themselves. I am never afraid to admit wrong, say sorry, and mean it. That’s one of the things I am most grateful to my struggles for teaching me.
I’m not everyone’s ideal leader. I imagine I can be too ‘raw’ for many. But for those happy to talk and share the things that are most difficult for us all in life, I am here.