14

Starting Fresh

What mindset and leadership skills will help you thrive in 2021?

Why mental health matters

Why mental health matters

Voices from leaders in the field of inclusive business

When talking about mindsets, mental health is the elephant in the room: Depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion in lost productivity each year. Investing in mental health is thus as important as investing in hard skills or machinery. So, what can inclusive business leaders do to address mental health at the workplace?

The Covid-19 pandemic has made this issue even more pertinent. An all-encompassing crisis, it has brought leaders and employees into the same boat – and put that boat into the open sea. Has this experience changed the way business leaders think about mental health? Has it made them more accommodating, or more empathetic?

We have asked leaders from the field of inclusive business for their perspectives.

 

Lucia dal Negro, De-LAB 

Read Lucia's insights

Do you think that Covid-19 has made leaders more empathetic or accommodating? Or do they just pay lip service to this idea?

In my view, in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 emergency, business leaders had to feel that they needed to be close to their communities and employees who were bereaved or were in economic difficulty. In the long run – let's say from the second wave of Covid-19 onwards – however, I find that much of the sensitivity has faded, and the flexibility developed at the beginning is diminishing. This – especially in Italy – depends a lot on the age of the leaders, who tend to "Build back" (without the "better") the more they are experienced and accustomed to command positions, or business models, which are static, hierarchical and reassuring (for them). Fortunately for us, in the case of the KOKONO™ project, our investor (the Italian Development Agency) showed enormous flexibility and understanding, a sign of precise knowledge of projects’ dynamics, when impacted by a "black swan" of this magnitude.

How can innovative, empathetic business leaders use their skills to partner with communities or governments to develop new solutions to systemic challenges? Do you know of examples?

I think the key to change is the willingness to trust each other more, which in a business community means trusting the public sector, the employees, the suppliers...even your competitors. The more we accept the margin of risk that is typical of bonds of trust between market players, the more new energies will be activated, bringing solutions to the current imbalances that damage the social and relational fabric between people. One example is the free sharing of the respirator production process, openly disseminated by some companies in Lombardy in the most acute moments of the Covid-19 emergency. A choice that may seem un-economical, but which has brought a return of new work by virtue of the shared trust in the community in need... which then responded with equal generosity.

How do you think inclusive leaders could best address mental health issues, during or after the pandemic?

They can do so by enhancing the relationship with their closest stakeholders – first and foremost employees, customers and suppliers – by focusing on their difficulties and demonstrating the ability to support them. Sometimes it means granting longer payment terms, other times it may mean giving more sick leave, or perhaps paying for ad-hoc psychological support. There are many ways of demonstrating an inclusive approach and all of them, in my opinion, start with listening deeply to the needs of others. We must not leave our most vulnerable stakeholders alone; we cannot afford to do so because they belong to the architecture of our communities.

In the case of our KOKONO™ project in Uganda, in March, when Italy – the country where De-LAB (the Italian BOP Lab responsible for the project in Uganda) is based – was the country most impacted by Covid after China, we worked hard with our Ugandan contacts to combat hundreds of fake news items circulating on social media about the Pope being dead, Italy being destroyed by the virus, etc. These false or distorted messages terrified people unable to check the sources and risked jeopardising our work. We have tried to disseminate precise and accurate messages to make people aware of the risks of the epidemic and of what to do, without descending into the most dangerous despair.

Lucia dal Negro
Lucia dal Negro, Founder and CEO of De-LAB srl Società Benefit

"There are many ways of demonstrating an inclusive approach and all of them, in my opinion, start with listening deeply to the needs of others. We must not leave our most vulnerable stakeholders alone; we cannot afford to do so because they belong to the architecture of our communities."


Temie Giwa-Tuboson, LifeBank

Read Temie's insights

Do you think that Covid-19 has made leaders more empathetic or accommodating? Or do they just pay lip service to this idea?

Certainly, the pandemic has led to a need to offer more flexibility, and I believe that this has made leaders more empathetic in the way the lead their teams. It is such a welcome development as it is up to us to build a more just and kind world.

