Opr Managing Director: “It’s Mental Health Awareness Month (& Why That’s More Poignant In 2020)”

Opr Managing Director: “It’s Mental Health Awareness Month (& Why That’s More Poignant In 2020)”
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In this guest post, opr’s managing director Jacqui Abbott (main photo), takes a look at October’s Mental Health Awareness Month and why it’s even more significant due to the difficulties that 2020 has thrown at us all…

My version of 2020 isn’t clouded by a pandemic. It’s clouded by sustained grief. In March, I lost my amazing Dad, after a long battle with chronic lung disease and everything changed.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month which has made me reflect on the last six months. Not only did I return to work in lockdown, but I also needed to use every ounce of energy I had to motivate a team of 40 across two states through this new state of normal, all while grappling with a big hole in my heart.

So how do you move forward and motivate others when you have never felt lower inside?

The state of the world is one thing. But navigating our own mental state and that of those around us is a major obstacle. Yet the most important one. It’s a state of imperfection we should embrace.

It’s pretty hard adjusting to life and work, when you can’t close some doors and open others. You can’t plan ahead. You need to pivot the way you did things and embrace the unknown. And everyone faces challenges differently. Some retreat. Some push through. Some are up and down.

So how do you manage that and build the resilience rib amongst your teams?

For me it was about trying to find comfort in ambiguity, embracing the loss of predictability and celebrating the small wins along the way together. You suddenly have an increased need for patience, remaining optimistic that good things will come and getting excited about what can be achieved despite everything else.

Perspective is everything. There is an amazing quote that we say a lot inside our business; an “outside perspective is a clearer perspective”. It’s never been truer in the year we have all had. Reflect on the real issues and then rethink how stressful that deadline was or how you reacted to an email.

Connections have been made stronger by our entire country embracing new platforms. Recent research from Microsoft and AlphaBeta showed collaboration technologies have helped keep 3.2 million Australians working. WhatsApp usage is up 40% and 64% of us are using TikTok to be entertained. But at the heart of all this is one thing – connecting people. And boy do we need it.

For me, dealing with adversity has been about the people you need around you to lift you up. For example, talking to close friends who’d also lost a parent or loved one. They understood my experience, reminded me I wasn’t alone. Listening to their experiences was hugely beneficial.

Common ground is everything and we can usually always find it amongst our peers, our teams and the people we connect with in our everyday.

I have always been an optimistic person and vowed to turn up as a I am that day, there and then.

As an industry, we need to stop forcing perfectionism in our roles as leaders. Perfect is the enemy of good. Be yourself, have grit, have heart, waiver when you need to and most of all be human and be vulnerable because people relate better to that than anything else, especially in a year like this one.

I remember hearing a CEO for a brand we represent quote something my dad would have said in a media training session a few months ago and being forced to turn the camera off to wipe away a tear. But instead of hiding it, I owned it. I talked about it with my team who had been on the call afterwards and used the opportunity to embrace that amazing memory.

People want to see the cracks to heal their own and know they are not alone. Being imperfect inspires that in others.

As my dad, who was one of Australia’s most notable organisational psychologists for nearly five decades, famously said, “be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

So, let’s all do just that.

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