19 November 2017

I spotted on Twitter that it’s #InternationalMensDay. I also noticed it just so happens to be #WorldToiletDay today too. Beautifully timed, or someone somewhere is trying to send us men a subliminal message of “convenience.”

It’s no laughing matter when you read that 76% of all suicides are men and 97% of workplace deaths are men. 70% of the homeless population are men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35.

Summer Jones Putting smile on my face copying me writing my blog

Summer Jones Putting a smile on my face copying me writing my blog

I have had hundreds of messages privately via social media and thousands of people liking and commenting on some of my blogs and vlogs discussing mental health. It’s such a huge problem and I had no idea of it’s extent until I started receiving such overwhelming feedback.

Stress doesn’t discriminate

This isn’t a “man” thing though, stress doesn’t discriminate; it attacks us all, when we least expect it, often when things are going well and we least expect a calamity.

It would appear from the stats, with such a bias towards men “checking out” under pressure, that in general, we must finder it harder to talk about and share our issues.

As our business has grown, so do my challenges. It’s impossible to have multiple businesses with 450 people spanning them all, without problems occurring.

Whilst I do my best to learn how to deal with the various problems as they arise, as you expand, without doubt, so do the number and size of complications. It’s essential to rope in help.

A problem shared is a problem halved

The hardest thing sometimes is putting things in perspective. As a result prioritising issues or being able to park something until later is a common problem.

This is where sharing comes in. “A problem shared is a problem halved.” As a business owner or manager of large numbers of people, it’s imperative we learn how to delegate. It’s easy to think, “but I can do this better myself.” Whilst this may be the case with some things, you can’t do everything and I’d advise searching out talented, caring individuals and training them up for when the need arises.

The reality though is that there is always someone, somewhere that is better than you at pretty much everything. The world is a big place and it’s up to you to search out, recruit and train that talent.

By delegating and handing off complex problems to people who are better equipped to deal with them than you, you essentially remove that extra bit of clutter that might ordinarily distract you or even push you over the edge. You are also improving your business at the same time.

I often make a joke to managers struggling with some of their new challenges. I explain: “Do you think I could have walked in to UKFast as it is today, at 30 years old?” The answer is a simple one! Absolutely not! It would have undoubtedly killed me.

Out of my depth!

Nature is incredible how it prepares us for the challenges ahead and how we learn every day.

When people still struggle with this analogy, I use parenting to reinforce my point.

I tell a story how a close friend sat shaking his head asking for advice. He’d got married and his new wife had a number of older children. “I am out of my depth!” he said. “I don’t know how you do it!”

I was unable to help him though as, whilst I do have 4 daughters, we have had them one at a time. Being thrown in at the deep end is incredibly difficult and arguably much harder.

I remember taking our tiny daughter Tegan home from the hospital just hours after she was born and Gail was terrified of bathing her on the first evening. If you now see my wife and other mums in action, they are amazing, but they have learnt step by step. And as the kids grow in numbers and size, so do your skills in negotiating and parenting. Although I have to say, even after professional negotiating lessons, Poppy my second child still runs rings around me!

Find a formula

I talk a lot about exercise to keep you healthy and burn off unwanted negative energy, and it is an essential part of my rhythm, however you still also have to find a formula that helps you navigate your own life and the challenges it throws at you.

This is where people come in. Friends, family, colleagues, loved ones, professionals. Reaching out to the right people is essential and as your empire or family grows, this team has to grow in direct proportion if you are to stay on top of your increasing demands.

I miss the old days of running a business with just 30 of us. It seemed stressful at the time but, on reflection, that’s probably the most fun you can have in a business. As the business gets bigger, its impossible to spend the quality time with everyone how I used to. Knowing everyone within our business is important to me and we have reached a point that however hard I try, it’s now an impossibility.

What I have been hugely impressed with at UKFast is the number of supportive people who have automatically bonded and created their own unofficial network and groups of people who are always there for each other.

I have lost count of the number of clubs and nights they organise. Kettlebell classes, running clubs, maternity groups; the list is endless. It’s fascinating to see how likeminded people pair up.

It was never a conscious decision to create UKFast like this, so sadly I can’t take the credit, but however it’s happened, it needs protecting. As businesses get bigger, demands for profits usually get in the way of the fun and games that are possible.

Supporting mental health at work

Being a leader, one of my most important priorities is to keep an eye out for individuals within my team who may be struggling. As the numbers grow, it gets harder to spot and thats where I rely on teammates for help.

But you don’t need to be an entrepreneur, manager or to work at UKFast to help. With the cold and dark nights truly set in, sadly there is always someone less fortunate than yourself and every one of us can make a difference.

This week try and keep a watchful eye out for colleagues who may not quite seem themselves.  And just remember that us men out there might not speak up quite so freely. So don’t take no for an answer.

The difference you can make to someone’s life just by listening and lending a shoulder to cry on is hard to put in to words.

A beer, coffee, invitation to a football match, a walk in the park; they are all distractions from the pressures we face day to day. There is nothing quite like having a friend who takes time out of their schedule to offer a helping hand. There have been many who have come to my rescue over the years and I will never forget them.

Have a great week.

LJ

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