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Sink or swim: a freestyle success

On Thursday 16 May, about 45 Brisbane engagement professionals came together to discuss the important topic of how to manage your team’s mental health when in challenging situations with stakeholders and the community. Facilitator and long standing IAP2 board member Joel Levin, led us through a type of focused conversation known as a table of contemplation – our small groups worked through a series of stages of exploration and dialogue. This is a process Joel has been refining which really suited the situation of a room full of people with varied and shared experiences and insights to share. The premise of this method is that there is a broader learning or pattern that needs to be understood before trying to explore solutions or actions.

In circles of four, we tackled a series of questions focused on exploring the stressful situations and techniques for supporting team members. Joel gave the opportunity to report back to the whole room on themes that resonated in each circle. The conversations were rich and honest with a clear buzz of connection in the air. After peeling back many layers of engagement grief, it was apparent that as a sector we are continuously exposed to that are likely to make us sink. It is through our resilience and dedication to the role, and implementation of key tools and management strategies, that we get our heads above water and swimming again.

Many of the experiences aligned with a survey which attendees were asked to fill out before the event. The results showed the extent of engagement practitioners’ workplace woes and how much more could be done to bring about better outcomes. One consequence we discussed was that we ‘harden up’ when faced with particularly bad situations. The group also touched on the expectations we place on ourselves, and the drive to deliver positive outcomes for clients, projects and the community, which sometimes results in a personal toll.

Some toolbox tips for managing stress and fatigue include:

  • Meditation (free 7-day program can be viewed here)
  • Exercise and eating healthily
  • Regular and uninterrupted sleep
  • Sharing the load with team members, rotating tasks and engaging in constructive conversation following a stressful event
  • Lessons learned

Let’s keep this conversation going.

It would be great to gain your feedback and strategies by completing the survey. The more data we have, the more informed we will be in creating a safe and enjoyable environment.

We were very lucky to have many IAP2 board members ready to share their knowledge and experiences with the group. Thanks to our event partners Seqwater and Queensland Urban Utilities.