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Episode 41: Wellbeing from a senior leader’s perspective


Wellbeing starts at the top of an organisation, which means we need senior leaders to be committed and engaged. So how can you influence leaders in your workplace? In this episode, we talk to a leader who is more than walking the talk. Hugh Goddard, Managing Director at Pipeline & Civil, is a role model for embracing and leading a people-first culture. We’ll talk about the role of senior leaders in being a champion for wellbeing and we’ll explore how wellbeing advocates can influence up. We’ll also look at some of the challenges of wellbeing in the construction sector and how Hugh has tackled these head-on.

“I think definitely as a leader, you know, you, no matter whether you’re boss of a company or whether you’re managing a team or a leader within a team, you know, even in a formal, in an informal way, you know, it’s about just encouraging the conversations and role modelling and having the courage to take the initiative.”

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Episode insights

Episode Summary

Key points

This episode covers:

• Construction industry challenges, including lowest price procurement, thin margins, confrontational environment
• Importance of wellbeing in construction: improves engagement, productivity, and business outcomes
• Normalising wellbeing conversations in a traditionally tough industry
• Role of leaders in fostering wellbeing: role modelling, work design, resource allocation
• Creating psychological safety in the workplace
• Generational challenges in engaging with mental health and wellbeing conversations
• Integrating wellbeing with business performance and operational excellence


Detailed summary

1. Introducing Hugh Goddard
Hugh Goddard, Managing Director at Pipeline and Civil, has over 22 years of experience in the construction industry. He is involved in various industry organisations, including:
• Board member of CHASNZ (Construction Health and Safety New Zealand)
• Chair of the Auckland branch of Civil Contractors New Zealand
• Board member of Infamax Construction in King Country

2. Challenges in the construction industry
The construction sector faces several significant challenges:
• Lowest price procurement driving cost pressures and stress
• Confrontational nature of the industry
• Thin profit margins
• Mental health issues and high suicide rates
• Predominantly male-dominated workforce

3. Focusing on wellbeing and  the impact
Hugh emphasises the importance of wellbeing in the workplace:
• Unlocks potential and builds engagement
• Leads to productivity gains and good ideas from frontline workers
• Creates meaningful work and personal improvement opportunities
• Develops a psychologically safe environment

4. Leadership’s role in fostering wellbeing
Leaders play a crucial part in promoting wellbeing:
• Role modelling and encouraging conversations about wellbeing
• Influencing work design to ensure sustainable practices
• Ensuring sufficient resources are in place
• Building interpersonal relationships with team members
• Demonstrating genuine care and interest in employees’ work

5. Creating psychological safety in construction
Strategies for developing psychological safety include:
• Moving away from blame-focused safety practices
• Adopting a learning mindset and engaging with frontline workers
• Building trust through consistent follow-through on commitments
• Encouraging open communication and feedback

6. Influencing leaders to prioritise wellbeing
Approaches to influence leaders include:
• Encouraging leaders to share their own wellbeing practices
• Highlighting the business benefits of an engaged workforce
• Discussing past successful work environments and replicating positive conditions
• Addressing generational challenges in mental health conversations

7. Integrating wellbeing with business performance
Hugh stresses the importance of viewing wellbeing as integral to work:
• Wellbeing is not separate from operational performance
• Focus on delivering good work that helps people feel fulfilled
• Consider work design, supply chain relationships, and systemic improvements

Additional notes:

• Hugh shared a personal experience of a near-miss suicide incident in his company, which highlighted the importance of mental health awareness
• Pipeline and Civil brought in UFC fighter Shane Young to share his mental health journey, which helped normalise conversations about wellbeing
• The company’s employee-owned structure allows for a focus on sustainable practices rather than short-term financial gains
• Hugh emphasises that the wellbeing journey is ongoing and without a definitive endpoint


If you’re thinking about how you might influence leaders in your workplace, here are some things to consider.

