Cultivating a mindset of wellbeing and optimal performance

Helping managers consider what contributes to their mental wellbeing supports both their individual performance and that of the organisation. Ahead of April’s Turbocharging Performance masterclass, Marianne Curphey spoke to workplace wellness consultant LaBarron Burwell to find out how we can create more positive and empathetic workplace cultures.

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This article is taken from the Turbocharging Performance supplement in the Spring 2024 issue of

Think Global People magazine

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View your copy of the Spring 2024 issue of Think Global People magazine.
Leaders face great pressure and responsibility to manage teams, make key decisions and steer an organisation through difficult times or periods of high growth. Yet they are often under-trained in managing their own wellbeing, particularly their mental wellbeing.Guiding managers to think more about cultivating small, but regular, practices that contribute to their mental resilience can have a beneficial effect. It can help them to perform at an optimal level, inform the conversations and interactions they have with their staff and team members, and ultimately feed into a more positive and empathetic workplace culture.That’s the message from LaBarron Burwell, a consultant who specialises in advising businesses on how to integrate wellness initiatives to drive performance and growth. He argues that daily practices to bolster our mental health, which he describes as “mental hygiene”, can lead to greater personal resilience. Within leadership roles it can also lead to better employee engagement, productivity and overall organisational culture.His background includes work with both large public sector entities, such as NASA HQ, and private sector tech start-ups such as CodeLock Inc. He provides insights and solutions that drive performance and growth for clients and that promote a culture of wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental hygiene and its importance  

LaBarron says mental hygiene is crucial for maintaining overall mental wellbeing. Simple practices to help cultivate mental equanimity include: learning to breathe deeply, taking time to go outside and take a break from work, scheduling calls with friends and physical exercises like push-ups.“Mental hygiene is definitely something now that is more important because these days we are connecting with people through screens,” he says. “We are conducting all our personal and professional activities on our mobile phones and we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves.“Constant screen time, unrealistic comparisons and social pressure can negatively impact mental wellbeing and taking that pause can help realign those thoughts. Mental hygiene is a simple entry point to mental health.”Taking regular breaks to pause and reflect can help individuals and leaders regain clarity and perspective. Practising being present and mindful helps to promote good mental health, he says. Like brushing your teeth for oral hygiene, you can establish daily practices for mental hygiene. This can include activities like deep breathing, yoga, or taking short breaks to refresh your mind and come back to a calmer mental state.

Leaders setting the best example

“If you are a leader in an organisation and you’re not having a good day and you are distant – maybe you are angry, grouchy and not enthusiastic – then this has a trickle-down effect to your team and your employees,” he says.“I think everyone struggles to be present at work. In leadership roles and positions where you are responsible for other people and for performance, then you face pressure and need to be the best you can for your staff. Yet people in leadership roles are severely under-trained. When they are promoted into a management role they learn the function of their job, but they are not always trained in managing and getting the best out of people.”

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How organisations can benefit too

Implementing mental hygiene practices within organisations can lead to a positive shift in culture. This might involve creating employee-centric programmes, which add real value to staff, like offering mental health resources and fostering open communication and empathy within leadership.“You can offer all these employee perks, for example you can have a gym at work, but if staff feel they can’t really use them because they only have 45 minutes for lunch, then it has no value,” he explains.Employers that implement effective benefits are often persuaded to do so because it affects their bottom line and improves productivity. LaBarron says organisations could enhance their offering by giving staff mental health days or extra time off to spend with their family and introducing more training programmes for mental health and resilience.Turbocharging-performance-event-intext

Building a community and enhancing communication

LaBarron’s work involves speaking one-to-one to people from different organisations. He has noticed a number of common themes that surface regularly in conversation.Many individuals struggle with feeling isolated or unsupported in both personal and professional settings. Building a sense of community and improving communication channels within organisations can address these issues and improve overall wellbeing.“Mental hygiene is not a new phenomenon,” he says. “It is about the everyday things and daily practices we can do to improve our mental strength, clarity and cognition.“We have seen anxiety and depression skyrocket after the pandemic and yet there is still a stigma on mental health, especially in the black and brown community, and for men. Mental hygiene is a great entry point for mindfulness and for better mental health and talking therapies and medication if needed.”

The importance of emotional resilience

LaBarron emphasises the importance of emotional resilience, which he describes as “being able to feel emotions, but not let them dominate your day or your life”.“Just because you are sad, it doesn't mean you're not going to do other things that help and that are going to benefit you and your life,” he says. “Just because you are angry at somebody doesn't mean you're going to do things to damage your life or the lives of others around you.”At the Turbocharging Performance masterclass, LaBarron will be explaining to attendees how to assemble a mental hygiene toolkit with the skills and practices unique to you, which will help you better navigate your personal and professional life.“Mental hygiene is an entry point for mental health,” he says. “Mental hygiene puts power into people's hands and it builds self-efficacy. It gives people the understanding that they can positively influence their life through small iterative steps. It shows the small, regular, but powerful actions and initiatives you can do, say and act on, on a daily basis, to take a person towards better mental wellbeing and greater emotional resilience.”
Learn more from LaBarron Burwell and other leading experts and peers in an international masterclass. ‘Turbocharging Performance: People-powered leadership to maximise talent’ focuses on applying new strategies and techniques to turbocharge performance and optimise valuable talent. It takes place at Henley Business School on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 April 2024. (Registration, keynote speaker and dinner from 5pm, Wednesday 17 April.) Register now.

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