The 6 secrets to a supportive and caring culture


There is compelling evidence to show that a supportive and psychologically safe culture is critical to an agile and resourceful team. Whilst Gallup estimates that a team leader determines 70% of the team’s engagement level, there are other factors a CEO must consider when striving for a high performing organisation.

When I led a culture change division a number of years ago, we applied a 6 factor consulting model which was created by Kerry Patterson et al, and which has now been described in their book Influencer: The science of leading change.

The authors determined that there were 3 levels that influence company culture: self, tribal, and organisational. We also need to consider motivation and ability at each of the 3 levels – making 6 factors in total.

The executives I have worked with as a leadership speaker and consultant readily relate to this model, and it is an insightful way to consider the elements that shape a supportive and thriving culture.

6 factor

To avoid burnout and absenteeism we need tribe members to look out for those who could be in distress, ask “Are you OK?”, and know how to help.

If we wish to create a supportive and psychologically safe culture, we should consider these 6 factors.  Let’s consider the questions we need to ask ourselves to create an I CARE culture:

Related: I CARE: 5 Ways to help a stressed workmate

1: Self-motivation

Do the individuals in my team willingly help those in distress? Would everyone feel motivated to help a distressed workmate?

As you know, some will do it willingly, whilst some will avoid it like the plague, and there will be some in the middle. Knowing this, highlights the need to create practical resources that increase employees confidence to ask “Are you OK?”.

2: Self ability

Do they have the skills and knowledge to initiate contact with someone in distress and encourage help seeking? It’s a legitimate question because in my experience, most people want to help but they don’t feel confident about how to help. Organisations must make available easy to access resources that fill this gap.

3: Tribal motivation

At the tribal level, do others encourage supportive behaviour? Does the manager lead by example? Do meeting and interactions reflect psychologically safe behaviour? Do team members feel involved and speak approximately equally in team meetings? If people try new things that don’t work out, are they supported?

Are verbose members asked to let the shy ones speak?

4: Tribal ability

What impact do others have on the helper’s ability to follow an “I CARE” approach? Are resources and people available if the distressed person needs to take time off? Are help seeking resources and information readily available?

In working with many large organisations as a resilience speaker, I find they often have good resources and support services, but people struggle to find them. They’re buried in an intranet directory and can’t be readily found.

5: Organisational motivation

Does the formal reward and recognition and performance management process reward team engagement and a psychologically safe environment?

6: Organisational ability

How do work layout policies, job design, and other systems influence mental wellbeing and resilience?

There was some seminal research undertaken to determine the best strategy to prevent work stress by Professor Tony LaMontagne for VicHealth. He found that there were three types of intervention to address work stress.

The Tertiary approach is when we try to help someone after they’ve already been psychologically injured. This is the least effective and most expensive intervention.

The secondary approach is when companies do resilience training, mental health training, work life balance training etc. It’s helpful but ultimately doesn’t address the root cause of the stress.

The Primary or proactive approach to reducing stress was found to produce the best outcomes for the employee and the employer, when they analysed peer reviewed studies from around the world. It is taking a systems approach to stress and injury prevention. When you’re starting to see employee turnover, and/or an increase in absenteeism from a department, you seek to identify the root cause of the issue. Every time a problem occurs, you take the continual improvement approach of asking five “whys”.

The Primary approach active seeks to change processes and systems, and increase employee flexibility and involvement in decision making. A stitch in time saves nine!

When you consider these 6 factors, the team leader has considerable control and input into factor 1, 2, 3, and 4, but not 5 and 6.

Factor 5 and 6 generally are the domain of the Executive Leadership Team.

The creation of a supportive and caring culture is a journey that requires persistence, commitment, and diligence. It also requires focusing on the 6 factors highlighted to ensure it becomes embedded.

INVITATION: Why mental resilience should be on every CEO’s agenda

invite header

As a Senior Leader, you would already know that mental health and wellbeing is a major factor in the workplace.

icare, in partnership with R U OK? are pleased to invite you to a Breakfast Event that’s designed to start a conversation amongst leaders like yourself about the mental wellbeing of your workforce.

The morning will be hosted by Graeme Cowan from R U OK? who will be sharing results from a nationwide survey around Australian workforce Psychological Safety – determined by Google to be the most important factor for an agile, fast learning, and resilient team. The morning will also feature:

Video: Why mental resilience should be on every CEO’s agenda

This short video (to be shown for the first time) will feature contributions from Ann Sherry, Executive Chairman Carnivale Australia, Vivek Bhatia, CEO icare NSW, Damien Mu, CEO AIA Australia, Clare Amies, CEO Worksafe Victoria, and David Hall, former CEO Jetstar Australia & NZ

This video will be available for any organisation to use following its launch.

CEO Q&A Panel

There will also be a Q&A session where you can ask your questions about workplace mental health.

Panel: Vivek Bhatia, CEO icare NSW, David Hall, former CEO Jetstar Australia & NZ, Lisa Claes, CEO CoreLogic RP Data

We feel strongly that mental health and wellbeing needs to be at the top of all business leader’s agenda in NSW and I really hope you can join us on 30 May 2017.

The cost is $50 with all proceeds being donated to R U OK?

Simply click here to secure your spot.

Venue: Westin Hotel, Heritage Ballroom, 1 Martin Place, Sydney

Date: Tuesday May 30, 7.30am – 9.30am

Simply click here to secure your spot.

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