The business case for wellbeing at work:

• Improving wellbeing can unlock potential and drive productivity gains
• Engaging frontline workers can lead to efficiency improvements and better ideas
• Normalising mental health conversations can reduce stigma and improve support
• Redesigning work processes to prioritise wellbeing can lead to better outcomes
• Leveraging storytelling and personal experiences to shift attitudes towards wellbeing

Potential challenges to address:

• Overcoming the ‘take a concrete pill’ mentality in construction
• Addressing generational differences in attitudes towards wellbeing
• Balancing business pressures with wellbeing initiatives
• Changing perceptions of wellbeing as separate from business performance
• Difficulty in maintaining wellbeing focus as the organisation grows larger
• Risk of wellbeing initiatives being seen as superficial without systemic change
• Confrontational nature of the industry can hinder collaboration
• Traditional blame culture in safety practices can impede psychological safety

Top tips for listeners:

Influencing leaders:
• Encourage leaders to share their own wellbeing practices
• Develop leadership skills focused on building relationships and genuine engagement
• Regularly revisit company values to guide decision-making

Work design:
• Engage in open conversations about work design and resource allocation
• Integrate wellbeing into overall work design and operational excellence strategies
• Focus on sustainable, good-quality work rather than short-term financial gains

• Bring in relatable speakers to share personal mental health journeys
• Implement regular field visits to build relationships and understand frontline challenges
• Continue to persevere with wellbeing initiatives
• Celebrate small steps forward in the wellbeing journey


“Yeah, look, I think it’s just a journey without an end, isn’t it? So, I mean, you start where you started and you just keep persevering until you feel like you got somewhere which is reasonably comfortable. Then you think of something else that you need to work on.”


