WellBeing and Perfomance Agenda
Background to the WellBeing and Perfomance Agenda
What is the problem?
We know that the problem facing many organisations is a general lack of energy amongst the workforce, depriving the organisation of potential high level performance and success.
We know that people coming to work in body but not in mind is now the majority of the workforce in some organisations.
We know that productivity in the UK is generally flat and has been for almost a decade, and that no amount of financial encouragement has made much difference.
We know that individual confidence in some national institutions has disappeared, such as the banks, politicians, church, police and the NHS. We know this makes people unsettled and more inward looking.
We know all this costs a fortune, and isn’t in the interests of anyone, any organisation or any Government.
What impedes organisational success?
The biggest impediment to organisational success is leaders and managers having a low expectation of what is possible. They devote themselves to leading and managing projects in the vain hope that these will energise the workforce and restore it to a high performing machine. Many of these projects are about achieving arbitrary and unrealistic targets, often perceived as proxies for performance.
Instead, what has been happening is that leaders and managers have ‘allowed’, by default, events and behaviours to occur that impede high level performance.
These events and behaviours do not occur by chance; they occur because the culture, leadership and management of the organisation ‘allow’ them to happen. They happen because little or no action is taken to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
A toxic ingredient in the mix is fear. Many people are fearful of the repercussions of saying or taking action that might encourage people to behave better and prevent adverse events from happening in the first place. Why fear causes such under performance is hard to understand, as experiencing fear is not in the interests of anyone, other than those seeking to maintain ‘power’ over others.
Many are fearful for their jobs, their reputation, or how others may think of them. They may be fearful of the reaction they may get to something they say, which, in turn, may make them isolated, or worse, acquire an identity that forever portrays them as someone they would prefer not to be.
The Psychological Contract
The Psychological Contract is an implicit set of expectations that employees expect to be delivered by their employers. When these are not delivered, the intensity of engagement the employee has with the employer (and, therefore, the work to be performed) becomes diluted to the point of dis-engagement.
We expect banks to be helpful, politicians to solve difficult problems, behave logically and treat everyone fairly, the church to represent basic ethical values and be the bedrock of good behaviour, the police to be honest and help us when trouble occurs, and the NHS to be always there, with a friendly face when we are at our most vulnerable. When these implicit expectations are not delivered we turn inwards and fend for ourselves. The Psychological Contact is fractured.
It is the same in the workplace. We turn inwards and fend for ourselves when the workplace doesn’t deliver what we expect it to deliver. We conserve our energy to ensure our own survival, and don’t expend it on helping the organisation become more successful. The idea that a more successful organisation will help individual survival doesn’t penetrate the consciousness when individuals feel their own survival is threatened. The risk of relying on others becomes too great.
Changing attitude; changing the workplace – making it a fabulous and high performing place to work
Everyone is driven by their self-interest. Discovering what this is forms part of the task for leaders and managers. In general, many, if not most, people have the self-interest to remain psychologically healthy and in mental control. Mental control means having a clear head to think and act. Without mental control the ability to take decisions about survival becomes difficult. Survival is the ultimate self-interest.
On this basis, individuals want to feel psychologically well.
Organisations are normally established to fulfil a purpose. The workforce is employed to achieve the organisational purpose. How effectively the workforce achieves the purpose is normally dependent on performance. The proxies for performance can include productivity and profit, both of which may be arbitrarily set as targets to be achieved, and against which the performance of the workforce (and, therefore, the organisation) is measured.
On this basis the organisation wants performance.
If the organisation provides what the workforce wants, which is psychological wellbeing, the reciprocal process results in the workforce providing what the organisation wants, which is performance.
This is shown in the image below:
The link between psychological wellbeing and performance
Feeling psychologically well and in mental control tends to help individuals concentrate on what they’re doing.
Concentration is at the root of performance. You can have all the skills, knowledge and experience in the world, but if you cannot concentrate, these skills become a waste of time.
The events and behaviours cited earlier as impediments to success are impediments to concentration. The mind is hijacked by the events, behaviours and the toxic ingredient of fear. Concentration on what is expected or wanted is limited and fragmented, resulting in under performance.
If you feel well, you’re able to concentrate effectively on what you want. Concentration is the essence of performance. If you feel well you have the opportunity of performing at your peak. If you feel fantastic you will perform at your peak, no matter what you’re doing.
