Friday, 7 October 2016

Carpool Karaoke

I've recently had a few conversations about mental resilience and wellbeing in the workplace.  I've reflected on what I do when I have a difficult day or set of circumstances to deal with at work.

We all have bad days.  In HR we probably have more than our fair share because at least part of what we do is helping others to deal with the bad days they are having, and some of that is bound to rub off emotionally.

Some people will deal with this better than others.  In wellbeing and HR circles this is often referred to as resilience, or mental toughness.

I'm not sure it is that, but what I do think happens is that those people have found outlets for their emotion and ways of processing it.  If that's resilience then OK, but to me resilience is something internal around personality, whereas I think what I'm describing is more outward facing around behaviour.

I've written a lot about my approach to personal fitness and how that has helped me in the past, and that's the kind of stuff I mean - just having some way of processing what you've been dealing with.  It doesn't have to be physical activity, as long as it works.

I also think having something of a support network matters too, not just at home where one would expect to have it, but at and in the workplace amongst your peers.

What do I mean?

Well, if you're without friends and people you can talk openly and honestly to in the workplace, you will struggle to process some of the emotion you are faced with there.  Everyone, no matter what their role, needs someone to whom they can talk and have a bit of a rant or moan to now and again, someone who will keep these discussions private and who will both support and challenge.

I noticed this when I moved jobs earlier this year - all of a sudden my support network at work was gone, that I'd spent 12 years building up, and I had to start all over again.  I found this very difficult, and it took 4 - 5 months before I had even the beginnings of a support network again and had that outlet.  But once I did, I immediately noticed a difference in how engaged I felt and how motivated I was.

Perhaps the best example of a support network I've ever had was a fellow senior leader at my last place of work, who car shared with me for over 10 years.  Spending 1.5 - 2 hours a day together in a confined space, 4/5 days a week for 10 years - you become close, you end up telling each other almost everything and you come to rely very much on that person as a source of support and guidance.

Most journeys home from work were each of us telling the other what we'd done that day and, on the occasions where we'd interacted in the workplace, discussing how those things had gone - discussing our views on other people's behaviour, our own behaviours, our view of the organisation and its direction, and almost everything to do with what was causing us to feel emotion at work.  We coached each other, challenged each other, argued occasionally but always felt much better at the end of the journey.  This helped me to download my emotion and get home able to focus on what was important there, without having to bore people at home with it all or being distracted by thoughts of home.

Nowadays I drive solo to work, but I still, almost a year since the car sharing ended, find myself talking out loud in the car to my no-longer-there car sharer friend and imagining his responses.  I have, once or twice, been on autopilot on my commute and realised I was headed to his house to collect him, before remembering we work in different towns now.

I watch James Corden's Carpool Karaoke videos and think these are an excellent example of people going to/from work having fun and sharing emotions, and usually arriving at work in a better state.

In my own carpool, we never did karaoke - neither of us could sing at all - but we gave each other a boost by just being there.  We were confidants for each other, and that's something that's hard to replace but if you can get it in the workplace, will be enormously helpful.

Until I find it again, I've still got my physical exercise regime.

What's your Carpool Karaoke?  How do you deal with a set of difficult circumstances at work and process the emotion so that you're able to focus on home life when you get back?

Till next time...


PS we think our next family holiday may be our last as a 5-piece family, as eldest son may be too old and too cool to come with us after next year. So we are thinking of stretching ourselves and doing a fortnight in Florida...

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