Are you a conscious leader?

simon rutherford

As the advertising and marketing industry struggles to address the issue of rocketing rates of staff churn in their businesses, Slingshot CEO Simon Rutherford argues that today’s ‘conscious leaders’ should be more focussed on creating ‘staff wellness’ in order to deliver high performing teams and healthy profits.

A conscious leader believes the business has a greater responsibility towards the community it operates in. To ensure sustainable long-term profits, people must come first. Awareness, trust, authenticity, transparency, 100% responsibility, connection, compassion, and love: these are the tools of the conscious leader.

I think it’s fair to say that we all agree that something needs to be done about the high levels of staff turnover in the advertising and marketing industries. The average for media agencies alone is 30 per cent based on recent statistics, a scary figure for any leader.

So what can we do differently to address it?

We first have to challenge the way we think about it and be willing to feel uncomfortable at times.

As an industry we pride ourselves on being able to communicate brand stories to people, and we therefore understand the importance of language in conversation.

The industry language is about ‘addressing staff turnover’, I’d like to suggest that it’s not about addressing staff turnover, that is just a symptom or an outcome. To change anything we first have to shift the focus to ‘creating staff wellness’. It’s a different hierarchy, a focus on staff wellness leads to staff retention. Addressing turnover traditionally means performance based motivators, whereas addressing wellness means a holistic connection where staff must go deeper and invariably leads to greater commitment from them.

So what does ‘creating staff wellness’ mean?

We are all products of our environment. Between the ages of 0-10 years (our formative years) most of our behavioural characteristics are being formed. From the age of 0-4 we spend most of our time with our parents, we then move through various stages of schooling to the age of 18 years old. So for 18 years our teachers, friends, parents and the media help form our behaviours, shape our opinions and ultimately have a huge influence on the outcomes of our lives, our self-esteem, confidence, how we interact with others and many other facets.

From the age of 18 to 60, it’s all about our work environments. As business owners we take on a massive responsibility. A role that stretches far beyond just providing an income and an environment in which to learn, that’s the least we should be doing.

We have the self-esteem, confidence, sociability skills and success of our staff members in our hands. Whether you like it not it’s our responsibility. As leaders we are their mentors and can help shape their respective lives so that they can do the same for others.

Is it a large burden, or an enormous responsibility and privilege? I view it as a privilege.

It’s incredibly rewarding knowing that you have had a positive influence on the life of another and being someone worthy of their respect, someone to look up to in good and bad times.

It all starts with understanding fear. Fear can rule lives and create patterns of behaviour that we bring into the workplace, fears such as:

  • Public speaking (“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy?” Jerry Seinfeld);
  • A lack of confidence – leading to procrastination;
  • Low self esteem – means people struggle with constructive feedback;
  • Fear of saying “no” – because they want everyone to like them (people pleasing);
  • Fear of rejection, financial scarcity, confrontation, being judged, etc

The list goes on….

Everyone (including the CEO) arrives at the office each day with some level of emotional baggage, some people may just have a purse, some might have carry-on and then others need a trolley to carry all of their emotional baggage in each day, and it impacts those around us.

A staff wellness approach needs to be personalised – unfortunately one size does not fit all – and it all starts with understanding the underlying fears and making it okay to talk about them.

As leaders we need to provide a positive, nurturing and safe environment, and an ongoing conversation where people feel open to communicate their mistakes, and talk about their fears.

I’m not suggesting that we all need to become psychologists, let’s leave that to the professionals, but there are things we need to understand aboutourselves and become more aware of as leaders. This is a way for us to explore different strengths and weaknesses for the greater good, and perhaps seek voluntary external advice or coaching to help expand our collective wellness.

The alternative is just a Band-Aid as most staff culture programs only deal with the stuff that’s easy and doesn’t stick or address the underlying personality issues that we all have.

It’s not always easy to get right, but if you buy into a discussion of wellness you already realisethat we have a big responsibility and that to secure our own wants and desires for our companies, we first have to focus on the most important asset we have – our staff and their respective successes.

Simon Rutherford will be speaking about establishing a new business through courageous leadership at the inaugural Humanity in Business conference at the Softel Sydney Wentworth Hotel on Wednesday May 22. For more information and to book tickets click here.


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