Implementing change in organisations
The strategy of conviction is the most effective strategy of change. It is based on being able to argue and convince people of the merits for change, so that those involved can see for themselves that change will bring about improvements to their working lives. It is common sense that if you feel well you perform well, and that if you feel fantastic you’ll perform at your peak. In addition to common sense, there is plenty of evidence to support this position.
On the basis that organisations want performance and individuals want to feel psychologically well, the way to marry the two together and bring change about is by adopting The WellBeing and Performance Agenda.
Introduction to The WellBeing and Performance Agenda
The WellBeing and Performance Agenda (WP Agenda) provides a systemic (organisation wide) approach that creates the conditions for high level performance.
The overall aim of the WP Agenda is:
- To make the workplace a fabulous and high performing place to work
The purposes of the WP Agenda are to create the conditions that
- Enable individuals to thrive and perform at their peak consistently.
- Enhance individual psychological wellbeing, so people feel fantastic and perform at their peak.
- Stimulate and provoke innovation, energy, motivation, morale, personal growth, and success.
- Prevent events and behaviours that may trigger stress in the workforce.
- Reduce the incidence of psycho-presenteeism (people coming to work in body but not in mind), together with the associated costs.
- Reduce sickness absence and staff turnover attributable to stress.
- Inspire positive attitudes to adverse events and difficult behaviours, so that active corporate and personal resilience is strengthened to successfully overcome these challenges.
A psychologically healthy organisation that has achieved the purposes above, exhibits the following attributes and behaviours in its workforce:
- Commitment, trust, motivation, kinship, concentration and social engagement.
These attributes and behaviours are known to be strongly associated with psychological wellbeing and peak performance.
Creating the conditions where individuals feel commitment, trust, motivation, kinship, concentration and social engagement requires each person to behave in a certain manner at work, and for the culture, leadership and working environment of the organisation to reinforce these behaviours and provoke individuals to be motivated to concentrate on the tasks expected of them.
What is psychological wellbeing?
Psychological Wellbeing is about how you feel, not about how you are.
In general terms individual psychological wellbeing is achieved and enhanced when the following ingredients are present in individual lives.
The ingredients of psychological wellbeing
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The role of leaders and managers in psychological wellbeing
It is the purpose of leaders and managers to create the conditions that enable individuals feel psychologically well. They should put in place the necessary triggers that when pulled help individuals feel well. At the same time leaders and managers are expected to eliminate the events and behaviours that may cause a stressful reaction in individuals. In the main, if the triggers for psychological wellbeing are in place, they will squeeze out the adverse events and difficult behaviours without leaders and managers needing to take overt action to eliminate them.
WellBeing and Performance Agenda
The WellBeing and Performance Agenda has a number of elements shown in the diagram below.
The Agenda is focused on creating the conditions that enhance psychological wellbeing and concentration, thereby enabling individuals and organisations to attain peak performance.
The WellBeing and Performance Agenda provides a framework for leaders and managers to give the workforce an opportunity to feel psychologically well and, with appropriate motivation, perform at its peak.
The Agenda provides the triggers that help strengthen the Psychological Contract, the contract between employee and employer based on a sense of fairness and implicit obligations.
There is no quick fix to sorting out the challenges facing organisations. This Agenda is an organisation wide approach to solving challenging problems for organisations, but it takes a change of attitude and a determination to succeed for the Agenda to be implemented in its entirety.
The Agenda has been developed in easy steps to be taken.
There are plenty of resources to help leaders and managers with implementing each step. The processes involved result in a vibrant, enthusiastic and motivated workforce that is determined to make the organisation more successful in the future.
Read about the elements of the WellBeing and Performance Agenda
Now that you have read the background and introduction to the WellBeing and Performance Agenda, you might like to familarise yourself with it's detail. Use the diagram as your menu to click on each element to read further. Professor Mowbray, in his original paper on this subject described a specific order of implementing the agenda and suggests readers follow this same order .
The first element of the WellBeing and Performance Agenda is:
Or select any element by clicking on the appropriate section on the diagram below....
4th July 2019
16th May 2019
NHS Northern Ireland and Unite
Belfast 15th May 2019
Derek Mowbray presenting on
Personal Resilience and
the Managers Role in Resilience