How has mental health been addressed in your company? 

We practice an open house policy in which we encourage everyone to bring their true selves to work. Staff with mental stress are encouraged to take time off and seek professional help. We also offer to help pay for mental health counseling for team members who are truly struggling.

How do you think inclusive leaders could best address mental health issues, during or after the pandemic?

Leaders should cultivate the culture of periodic check-ins and modify policies and practices to offer flexibility and space for addressing mental health issues.

How can innovative, empathetic business leaders use their skills to partner with communities or governments to develop new solutions to systemic challenges?

Leaders can work hand in hand with communities and governments to set in place policies that protect mental health and prevent mental health challenges.

How can employees help leaders change their mindset?

Employees can open conversations with leaders about their mental needs and steps to be taken to help resolve mental health issues in the company and community at large.

Temie Giwa-Tuboson
Temie Giwa-Tuboson, Founder and CEO of LifeBank

"We practice an open house policy in which we encourage everyone to bring their true selves to work. Staff with mental stress are encouraged to take time off and seek professional help." 


Dr. Shashank Shah

Read Shashank's insights

Do you think that Covid-19 has made leaders more empathetic or accommodating? Or do they just pay lip service to this idea?

The current pandemic is one of those rare occasions when everyone, irrespective of their hierarchy in organizations or in society, have been severely and personally affected. Hence, the expression of empathy and the initiatives that have been taken-up across organizations, whether multinationals or SMEs, have been visible and reasonably substantial. To quote the example of SMEs in India, a large majority of entrepreneurs who, despite their businesses being shut due to Covid-19 induced lockdown, continued to pay some portion of salaries to their employees, though not mandated by law. I believe the pandemic has led to the emergence of fine human values in personal and professional lives.

How can innovative, empathetic business leaders use their skills to partner with communities or governments to develop new solutions to systemic challenges? Do you know of examples?

On March 27, 2020, the Govt. of India established a special fund to respond to the challenges of Covid-19 – the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM Cares Fund). This fund aimed at combating, and containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future. In addition to their own initiatives in providing accommodation to health workers, arranging for PPEs, providing food and groceries to the needy, and supporting the poor, business leaders in India substantially contributed to the government’s efforts in fighting Covid. At least ₹62 billion were donated by 30 top companies and their leaders to the PM Cares Fund. The Tata Group, Wipro Group, and Reliance Group together contributed nearly 50% of these donations worth ₹30 billion.

In a specific company’s example, The Taj Group of Hotels, India’s leading hospitality chain, expressed their sincere support for the Covid warriors in the first quarter of an unprecedented lockdown across India by providing their premium hotels in Delhi and Mumbai to health care workers for a free stay, with all its luxury facilities for several weeks. They also delivered over 2.18 million nutritious meals, prepared by TajSATS, their airline catering outfit, to medical staff in key hospitals/Covid-19 centres in Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi.

How can employees help leaders change their mindset?

Many times, employees may or may not get an opportunity to contribute to relief efforts within a corporate setup. At such times, they can make a difference by contributing to the work of non-profits dedicated to such causes through social volunteering. During the Covid times, India witnessed unprecedented contributions by NGOs and faith-based organizations.

For example, during the lockdown in India, faith-based organizations like the Akshaya Patra Foundation distributed over 46 million cooked meals, 33+ million ready meals, and 800,000 grocery kits to the deprived sections of society. Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations served over 2 million people through 86 community kitchens operated by volunteers and distributed ration kits, cumulatively feeding about 50 million people over 4 months. Several NGOs contributed to rehab efforts in varied ways. Give India distributed 2+ million meals and 624,000 ration kits across 80 cities; Care India distributed 77,000 ration kits; SAFA distributed over 840,000 meals; and Goonj distributed 170,000 kgs of vegetables and 3.3 million kgs of rations. MCKS Food for Hungry Foundation served >400,000 cooked meals and 300,000 ready meals in India’s capital. NGOs also protected lives by supplying crucial equipment. SEEDS, Give India, Care India, and Goonj distributed >24,000 hygiene kits, 350,000 PPE kits, 920,000 face masks, 2000 litres of disinfectant, 700 litres of sanitizer, and 860,000 sanitary pads.

