Rhubarb & Me

art cooking diversity garden health kindness learning at work learning journey mental health mentalth health awareness reflection rhubarb wellbeing May 18, 2020

Today marks the start of both Learning at Work Week and also Mental Health Awareness Week.   Whilst technically these ‘awareness’ weeks are not intended to be connected I believe that our current situation highlights just how interrelated they are.

The 2020 theme for National Learning Week is ‘Learning Journey’s.’ From a personal perspective I can honestly say that the learning journey that I’ve been on over the last few weeks has been and continues to be huge.  Home schooling has featured heavily in our household together with learning new technologies and digesting and make sense of the deluge of news.    These are just some elements of my learning journey over the past few weeks, in addition I’ve also reflected upon some of the skills that I have in my leadership toolkit and how these will help me and others during this time.

Earlier this year I was privileged to complete the training and become a Mental Health First Aider, little did I know that fast forward several months and mental health is likely to be one of the biggest challenges facing our nation aside from Covid19.

Mental Health England define Mental Health as a continuum, ranging from having good mental health to poor mental health and from having no diagnosis of mental illness to a diagnosis of severe mental illness.   As I reflect upon the past few weeks, like many I’ve spiralled rapidly down towards the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as I’ve grappled with what I needed to do in order to keep my family and loved ones safe and well.   I’ve felt fatigued yet my sleep pattern has been erratic and disturbed.  This in truth is likely to be a combination of my husband’s very loud snoring(!) but realistically it’s also likely to be my brain trying to make sense of everything that is going on as well as processing my silent concerns.    

I therefore purposefully decided to step back, to turn towards nature and resurrected my vegetable garden.  I cleared away the weeds, re-discovered my rhubarb and set about preparing and planting vegetables.   This has been incredibly therapeutic.  My vegetable patch (or project ‘good life’ as it’s now been labelled) is something which is completely within my control.   I’ve watered, nurtured and cared for my plants and feel a strange sense of pride and even excitement a I watch my vegetables grow.  

So why am I sharing this with you – well, I believe that when you’re a leader you’re in a privileged position.   People look to you for direction, guidance and leadership.  In these uncertain it can be very challenging and highly unlikely that you'll have all the answers.  This for me is where authentic leadership comes into play.

Authentic Leadership characteristics include:

  • The ability to be Transparent.   To be self-aware, know strengths and weaknesses, discuss openly successes as well as failures 
  • To have Integrity. When someone opens up to you about how they are feeling you hold this confidence with integrity (unless they share something illegal or which is going to have a significant detriment to their health and well-being!)
  • Consistent behaviour so that people around you know what they expect from you
  • To genuinely Listen to others. To encourage others to openly communicate and share their thoughts with you because you are really interested in their views, opinions and ideas
  • To Motivate and dare to inspire people, to encourage them to rise up beyond where they believe its possible.

At the start of Learning at Work Week and Mental Health Awareness I encourage you to reflect upon what’s been going on for you:

  • What has been your learning journey over the past few weeks ?
  • What have you discovered about yourself?
  • What have you discovered about your colleagues?
  • Who have you reached out to if you've need support?
  • How have you helped others?
  • What feelings have you been experiencing?
  • What do you feel right now?

 As I reflect back upon the past few weeks, I’ve felt incredibly blessed to be surrounded by colleagues, friends and family (albeit virtually) who have shown authentic leadership qualities towards me.  I also very much hope that I’ve given the gift of inspiration and shown authentic leadership to others when they have reached out to me.

As well as valuing the haven of my garden and vegetable patch I’ve also made some discoveries of what appeared to be hidden treasures (or hidden therapies) disguised as art and cooking. 

What treasures/therapies have you discovered?


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