Navigating Leadership and Well-being

As the host of the Courage to Lead Interview Series, I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Fleur Heazelwood, a renowned author and founder of the Blueberry Institute, as my guest. Fleur’s work in the field of health and well-being has been recognised with numerous accolades, including the 2022 Australian Business Awards for Health and Wellbeing. Her books, “Resilience Recipes” and “Leading with Wellbeing,” have been instrumental in shaping the conversation around mental health in the workplace.

A Leader with a Difference

Fleur Heazlewood’s journey into leadership was not a conventional one. She shared her first true experience of leadership as the CEO of a textile company during the global financial crisis. Fleur faced the daunting task of balancing the business’s commercial requirements with the wellbeing of the employees. Despite legal advice against it, she asked everyone to reduce their work hours to avoid job cuts. This decision, rooted in her belief that doing the right thing by people is also the right thing for the business, helped the company weather the crisis without losing any employees.

The Blueberry Institute: Challenging the Status Quo

Fleur Heazlewood’s experiences shaped her beliefs and the foundations of the Blueberry Institute. She challenges the notion that stress and burnout are acceptable prices for success, emphasising the importance of being both healthy and high-performing in the working paradigm. Fleur’s personal journey of learning to prioritise well-being and integrity in her career, despite facing challenges such as being treated poorly and experiencing burnout, is a testament to her resilience.

Overcoming Adversity: Fleur’s Early Career

Fleur Heazlewood’s early career was marked by adversity. As a young female in a traditionally male-dominated area, she faced mistreatment and bullying from various leaders and managers. However, these experiences fueled her determination to communicate with courage, set boundaries, and advocate for herself and others. Fleur’s healing journey led her to explore Eastern philosophies, particularly through her yoga teacher training, which provided her with strategies for self-regulation and supporting others.

The Burnout Experience: A Wake-Up Call

Fleur Heazlewood’s experience with burnout was a wake-up call. After a particularly difficult period in her career, her mind, body, and soul shut down, leading to the worst case of burnout she had ever experienced. It took her 18 months of seeking help from various doctors, medical professionals, and psychologists to put herself back together again. Eventually, she made the decision to resign from her job and start her own business.

The Importance of Psychological Safety at Work

Fleur Heazlewood’s experiences have shaped her approach to coaching and leadership, focusing on creating a safe and supportive work environment. She emphasises the importance of psychological safety at work and the need for support and respect in the workplace. Fleur believes that it is not acceptable to be bullied or treated poorly because of differences or needing help.

Well-being: A Necessary Aspect of Business

Fleur’s background in leadership development programs and executive coaching initially focused on performance-related goals such as financial success and commercial results. However, she noticed that the importance of well-being was often dismissed as a “nice to have” rather than a necessary aspect of business. To prove the business case for well-being, Fleur worked with a construction company to implement a well-being and resilience training program. Over a 13-month period, they saw improvements in well-being measures, organizational engagement, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and a significant decrease in safety incidents.

The Power of Speaking and Facilitating

While Fleur’s books were inspired by questions from her workshops and programs, she feels that books are a one-way delivery of information, whereas speaking allows for dialogue and interaction with people. Fleur values the honesty and vulnerability that comes from engaging with participants in her workshops, as they ask challenging questions and genuinely seek to improve themselves.

A Shared Commitment to Creating Positive Change

Fleur and I share a commitment to improving the world of work. We both recognise the importance of well-being and resilience in the workplace and are dedicated to making a difference in this area. As we concluded our conversation, we expressed our mutual appreciation and respect for each other’s work and looked forward to our next encounter.

In conclusion, my conversation with Fleur Heazelwood was a deep dive into the world of leadership, resilience, and well-being. Her experiences and insights serve as a reminder of the importance of prioritising mental health in the workplace and the role of leaders in fostering a supportive and respectful environment.

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