When corporate leaders see such enormous generation of resources at the grassroots and the innovative and passionate ways in which employees can contribute to addressing societal issues in troubled times through social volunteering, they too would be inspired to leverage such commitment within their own corporate ecosystem and think of innovative ways in which they can contribute to systemic changes that can have a lasting impact on the society. In the process, the organization would win societal goodwill and benefit from a positive brand image. It would be a win-win.

Dr Shashank Shah
Dr. Shashank Shah, author of Win-Win Corporations, The Tata Group, and Soulful Corporations

"The current pandemic is one of those rare occasions when everyone, irrespective of their hierarchy in organizations or in society, have been severely and personally affected. Hence, the expression of empathy and the initiatives that have been taken-up across organizations, whether multinationals or SMEs, have been visible and reasonably substantial."


Vava Angwenyi, Vava Coffee

Read Vava's insights

Do you think that Covid-19 has made leaders more empathetic or accommodating? Or do they just pay lip service to this idea?

I cannot speak for everyone, but I think there are some really altruistic leaders and, of course, others that pay lip service. What I can say is that Covid-19 has shown us that we have to be concerned and care about each other’s actions because there are consequences for being careless in times like this. Leaders are definitely listening more and seeking solutions for those they care about... I am talking about the real leaders who care, of course, not the ones who do it for the cameras.

Has mental health been addressed in your company? How?

Yes, this is a critical issue that I speak about in my organization. I also address the importance of speaking up when one is dealing with challenges, seeking proper guidance as well as looking for positive ways to relieve stress – like exercise, a hobby or talking to people who care and can support you. I talk about this issue very openly.

How do you think inclusive leaders could best address mental health issues, during or after the pandemic?

During the pandemic, I think we can best address mental health issues by listening, paying attention to what is happening around us and actually seeking solutions for those we care about, and for the most vulnerable. Most importantly, as leaders, our own mental health is at stake with all the pressures we have to deal with, like managing and juggling a business during these tough times and supporting our staff and families. It is critical for us to know how best to take care of ourselves so we can really support others. I would say this behaviour should be carried over post pandemic.

How can innovative, empathetic business leaders use their skills to partner with communities or governments to develop new solutions to systemic challenges?

My simple answer to this would be: How do we leverage on technology to help communities effectively during this period, especially the most vulnerable?

Vava Angwenyi
Vava Angwenyi, founder and CEO of Vava Coffee

"As leaders, our own mental health is at stake with all the pressures we have to deal with, like managing and juggling a business during these tough times and supporting our staff and families. It is critical for us to know how best to take care of ourselves so we can really support others." 


Dr. Julian Omalla, Delight Uganda

Read Dr. Omalla's insights

Do you think that Covid-19 has made leaders more empathetic or accommodating? Or do they just pay lip service to this idea?

Yes, it has. All challenges had to be handled as a country and most leaders used internal mechanisms to contain the spread of the pandemic. 

How can innovative, empathetic business leaders use their skills to partner with communities or governments to develop new solutions to systemic challenges? Do you know of examples?

A case in point is the Lord’s Resistance Army Insurgency in Northern Uganda, which lasted for 20 years from 1987 and displaced people to camps. Districts in Northern Uganda were faced with the challenge of resettling these people back to their homes, but they were hesitant and had got used to free handouts from donors. So, Nwoya District in particular partnered with local investors to resettle the community. One of these companies was Delight Uganda Ltd, which had a need of raw materials (fruits) for its juice production. We entered into an Memorandum of Understanding with the District and UNCDF to resettle the community through fruits growing, with Delight Uganda Ltd as the market. To date, we have an out-grower scheme of 11,000 farmers (Nwoya Fruit Growers Cooperative Society Ltd) and the community has fully been resettled. 

