I was recently asked to support a senior management team through the unexpected death of a well-known and well-liked team member’s adult child. Part of the intervention included facilitating a critical incident stress debriefing with the management team.

These were very accomplished and seasoned managers, yet they struggled with how to proceed with the human side of this situation. At the start of the debriefing we discussed their understanding of how a manager should lead in this situation, and we concluded that the leader should set the example by “going first.”

My next question was, “So, who’s going to start?”

Here are a few thoughts on what it means to go first as it applies to the behavioral health side of workgroup management:

  • Being transparent in relation to the topic at hand, which includes sharing your own story as it relates to the discussion and helping others understand that they’re not alone.
  • Having courage to admit your own need for help and recognizing that while most of us may not need a therapist, we all could use therapy.
  • Being willing to admit mistakes and continuously improve.
  • Giving those involved the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a conclusion. Keeping the problem the problem without making it personal.
  • Keeping your focus and energy on what’s important to solve the problem and move forward together.
  • Appreciating the unique needs of everyone involved and affected without passing judgment.
  • Being willing and able to safely support and encourage others to share what’s important to them, even if it’s difficult to hear.

By taking the lead and going first, managers and supervisors can resolve many organizational challenges that impact employees’ behavioral health, including:

  • Managing the stress of workplace change
  • Resolving interdepartmental and interpersonal conflicts
  • Re-building trust after a major reorganization
  • Promoting healing after a major critical incident, such as a natural disaster, suicide, workplace shooting or other acts of violence

It takes a leader with self-awareness, courage and wisdom to allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to go first. Leaders who are deemed wise in the ways mentioned above seem to have mastered empathy, compassion, emotional regulation and self-reflection.

If you would like ideas on developing these qualities or if you find yourself in a challenging situation that impacts your employees’ behavioral health, please contact us at FEI. We’ll help you develop the qualities you need to go first and lead by example.