Imagine your workplace as a well-oiled machine.
Everything from your systems and processes to your marketing and equipment works cohesively to produce a sustainable, flourishing business. But reaching this level of efficiency comes down to one key variable: people. Without the right team, nothing else matters. At Flourishing Workplace, we believe it is imperative for leaders and managers to improve, enhance, and increase the mental health of their teams.
Why is this important?
Because the greater the mental health, the greater the performance. So, how do you get the best out of your team? There is a simple, rarely spoken-about concept regarding workplace mental health known as Strengths-Based Leadership that can help. This idea recognizes and calls forth the natural strengths of others. However, you may wonder what this concept is and how it can benefit your team.
Strengths-Based Leadership: What is it and How to Create it
In its simplest form, strengths-based leadership involves pinpointing and effectively utilizing your team member’s strengths and abilities. It’s based on the concept that everyone has a unique set of talents to contribute. But how can you facilitate this? As a leader, you can support and encourage your team by creating a workplace that activates the best parts of their brain. However, that can’t happen in a toxic environment.
Such workplaces produce excessive stress, worry, and anxiety in people’s minds. As a result, your team won’t feel safe approaching the workplace with fresh and creative ideas. And this can lead to innovation becoming stifled.
A Safe Workplace for Performance and Productivity
The brain is constantly scanning the social environment in an attempt to answer this question: Is it safe here? Moreover, there are numerous levels of safety that we as humans are constantly looking for; these can include:
- Physical safety
- Emotional safety
- Psychological safety
- Social safety
When the brain feels safe, the individual’s cognitive bandwidth frees up to focus on other tasks. As a result, workplace performance and productivity increases. This transition occurs because they move from their amygdala to their prefrontal cortex, where they can now innovate, create, and think more effectively to problem solve.
Without safety providing that “psychological air” to breathe, people revert back to their amygdala thinking, which is rooted in a fear-based emotion-driven response. And this grips people, putting them in a state of fight, flight, or freeze.
The Avoid or Approach Response
At the base level, our brains have what is referred to as the Avoid or Approach response (otherwise known as the Approach and Avoidance Motivation). We are constantly scanning the environment to see if it’s safe. So how can you, as a leader, trigger this approach response? Fortunately, there are six ways to create a safe environment for your team to approach.
- Deepen Dignity
Everyone wants to feel like they have dignity, like they’re being treated with respect, irrespective of their age, gender, social status, education level, etc. Many workplaces are—albeit unknowingly—taking dignity instead of deepening it. Here are a few simple ways you can strengthen the dignity of team members:
- Operate on an open-door policy
- Practice consideration on all occasions
- Make “Thank you” your catchword
- Form a company culture around positivity
- Concentrate on relationship-building with your team
- Enhance Worth
All of us as people need to feel like we have worth. I believe with every part of my being that every person has a unique value that they bring to this table called Life. When people have a high sense of worth, the very best of them comes out. But when they feel their worth is diminished, guess what happens… they’re not able to perform at their best.
So as leaders, we need to constantly think of how we can enhance the worth of the individuals on our teams. Here are some considerations to help make that happen:
- Celebrate milestones and accomplishments
- Recognize progress and advancements on projects
- Provide a healthy work-life balance
- Offer opportunities for professional growth and development
- Acknowledge high-performance
- Show your team you value them as individuals as well as employees
- Strengthen Confidence
We live in an uncertain world. Look around, whether on the news, social media, or even just overhearing everyday conversations, and you’ll see tremendous amounts of uncertainty. As a workplace leader, your people are coming to the job riddled with doubt. Now, you may not be able to solve all of that, but you can help alleviate some of this uncertainty by “creating a cocoon.”
Your workplace must be protected and sheltered from the world’s negativity. And you can accomplish this by creating a cocoon of certainty, confidence, and stability. This process allows you to strengthen your team’s confidence. And consequently, this triggers the approach response in your team’s brain, allowing them to perform at their best!
- Reinforce Autonomy
We just came through a pandemic. However, the most significant effect of covid was how it accelerated the mental health pandemic. The social isolation, massive uncertainty, and fear of the virus terrified people. But do you want to know one of the biggest factors that impacted people’s mental health through covid? Lack of autonomy. When you take away people’s ability to choose, what happens is they end up in a fearful state.
The amygdala is triggered, putting them in the back of their brain because they don’t feel safe. See, autonomy activates safety; conversely, lack of autonomy compromises safety. And due to policies, work procedures, and routines, people feel their autonomy is being removed.
So as a workplace leader, you want to encourage and strengthen autonomy. This helps your team relax, increases engagement, and makes them more motivated and productive.
- Support Connections
Connections are the “stuff” of life. When people feel loved, valued, and like they belong, their sense of brain safety increases as they shift into the prefrontal cortex of the brain. And this difference in brain activity enables people to create, innovate, and problem-solve more effectively. If you take away that sense of belonging with exclusion and division, you rob people of their natural ability to contribute in a meaningful way.
- Increase Fairness
When people feel they aren’t being treated fairly, it impacts their performance and how they operate and increases their sense of isolation. So as a manager in the workplace, you may ask yourself: How can I increase fairness? Here are a few tips to help:
- Use open communication
- Be transparent with promotion processes
- Recognize the contributions of team members
- Create policies for workplace equity
- Provide proper training for all staff
By creating a workplace where people feel safe, it sends a signal to their brains. This signal indicates to the individual that it’s safe to approach, engage, and interact.
Next Step: Create a Strengths-Based Environment in Your Workplace Today
Your workplace can be an environment your team comes to profit, prosper, and progress. And the best way to ensure this? To create a strengths-based environment that fosters safety and increases engagement. At Certified Flourishing Coach, we are an evidence-based coaching company dedicated to helping individuals and institutions flourish. So if you’re ready, contact us today to see your workplace thrive.
About The Author
Abe Brown, MBA, CMCT, CPHSA is the Coach’s Coach, and is an Entrepreneur, Professional Speaker, International Best-Selling Author, and High-Performance Leadership Coach. He is the founder of Certified Flourishing Coaching™, the Flourishing Life Coaching Program™, and Flourishing Workplace. Abe is also the author of the Certified Flourishing Coaching™ Programs.