Inner Development Goals for better mental health among managers


Boris Matijas

Boris Matijas

Managers increasingly suffer from mental illness, which in turn also affects the well-being of their organizations. It is the key finding from ongoing research conducted by Lund University. Among the results, the research indicates that reflective conversations focusing on managers’ health can be an important measure to deal with this increasing problem. Inner Development Goals, an accelerator to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, allows managers and leaders to engage in reflective conversations with their peers and create a prosperous future for all of humanity while improving their and their organizations’ well-being.

For anyone working on improving management and organizational practices, these findings come in handy for addressing the elephant in the room. It may not come as news that a manager’s psychological health is constantly exposed to stress and other factors that affect not only their well-being but the entire organization’s culture. However, it is still often not considered something to talk about openly. The evidence of this comes through the confession of managers who participated in the study and highlighted that they lacked the opportunity to talk and reflect on their feelings. Instead, the common way for the conversations to be steered towards is about employees and the needs of the business.

This excludes the managers health from the conversations, and although it might seem that it leaves them out of the system boundaries, what it does is contaminate the entire system. A change in one part affects the entire system. It is one of the main systemic features present in any type of social system. Still, this was not something to discuss within the linear relationships with clear vertical hierarchies inherited from the military-type organization.

Within the military-type chain of command, managers entrusted with greater responsibility must demonstrate having the ‘stomach’ to deal with stress—or at least pretend to have it and suffer privately, far from the eyes of their bosses and subordinates.

Some time ago, when the complexity of business, social, and environmental interactions was lower, this linear approach gave results. The chain was easier to analyze and dissemble so the broken parts could easily be replaced. Easy fix? But this proved to be an example of ‘today’s solutions creating tomorrow’s problems’, as Peter Senge nicely put it. We learned by now that there are no easy fixes.

So, what do we do about it? We can start by using the Lund University research findings which point out that the need for conversation and reflection between managers about their feelings is in high demand. By creating forums for reflection, managers can collectively attend to the emotional side of leadership that rarely or never gets priority. In this way, they can find new and different paths to sustainable leadership, states the article.

All around us, we are witnessing a paradigm shift that affects not only our preconceived ways of thinking but also our values, and most of all; it includes the shift in social organization from hierarchies to networks. The shift brings forward the need for more integrative, intuitive cooperation based on nonlinear relationships. It brings forward the need for life science and managers whose human qualities can show personal vulnerability to strengthen the entire system.

Introducing the reflective conversation into the organizational culture is a way of reinforcing the strength of the entire system. At the same time, the findings of the research point out that the reflective conversation with others within the management collective increases the individual manager’s abilities and resilience – and, by extension also the organization’s.

Photo by Arthur Poulin / Unsplash
Photo by Arthur Poulin / Unsplash

Although it is not their main purpose, the Inner Development Goals (IDG) meetings and community are among the forums where these qualities are discussed and brought forward. While having the opportunity to meet many of their peers, managers share thoughts and feelings through Being, Thinking, Relating, Collaborating, and Acting, which are the five dimensions of the IDG framework. At the same time, they are learning from the science-based skills and qualities that help us live purposeful, sustainable, and productive lives.

The times have changed. The paradigm shift is reality. We no longer need managers who can only (pretend) to ‘have the stomach for it’. We need emotionally and cognitively intelligent human beings. We need managers with high moral virtues, empathy, and values committed to increasing positive while minimizing negative impacts the organization causes on society and the environment.

The Inner Development Goals meet a pressing need to increase our collective abilities to face and effectively work with complex challenges. As a forum, it provides a foundational shift in human values and leadership capacities as part of an essential roadmap that can assist us in navigating and developing our inner lives to catalyze outer change.

Therefore, I wish to encourage all managers and organizational leaders willing to engage in the shift from hierarchies to networks to reach out to one of more than 500 Hubs & Networks in 80 countries worldwide. The network of more than 35,000 community members will provide you with many inspiring, reflective conversations.

PS. If you are living/working near Barcelona, Malmo, or Goteborg, we recommend joining the IDG Hubs established there. DM if you wish more info and agenda.



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