Sarah: Welcome to the Revolutionaries of Wellbeing podcast. I’m host Sarah McGuinness. The Revolutionaries of Wellbeing, or ROW, helps leaders to be change makers and to create better workplaces. With a community of champions from organisations around the globe. ROW is dedicated to helping you to develop your professional expertise, access practical tools and resources, and network with peers and experts to meaningfully improve wellbeing. These interviews are recorded as part of our monthly Wellbeing Wednesday webinars and are designed to inspire, share ideas and raise awareness of important issues we can all take action on.
, 00:39 [break out quote]
Hugh: Yeah, I often think back and particularly one situation which arose in our business where, you know, we had a near miss and the individual involved, it really brought it home for me because it was probably the first time I’d being kind of close to a situation like that.
, 00:57
Sarah: Wellbeing starts at the top of an organisation, which means we need senior leaders to be committed and engaged. So how can you influence leaders in your workplace? In this episode, we talked to a leader who is more than walking the talk. Hugh Goddard, Managing Director at Pipeline and Civil, is a role model for embracing and leading a people first culture. We will talk about the role of senior leaders in being a champion for wellbeing and well explore how wellbeing advocates can influence up look at some of the challenges of wellbeing in the construction sector and how Hugh has tackled these head on.
, 01:33
Hugh: It’ll take me a few minutes to get over my imposter syndrome, being referred to, of course, as a senior leader, but because I still feel like I’m a young graduate running around with a dumpy level and whatnot, but obviously been in the industry, in construction for over, I’d say 22 years, a little bit more as a student as well. And I’m a civil engineer by training and did my training over in Ireland. As you detect from my accent, I’m not from New Zealand, although I could be sometimes confused with someone from Southland because of how the R’s roll, but yeah, definitely not from there. And I’ve been in New Zealand on and off about 22 years as well, so came over to play a bit of rugby in the King Country and met a girl and the rest is history. So four kids later and between the ages of 16 and eight, so they certainly keep us busy. Joined Pipeline and Civil just under ten years ago. I was working prior to that with a number of large tier one contractors and other businesses overseas in Ireland, the UK. I had the opportunity to travel internationally quite a bit as well in the likes of the Middle East and Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the UK working. Had a few experiences in North Africa as well, chasing some work, so really got a great sort of feel for different cultures and operating in different environments through that experience came back to New Zealand and at one point there had the opportunity to join Pipeline and Civil, which was still a medium sized business at that stage. We had about 45 team members in the company and it’s an employee owned business, so quite a different feel for a contracting business. Currently we’ve got 18 shareholders in our business, all of whom work in the company in different roles, including frontline supervisors, engineers, project managers and the senior team. I’m a major shareholder currently in the business and yeah, managing director and we’ve got a few associated companies. I’m also on the board of another business in the King Country, back where I started my journey in New Zealand, which is called Infamax Construction and they focus on road maintenance and construction work in that Central North Island. I’m on the board, luckily to be appointed onto the board of CHASNZ as well, which is Construction H&S [Health and Safety] New Zealand and very proud to be representing the civil sector on that board, which is a voluntary position. Voluntary board really. And the organisation is all about trying to improve health and safety outcomes in the sector. Quite involved as well in the civil contractors New Zealand organisation. Chair of the Auckland branch currently as well here. So involved in lots of discussions and conversations around the industry and how we can make things better, I guess going forward.
, 04:25
Sarah: Sounds like an incredibly busy calendar on your end with the number of things you’re involved in, it’s really impressive. Let’s start with talking about construction as an industry before we dive into wellbeing, because in and of itself it is a complex industry. There are lots of challenges, lots of pressures. What are you seeing? And right now, of course, with where we’re at with the economy and the various pressures around small business in the construction sector, there’s quite a few that have gone under recently. What are some of the broader pressures that you’re seeing people are under in the construction industry?
, 05:00
Hugh: Yeah, look, I think it’s no secret that it’s a challenging sector. There’s a very big focus on lowest price procurement, which drives certain behaviours, drives certain pressures around cost pressures, time pressures, pressure on delivery, and that just creates stress and anxiety amongst, I guess, the team and those people working in the sector. And obviously that’s kind of quite evident in the mental health statistics and the suicide rates that are in construction. So it’s very much front and centre for the industry. As a whole, as how we address some of these challenges. It can also be quite confrontational as well, viewed as quite a confrontational sort of sector where, yeah, you’ve got quite competing demands between clients and contractors, consultants, and throughout the supply chain, you know, with various trades, if you like, working in different sites and all have their own kind of objectives they’re trying to achieve and things like that. So it’s also generally because of the cost pressures and various things like that, quite a fairly thin margins sort of at play as well. So one or two mistakes and your profits sort of out the gate. So all those sorts of things, I think, combine to make it quite a challenging industry. And it really requires a lot of teamwork from clients all the way through to the small companies, which form the majority of the industry itself. Over 90% are small businesses. It just requires everyone to have that kind of mindset around. How can we challenge some of these things that we’re doing in the system that we’re operating in to make it a bit better for people to thrive and really try and drive, drive towards that goal?