How can leaders help employees change their mindset?

  • Mentoring them and informing them that it’s impossible to replicate someone else’s experiences.
  • Let employees know a job description is just a guideline.
  • Set expectations. Better yet, require employees to track the impact they make in their role on a weekly basis. Have them record their wins, losses and lessons learned from each. When you foster accountability in this fashion, employees will be more likely to take ownership of their role while building their confidence along the way.
  • Redefine failure as a catalyst for growth
  • Harness the power of detailed positive feedback by focusing on building their skills and shifting their mindset, employees will realize they’ve been given the tools they need to manage the change ahead. The rest is up to them.
Dr Julian Omalla
Dr. Julian Adyeri Omalla, Founder and CEO of Delight Uganda

"A case in point is the Lord’s Resistance Army Insurgency in Northern Uganda, which lasted for 20 years from 1987 and displaced people to camps. Districts in Northern Uganda were faced with the challenge of resettling these people back to their homes, but they were hesitant and had got used to free handouts from donors. So, Nwoya District in particular partnered with local investors to resettle the community. One of these companies was Delight Uganda Ltd."

Susann Tischendorf
Susann leads the Communication and Digital Innovation agenda of iBAN. Susann has a wide range of experience in stakeholder engagement and advocacy for topics of global relevance, including private sector development and disaster risk finance. Working for the United Nations, the World Bank/IFC and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for seven years prior to joining the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, she was assigned to projects in South America, Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Table of contents

graphic summary

GRAPHIC SUMMARY

Learn more about mindsets and mental health by reading this fourteenth edition of the online magazine on Inclusive Business! The illustration was developed by Christopher Malapitan, a visual practitioner and trainer based in Brussels.…

editorial

Hit Refresh!

The world has been turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic, and mental strength and mental health will be critical for leaders going forward, contends Royston Braganza of Grameen Capital India.

Royston Braganza

feature story

The mindset of the leader: What new skills does an inclusive business leader need now?

The global Covid-19 pandemic has changed business as usual and therefore the role of leaders has become more critical than ever. How can inclusive business leaders inspire their employees to address deep-seated problems and tackle important goals? In this issue of CLUED-iN, we hear from experts and entrepreneurs who describe the key skills and powerful mindsets inclusive leaders need to be successful now.

Alexandra Harris

A crucial skill for a new generation of leaders: moral imagination

Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen makes the case that reimagining new systems depends on developing a set of hard skills once considered “soft,” grounded in moral imagination. She explains why educational institutions should play a role in developing these competencies in the leaders of the future.

The mindset of a good business leader for an inclusive future

Caroline Ashley uses the acronym CHARM to explain the competencies required for inclusive leaders moving towards a sustainable future, drawing on research on post-Covid-19 trajectories conducted by Forum for the Future.

Three Powerful Mindsets of the Successful Mission-Driven Leader

Alex Counts draws on more than 25 year of experience to share three powerful mental models that can be used to amplify strengths while managing blind spots, including rethinking failure and dissent. He also points to practical ways a mission-driven leader can apply these mindsets at work.

Navigating the pandemic: Protecting livelihoods and continuing communication

Ten years ago, Rajiv Sharma founded Empower Pragati, a social enterprise offering vocational skills training to under-privileged youth. In this interview, he discusses why he believes in “brutal transparency,” how his organization has addressed mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, and why it is important for a leader to focus on collaboration, not competition.

A Tale of Two Leaders

Rajen Makhijani believes that we should use the rigors of the investment process to approach leadership, using a results-based framework. He uses the example of two very different leaders to explain the Leadership by Results approach, which seeks to set big tangible goals and enable a shift of underlying mindsets.

Why mental health matters

How can inclusive leaders address mental health issues? Practitioners from Asia, Africa and Europe share their insights and evaluate how Covid-19 has changed their way of thinking.