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Mon, 12 Feb


Curtin Graduate School of Business

Morning Session #4: When well-being and mental health become a ‘wicked leadership problem’

Facilitated by Audrey McGibbon (EEK & SENSE) and Kate Connors (Elemental Coaching & Psychology)

Morning Session #4: When well-being and mental health become a ‘wicked leadership problem’
Morning Session #4: When well-being and mental health become a ‘wicked leadership problem’

Time & Location

12 Feb 2024, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm AWST

Curtin Graduate School of Business, 78 Murray St, Perth WA 6000, Australia

About the workshop

Register to attend the pre-conference workshop here:

When well-being and mental health become a ‘wicked problem’ – what needs to happen now for leaders, their people and the organisation?

Join this workshop to explore how the effects of a changing world and changing leadership are changing leaders’ own mental health and wellbeing – and how addressing this could hold the key to organisations more effectively improving mental health, wellbeing and psychosocial risk outcomes for all employees.

Although positive mental health, wellbeing and successful performance outcomes are (in theory) symbiotic sides of the same coin and ought not to create problems, the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world is placing extraordinary demands on leaders’ capabilities and capacities to make the changes needed. Soaring expectations, underestimated challenges, high-stakes critical decisions, and continuous striving to meet organizational goals typically result in long work hours – excessively so for many professionals and managers – and it is common to find leaders who feel they lack the resources and/or support they need to keep going, let alone thrive. For those believing they should or must epitomize strength, decisiveness, and resilience in their role as leaders, the weight of expectations is a constant companion that brings additional mental strain. In seeking to uphold their obligations, leaders’ own mental health and wellbeing can become the sacrificial trade-off, a false economy and the start of a vicious circle. We’ll look at the evidence for whether a leader’s capacity to effectively lead their organisation and their people is inextricably connected to their personal wellbeing.

High on the list of demands creating additional strain are societal and regulatory shifts aimed at elevating employees’ mental health and wellbeing, changes that leaders must now somehow facilitate as high-profile business-critical priorities. While it’s true poor leadership behaviour and actions present real psychosocial risks to employees, and that high-quality supportive leadership protects employees from psychological distress, and boosts employee engagement, wellbeing and performance – leaders surely deserve to be supported to develop both the capacity and resources needed to deliver?

A key element to the workshop will be space for a discussion about how fair and reasonable it is to hold leaders to individual account for the outcomes of a system in which so many themselves are struggling or perceive limited agency as individuals to drive the changes needed to improve employees MHW. What do organisations need to do differently to create the environment for leadership to play the role that our workplace mental health sector expects them to play? What role design and organisational factors need our attention in order to design a leadership system that meaningfully enables leaders’ wellbeing and sustainability? These and other provocative questions about the design of leadership roles, and also the design of the system within which our leaders operate will support the workshop’s primary aim – to raise the level of awareness and understanding about the current environment leaders are operating within, why our leaders’ wellbeing may be existentially threatened, and to challenge how realistic it is to expect organisational wellbeing, if leaders themselves are struggling.

Who is this workshop suitable for?

A practitioner-led interactive workshop, designed to meet the needs of senior decision-makers, advisers and experienced consultants working with organisational leaders on their mental health and wellbeing (MHW) strategy and how to align it with their broader P&C strategy and business plans. Academics with a systemic interest in the intersection between MHW, leadership and culture will also belong beautifully. Anyone looking to achieve better integration of MHW with leadership, culture, operations, WHS and risk will benefit from this vibrant mix of research, evidence-based models and practical insights. Using questions and hypotheticals to explore how the complex system of leadership within organisations impacts individual leaders’ own and others’ capacities to thrive, participants will have the opportunity to reflect, discuss, learn, and ideate with like-minded professionals, equipping them to navigate and make progress on this business-critical challenge.

About the facilitators

Audrey McGibbon

Audrey is an independent practitioner psychologist with over 30 years of executive coaching, leadership development and organisational design consulting experience, and is increasingly considered as one of the leading experts in corporate wellbeing and sustainable leadership in Australia and globally. Advising many of Australia’s top ASX companies, Federal and State government agencies, her company EEK & SENSE is respected for its impeccable service reputation and its scientific rigour as pioneers in the provision of wellbeing measurement and development systems for individuals, teams and critical talent cohorts. Examples of Audrey and her team’s recent advisory work are available here, in a series of short papers which summarise the impact and relevance of hybrid, gender and psychosocial health regulatory developments for leader wellbeing and for how organisations can continue to improve their approach to leading wellbeing. Audrey has an MA (Hons) in Psychology and Business Studies from The University of Edinburgh, MSc in Psychotherapy Studies from the School of Health and Related Research (S.C.H.A.R.R.) at The University of Sheffield and she is currently undertaking her Professional Doctorate in Occupational Psychology, at Birkbeck College, University of London where she is researching the relationship between workaholism, hybrid work patterns and specific job-demands/resources. She is the former Managing Director of SHL Australia, the founder and CEO of EEK Coaching, founder and Executive Director of EEK & SENSE, co-author of The Motivation Questionnaire (SHL MQ®), and co-author of the Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey (GLWS®).

Kate Connors

I am honoured and privileged to have developed my expertise in executive mental health and wellbeing, coaching and workplace mental health strategy over the past 25 years of my career. My postgraduate qualifications in psychology, mixed with the practical experience of overseeing and implementing programs and strategic change within a complex professional services environment, enables me to be uniquely positioned to mentor and coach business leaders and wellbeing professionals seeking to create change and transformation within their own organisations. I have experience in C-Suite positions leading organisations, teams and individuals to achieve positive leadership, mental health and wellbeing outcomes. In my most recent role, as Chief Mental Health Officer at PwC Australia, I provided confidential wellbeing and mental health support to over 800 partners across Australia. I also lead a period of cultural change to create a "green light to talk" about mental health, leading to an increased sense of safety for people to raise psychosocial risks and seek early intervention support for themselves or people in their teams in times of need. I have supported hundreds of business leaders to manage and enhance their own wellbeing, from critical moments of mental health risk, through to boosting individual wellbeing & team performance in 1:1 coaching. I am passionate about the role business leaders play to establish psychologically safe settings in their teams, promoting healthy work design and developing leaders with the skills they need to create high performing AND mentally healthy teams.

Register to attend the pre-conference workshop here:

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