, 06:46
Sarah: So with that in mind, were those some of the things that were sitting in your head in terms of thinking, well, wellbeing is something I’d like to put some focus on and some energy into?
, 06:56
Hugh: Oh, yeah. Look, I think just unlocks a lot of potential and I think, you know, well being in itself, you know, is a real positive focus in order to build engagement. And obviously with engagement comes productivity gains. All the good ideas coming through from the people on the front line who are doing the work. And I think, I guess it’s about good work. It’s about thriving work and, I guess, meaningful work where people have a purpose and also striving for personal improvement in their own situation and linking into self actualization and through having a purpose in work. So I think there’s a lot of reasons why I’m passionate about it, because I kind of see the link between people moving forward in their own careers and developing new skills and passion, having passion for what they do and business outcomes, improving business outcomes, which ultimately is going to be good for everyone. And a key, I guess, enabler of that is creating a psychologically safe environment, which then unlocks those wider business benefits, because without that, people won’t come forward with the ideas that can unlock efficiency gains and obviously improve well being in general. So I think there’s a lot of good reasons to lean into this area.
, 08:27
Sarah: Sounds like you have a really broad and also deep understanding of the impact that focusing on wellbeing can have on a business. I imagine it’s been a bit of a journey for you. So where did you start with understanding what wellbeing was, understanding what your own definitions were, and then starting to look at your organisation through those eyes. What was that journey like for you?
, 08:48
Hugh: Look, it’s an interesting question, I guess, for me. I’ve certainly been in the vice, so to speak, throughout my career in terms of having those pressures applied and being. Being in roles where I felt those pressures. And probably there was an absence of that care. And I think over the years, just getting more involved in leadership, getting in front of more and more people within the business and other companies that I’ve worked within and in the wider sort of environment, and understanding, having those conversations and getting to know people and what kind of drives people has kind of brought that to the fore in terms of, well, if we can harness some of these areas where we’re actually demonstrating that care and that kind of commitment to supporting that, we can unlock some of those benefits that not only improve business outcomes, but also sort of improve individual achievement and where people are at in their own lives. So I guess that kind of evolved over time through, I guess, becoming more involved in those sorts of performance discussions or performance reviews or goal setting discussions, and linking the objectives of individuals with the objectives of the organisation and trying to drive that link so that we can see those benefits come through.
, 10:18
Sarah: I just want to pass through, actually, one of the questions. So we had one of our participants send through some excellent questions which are supplementary to some that I had looked at. So I do want to ask one of the first questions here, which was, how did you identify wellbeing as a focus for the company and why? So I guess it’s an extension of what you were just saying, but were there some really clear markers or things that you looked at and went, oh, my goodness, we absolutely have to make this a focus, or has it?
, 10:45
Hugh: Yeah, I often think back. Yeah, I often think back, and particularly one situation which arose in our business where, you know, we had a near miss with suicide and. And the individual involved. You know, I guess it really brought hit home for me because it was probably the first time I’d been kind of close to situation like that, knowingly. And we’re, you know, really sort of hit home to go, you know, actually there’s a bigger conversation to be had here, and mental health, you know, needs to be more brought into the forefront and we need to try and normalise the conversation around this and make it less stigmatised. And obviously, you know, there was a general movement around that time as well in terms of the wider industry and wider society, I guess, in order to do that. And, you know, which I really bought into. So, I mean, at that time we were looking at, you know, recall we’d been involved in Business Leaders’ [Health and Safety] Forum steering group and, you know, having some conversations around priorities and, you know, an area that we could focus on. And I felt strongly that that was something that we could be doing and not trying to take credit for what happened afterwards. And obviously the forum did some great work following on from that around mentally healthy work and creating some really good models and frameworks which tried to make sense of some of these areas and how we can start to normalise that discussion, you know, amongst, amongst the team. And I think, you know, that to me was probably something that jumps out at me as a seminal kind of moment. Yeah.
, 12:31
Sarah: And that normalising in construction is a really interesting area. Right. Because typically well being isn’t something that’s, you know, welcome necessarily. It’s a little bit of a, you know, take a cup of concrete style. So how have you found influencing that discussion and getting people to open up?
, 12:53
