Xero CPO on supporting mental health in the C-suite: ‘Leaders cast a shadow’

Xero’s chief people officer on managing C-suite mental health

Xero CPO on supporting mental health in the C-suite: ‘Leaders cast a shadow’

For most HRDs, supporting the mental health of their employees is front and centre after a challenging year. But while much of the strategy has been about supporting the employee body as a whole, it’s important not to overlook the mental health pressures experienced by the C-suite. From making huge decisions in uncertain times to taking on the anxiety and fears of their staff members, people leaders have carried a hefty weight on their shoulders.

HRD spoke to Nicole Reid, Xero’s chief people officer, and a speaker at the upcoming National HR Directors Summit, about the importance of supporting mental health in the C-suite.

“We have a lot of conversations as a C-suite executive team about not only where our teams are at, but where we're at because we know leaders cast a shadow,” she said. “Whatever we're thinking, feeling, doing, saying – or not saying - sends a message about how either we're holding it together or we’re not.

“There's a lot of support for each other which is a beautiful element of who we are as a team.”

Read more: Why technology can harm your work-life balance

Throughout the pandemic, Reid said one of her team’s main functions has been to provide as much data as possible to the C-suite about how employees were coping. As a rapidly growing business with employees all over the world, the situation has varied widely from country to country. While Australia has fared well in its dealing with the pandemic, employees in the US, UK and now New Zealand are still experiencing the effects of lockdowns.

To foster that global connection and sense of togetherness, Reid said they have been intentional in creating opportunities for employees in different parts of the world to share their experience and give a glimpse into their world. Empathy plays a huge part in supporting mental health, recognising that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t always work for a global organisation.

Psychological safety has also been a key talking point at Xero, and something the company embraces from the top down. Xero NZ managing director Craig Hudson has been vocal about his own struggle with imposter syndrome and his personal passion for improving mental health support for Kiwi business owners.

Read more: How to manage your anger and frustration at work

For Reid, living and breathing the company’s humanistic values is a trademark of the company.

“We’ve put practical things like tools and techniques in place to help people work, stay connected, to feel supported and we will continue to do that, but we're also not resting on our laurels,” she said. “Responding to COVID-19 was a sprint and now we're in a marathon. As our strategies go from short to long-term, now we’re asking: What do you need to thrive?”

To hear more from Nicole Reid and many other leading industry professionals, register for this year’s National HR Directors Summit.

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