Rise of the Corporate Shrink

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 11:12 am.

In the US and emerging economies, executives readily seek counselling and coaching to help them cope with the demands of their lives, but why is mental health still an off-limits subject in Britain’s boardrooms?

When you run a business who do you turn to when you want to share your feelings about the company? If you have investors, a board and a chairman you are expected to be uniformly upbeat, positive and open to scrutiny about finances and the quality of your product. To colleagues you’re the leader, the decision-maker and the person with clarity of vision. But in this relentless drive to motivate, enthuse and sell, are chief execs missing an opportunity to step back and think of things from different perspectives other than those that are foisted on them?

The valuable contribution to hitting business targets of hitting the pause button from time to time and taking time out to step back and reflect are recognised in the US, even to the extent of top Lawyers having days away from the office called “mental health days”. The rise of the corporate coach or mentor has been a key element to the growth of many firms in India and China too. In the East, spiritual values are more strongly held in esteem than they are in the UK. Where we have gyms, they provide yoga and meditation rooms. They also do not have the same barriers between work and home lives and they seek to instill personal and moral codes to make better sense of their working lives.

In Britain we still have a taboo hanging over us about discussing and committing to mental wellbeing as an essential corporate tool. It does not have to be as extreme as sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting or lying back on a couch bearing your soul. Simply sitting at a table in a quiet, tranquil atmosphere with an executive coach who is trained to listen as you describe how things are and asking you a few questions to help you think deeper, can create the right environment for contemplation and powerful insights. At the end you are not left with a “that’s all well and good but that’s never going to happen once I get back to my desk” thought; instead you leave with a clear, achievable action plan that ensures that your vision becomes reality.

A mentally fit chief exec who is clear headed, decisive and energised will benefit the organisation, its staff and shareholders. Lessons from the US and the East would appear to show that you can’t grow unless you’ve “shrunk”. Cara Moore, IP-Config