Do you feel compelled to join the CARE Revolution?

Care Credo

Care Credo

Do you wish communities and workplaces were more caring?

What is the CARE Revolution and why should you consider joining it? I believe it is an idea whose time has come.

Over the last 3 years I’ve taken thousands of people through a half-day workshop designed to increase leadership and team resilience. At the start of the workshop I have participants discuss with their colleagues their best team ever (BTE).  I explain that it could have been your year 9 netball or footie team, working on a school fete, a charity role, your current work role or a past one. I then ask them to discuss with their colleagues what was it that made their “best team” different.

As I circulate around the room, I notice the energy rise as people recall that team – it obviously brings back good memories. Some describe work roles – some sporting teams – and some describe something significant from their personal life. One man described how his family and friends pulled together to help when his son was diagnosed with cancer and required regular treatment in a distant city.

After an animated discussion, I ask attendees to describe what was unique about their BTE and I write those comments on a whiteboard. I noticed after a while that consistent themes emerged. They may not have used exactly the same words, but the same sentiment was there. On most occasions, I took a photo of what was produced on the whiteboard and recently had the opportunity to review all of them.

These were the top 5 foundations of their BTE.

  1. We had each other’s back
  2. We had fun
  3. We had complementary strengths
  4. We were resourceful
  5. We had an exciting purpose and clear goals

I then ask the groups, “Did you care about each other?” The room always universally nods.

Self-care – and to care for others in the team – is the foundation to highly effective, sustainable, and innovative teams. How do we reconnect with the qualities that existed in our best team.

So how to we start a CARE Revolution?

Over the quieter period in January, whilst having a week in Forster with Karen, I Googled “How do you start a revolution?” I ended up finding The Art of a Revolution Manifesto by New York author and educator Jonathon Fields. He recommends the key is to answer the following questions.

1. Who is the CARE Revolution for?

It is for people that yearn for human connection in the workplace – and at home. It is for managers, HR, WHS and colleagues who desire to have healthier and more productive groups. They want to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. They want a team culture that fosters a caring, mentally healthy and growth mindset. They want team members to ask R U OK? if they suspect that one of them is struggling. They may have experienced depression or anxiety personally, or have closely supported someone who has. They believe WE trumps ME.

2. What is our shared pain?

Organisations say that their people are their most important asset, and yet their behaviour and actions don’t always reflect this. If mental well-being was important to Boards and senior leaders, they would be measuring it – but they don’t.

People who experience depression and anxiety keep quiet because they are fearful that their career could be compromised if that admit this. Unfortunately, there have been many instances where discrimination has occurred. By keeping their illness secret, managers sometime suspect that the person isn’t trying – rather than experiencing a mental illness.

This leads to people not being able to be authentic and afraid to say how they are really feeling. Because these feeling and thoughts are kept secret – they fester – and cause unnecessary pain.

3. Who is the source of our pain?

Leaders who ignore the impact bad work can have on mental well-being.

  • Those that say that mental health is important but don’t walk the talk. They underestimate the impact of change and don’t communicate well about why it is happening. In many cases they don’t model the changes they say are critical. People smell hypocrisy.
  • Managers who have no experience or empathy with someone who is experiencing mental illness often underestimate the productivity impact of mental ill health. They don’t understand their role in making it worse – or how supportive leadership could help.
  • Leaders who operate businesses by focussing excessively on the financial bottom line at the expense of sustainability.
  • Managers who don’t believe their role is to create a culture focussed equally on wellbeing and performance.
4. Who is our leader?

Anyone who would like to make their team more caring, mentally healthy, and growth-oriented. Anyone who would like to rally their colleagues to create a team culture that equally values performance AND wellbeing.

Brenden Carter, My Co-Founder in FactorC and I – and our CARE CREW – have developed this CARE CREW CREDO as a rallying call to reach out to other like-minded individuals who want to change workplaces. We are also determined to use digital solutions to help scale these efforts. FactorC is our first tool in that kitbag.

5. What is an event that contributed to the creation of the CARE CREW CREDO?

Matthew Stutsel, was a friend, lawyer, and partner at KPMG, who appeared to have everything. He was a very successful and well-liked leader. He seemed to have a balanced life and was a keen sailor and expert in French Champagne. He had spoken of his battles with depression previously and used this experience to encourage others to seek help. He was a champion of helping to create more open and supportive workplaces.

Matthew tragically took his own life on April 16, 2015. His funeral was a combination of celebrating a life well lived and mourning a friend who left us too soon. There were many partners there from KPMG and his former firm Freehills who (not surprisingly) were blindsided by the tragedy. He had achieved so much and yet did not see enough hope in life to continue.

At the funeral, his colleagues spoke of his caring and supportive nature. They also spoke of his perfectionist tendencies – and whilst this trait can have many upsides – it can lead to someone prone to being their own worst critic.  Self-compassion was light on at times.

I took home the funeral handout (image above) and have it displayed prominently in my office so that I see it every day. I would like to see workplaces that are filled with managers like Matthew – but also ones where people like Matthew (and myself) do not feel ashamed to let others know when they are struggling – and need help.

