Will Greenwood’s Tips On Keeping Your Team Protected

We spoke with Will Greenwood on his experiences with mental health, and how good practices on the rugby field can also be used to overcome mental health off the field in the working environment.

Will Greenwood video

Setting a positive mind-set

Being physically fit is an essential part of performing as an athlete. However, mental health is just as important. It’s the same with running a business. If you want your employees to perform at their best, they need to feel their best mentally. How does Will promote a positive mind-set. “For me I try to instil a feeling of belief by setting aspirational targets but then breaking those targets down into achievable goals.”

So as Will says, it’s about setting goals but making sure employees can achieve them, otherwise it could affect their wellbeing.

Spotting the signs of mental health isn’t easy.

When it comes to mental health, being able to spot the signs that someone is suffering sometimes isn’t that easy. Will told us that it’s all about communicating. “It’s okay to talk, but keep talking, we need to give people the opportunity to communicate, because the flipside of that is if people know they're in an environment where they are going to be able to communicate, the quality of their listening intensifies.” By chatting to employees, you can understand the differences in their behaviour, so you can do something about it.

Will also knows that it’s sometimes the people you least expect that can be suffering from mental health issues, he says, “I think there is this perception that if you have won a World Cup on a rugby field and you have run around with giant blokes who are 6-foot-5 20-stone and can run the 100 in 10.6 seconds that actually you're invincible. The reality is the grey matter beats them every time.”

Spotting the signs of mental health early means you can provide the right support quickly, ensuring your team is protected.

Support that makes all the difference

If you want people to perform at their best, they need the right support.  As Will says, “the key to maintaining the mental health wellbeing of your players is professional help”. Just like sport, businesses are realising that they also need the right support if they are to tackle mental health – which is why many are introducing Mental First Aiders. Will says, “I think having a mental wellbeing first-aider is becoming increasingly common”.

In fact, he went on to say that if he was applying for a job today, he’d expect the business to have a mental health plan in place. Will says, “I think it would be one of the first questions I’d ask now if I was coming out of school on an apprenticeship, or just about to start work after college. Rather than just asking how much cash you're on, ask what are their provisions for mental health.”

Encouraging open conversation

If you are suffering with mental health issues, getting everything out in the open can make a world of difference. Will has first-hand experience of this, having openly spoken about his battles with mental health. And he knows, the first thing you’ve got to realise that the grass isn’t always green on the other side. “Stop looking over garden fences and thinking everyone has a perfect life and actually reach out to each other”.

And it’s about doing it sooner than later, “If you think you are suffering from mental health, you already are.” Will continues, “it’s like dehydration, if you’re thirsty, you should have been drinking two hours ago. That doesn’t help what you then do next, but the key is to understand, if you think you are you are, you have got to reach out and you have got to understand in the 21st century, no one judges.”

Providing people with better working conditions
Will believes an office environment can learn a lot from sport. He has his own saying, “If you want to go fast you travel alone, if you want to go far you travel together”. He’s learnt it’s about changing the way people think. As Will says, “as soon as we get rid of the myopia and short-term targets, as well as the fear and the dread of failure, I think you get into a position whereby you’re focusing on performance”.

It’s about having that balance between encouraging better performance, while still ensuring your employees aren’t being put under too much strain. He says, “if there’s this constant chase for targets, I think you begin to put a strain on your workforce”.

Creating a positive environment

Businesses need to instil a feeling that people needn’t be worried what they say. Will remembers one of the sayings on the wall when he played for England: “We had a sign, it said ‘no dumb ideas’, nothing was off limits.”

So giving people the opportunity to speak their mind is key to tackling mental health issues. Will says, “unless you create an environment where you’re being able to be confident enough to sit up, stand up, stick your hand up and speak then in reality, things will be hidden”.

Monitoring performance

Ensuring players are physically fit is the just as important as making sure employees are mentally fit. Will explains, “you have a physio, a doctor, and you can watch the kid running around on a rugby field, or whatever sport it is you’re playing. Being mentally fit is much harder to spot and I think certainly at the professional elite level it’s a prerequisite to have someone with training and experience of mental health care”.

It’s a time for change

Just like rugby, businesses need to realise that it’s employees are more than just workers, especially when it comes to their mental health. “I think the understanding of making sure their hamstrings and their shoulders are better is fine, but making sure the top two inches are in a good shape is actually the more important issue,” says Will. “If the world’s biggest bicep took on the brain, the brain wins 100 times out of 100.