We need to be able to ask for help. Through my own depressive episodes and suicide attempts – I know what it feels like to see no hope in the future. I also now know that these feelings are temporary – and with the right expert help, emotional support, and finding of meaning – these feelings can pass and open the door to a fulfilling life.

Over the recent Christmas holidays, I was approached by an unprecedented number of people who were seeking help. The holidays can exacerbate mental distress, but there is a growing trend of work stress and mental health issues as recently identified by CSIRO research.

In January, we were devastated to hear that Annalise Braakensiek had taken her life. Although I didn’t know Annalise well, she had been a wonderful supporter of R U OK? and devoted time and energy to helping our team to spread our message. From all accounts, Annalise was a caring and giving person – but she lost hope there was a better future. At her time of greatest pain, she was unable to say “I’m not OK. I need help.”

The CARE CREW exists for people like Matthew and Annalise  – who both wanted to create a better world – but who also at times (like me) need support as well.

6. What needs to be different?

We want people to be able to speak honestly about their feelings at work. We want them to be able to regularly rate themselves on a moodometer. We would like meetings to start where individuals are able to nominate whether they are in the Green, Amber, or Red Zone today. Leaders are better placed to know what is going on. I was incredibly heartened this week when I heard of another manager at the University of Sydney who does exactly this.

We want a workplace and community where if someone says they are edging towards the Red Zone they can discuss it openly and receive the support they need. Feelings of distress are a wake-up call that can lead to support, better decisions and transformation if the right team culture exists.

The CARE CREW exists to not only provide support when people are struggling but also to provide a road map of beliefs and actions that help everyone Go for the Green Zone.

7. What should the CARE CREW Revolution believe in?

After reviewing all the notes on what people described as their Best Team Ever in my workshops, and reviewing the latest evidence on high performing teams, I developed a first draft. I shared with the people on my newsletter database who provided some valuable input. Brenden and I then finalized the copy – and our wonderful CARE CREW created the poster below.

Is there any evidence to support this woowoo stuff? I’m glad you asked 😊

It is interesting that most of the qualities above would traditionally be described as “soft skills”. Are they still relevant in this artificial intelligence revolution?

If anything, soft skills are predicted to grow in importance in this new age. In the recent Soft skills for Business Success report produced by Deloitte and DeakinCo, they predicted that we are 9 times more likely to be endorsed for soft skill than a technical skill. They also predicted that communication and team work skills will be the most important.

It is also worth considering the following.

  • The more employees that strongly agree with this Gallup Engagement Survey question: “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.” – the higher the profit, productivity, customer services levels, and the longer an employee stays with the company. This question has been asked over 15 million times in 130+ countries.

(SOURCE: Conchie, B., & Rath, T. (2008). Strengths-based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. Gallup Press.)

  • Psychological safety was found to be the #1 predictor of high-performance teams by innovation powerhouses like Google and IDEO. Psychologically safe teams have high interpersonal trust and mutual respect, and people are comfortable being themselves. They also consciously look out for and support each other. They feel safe to try new ways to better serve customers.

(SOURCE: What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team, NYT, February 25, 2016)

Like a copy of THE CARE CREW CREDO emailed to you? Please email support@graemecowan.com.au – we will email it within a week.

8. What should CARE CREWS focus on?

We will do what really matters. We will fight the tyranny of busyness to nurture ourselves and others. We will do deep work that makes an impact. We will be brutal with our time but generous with our care. We will recognize the steps of progress in ourselves and others.

Self-care, caring for others and making a contribution are our top things each day. We will ask ourselves:

  1. What is the 1 thing I could do maintain/boost my wellbeing today?
  2. What is the 1 thing I could do to show I care?
  3. What is the 1 thing I could do to have the biggest positive impact on my team?
9. Who is a CARE CREW Hero?

Even though the focus of this manifesto has been the workplace, CARE CREW leaders are of course sprinkled across the community as well.

Gavin Larkin, my late friend and Founder of R U OK?, is a massive CARE CREW hero. The rapid growth in the reach and impact of R U OK? has been extraordinary and his legacy will be with us forever. I would, however, like to shine the light on a local hero, that was inspired by Gavin’s vision.

The northern NSW town of Woolgoolga (known affectionately as Woopi by the locals) turned their town yellow on R U OK? Day. Shops competed to have the best display, everyone in the town wore yellow. It is hard to grasp the extent of their commitment to this project although the above image provides some insight.

The initiative was the brainchild of the extraordinary Lisa Nichols. Lisa tragically lost her mother Lesley to suicide 25 years ago and was determined to do something about it. She had been doing the Lifeline Walk for 8 years and last year decided to combine it with R U OK? Day.

This year Woopi Wears Yellow went stratospheric with most shops and businesses competing for the best display. I know Gavin would be looking down and smiling at this – because it was always his vision that neighbours and communities would hold events that fostered connection. Next year it is up to every neighbourhood or town to see if they can outdo Woopi 😊

We should all be inspired by Lisa’s work.

10. What can you do?

If what has been described resonates you may consider:

BE CARING. BE HELPFUL. GO FOR THE GROWTH ZONE.

We can make a difference.

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