Hugh: Yeah. Oh, look, it was a really challenging. It’s a real challenge, you know, there’s no question about it. It’s not an easy road, but it’s very worthwhile endeavour. I found that it’s, you know, you do get that kind of folded arms, people sitting back in their chair sort of vibe when you start the journey, but over time, you know, you just persevere with us. I think what we did in our business, which I think worked quite well, was get somebody who’s really, really tough and bring them in and get them to share their mental health journey. And in our case, we actually got a USC fighter by the name of Shane Young. And I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing this because he’s a real mental health advocate and he had his own battle with depression and actually came along to one of our company meetings and shared his journey. And this is a guy who gets into an octagon and a pair of undies, basically, and, you know, goes at it with another human until, you know, someone. Someone’s on the floor and can’t kind of get up. So, you know, in terms of the scale of toughness, I suppose, or the image that you’d have of somebody who’s got that macho, you know, and I suppose construction is very male dominated, as you know. And obviously there’s a lot of efforts going into you know, change that. But, you know, that’s. That’s where it’s at at the moment. So, you know, reaching the males in the industry who typically wouldn’t want to go there, you know, it’s just trying to figure out your audience, see what kind of avenues you can bring in there and things that will make links. And that was quite successful because actually, at the end of that session, you know, Shane offered up a couple of tickets to the next fight to a few of our team if they were willing to come up and share their stories. And we had a couple of quite influential people in the business get up the front and share their stories, and there was tears shed and things like that, which really made an impact and got people thinking a bit differently around the conversation where previously it was on. I’m not going to open up about that. Whereas I had more and more discussions happening where people were willing to, you know, share, at least admit that they were, you know, struggling or had times when they were. And because everybody does, right. You know, and its mental health is everyone’s on a spectrum from either, you know, thriving through to, you know, struggling. And we’re all on that journey somewhere in between those two points. So at various different times. So it’s about acknowledging that it’s actually normal. Everybody has it. It’s not just those people over there who have mental health challenges, for example, and well being challenges. So it’s about just making a normal part of the conversation and when you’re saying, oh, how are you? And actually, well, actually, how are you? And feeling like it’s okay for people to go, well, yeah, I’m not great today. I’m a bit off today because of this or that and just having a conversation about it and that’s okay. So it’s definitely been quite a journey to get there, but I think it’s definitely opened up a lot of opportunities, you know, for the business and just in general for people themselves just to feel more comfortable in their own skin and able to kind of build better relationships at work.
, 16:13
Sarah: Yeah. And it sounds like that’s storytelling. In fact, we ran a webinar recently on the power of storytelling, and I’m really taken by that, about how that really shifted that, that ability for people to be able to feel like they could speak up and that others do go through this as well. And it doesn’t matter how tough you might look, as you say, others experience it as well. Have there been other things that you’ve put in place that have also helped to encourage conversation or to normalise well being.
, 16:39
Hugh: Yeah. I think getting leaders to share what they do to look after their wellbeing. I know that question’s coming up later on around what I do, but I think it’s also really useful to get to sort of have that maybe a bit of a structure around getting senior leaders in the business out and speaking to team members about what they do and role modelling and things like that, and actually role modelling, even having a conversation about well being and about mental health and saying, yeah, look, for me, I go and run on the beach or walk the dog or whatever it is, and that’s one of my ways. And highlighting the five ways to well being and talking to people about these sorts of basic tools that are readily available, it just kind of highlights the people that actually, oh, yeah, they might be this leader who does this and that, but actually they still have the same challenges that everyone else does. So that kind of makes it more personal and more accessible and hopefully opens up some of those doors that are pretty hard to open sometimes. Yeah.
, 17:45
Sarah: And so I think it sounds like to me that that level of influence you have as a leader is something that you’re really aware of more broadly. As a leader, what do you see your role as in influencing and fostering well being at work?
, 17:58
Hugh: Oh, look, I think it’s kind of multifaceted and I wouldn’t say that I’m an accomplished, I’m overly accomplished either. You know, there’s obviously still work in progress and things that are, you know, quite challenging, but I think definitely as a leader, you know, you, no matter whether you’re boss of a company or whether you’re managing a team or a leader within a team, you know, even in a formal, in an informal way, you know, it’s about just encouraging the conversations and role modelling and having the courage to take the initiative, which can be quite difficult because it’s not something that we’re all readily able to talk about always. But I think. And then also where you’ve got the ability to influence work design, it’s ensuring that you’re mindful of how work is designed. And are you actually fulfilling your responsibilities as a manager in terms of ensuring that there’s sufficient resources in place to do the work in a sustainable way, where you’re not relying on people’s discretionary effort continuously or all your people are working at 100% or 110% all the time and you need to have an eye on, hey, look, business is challenging, and particularly our industry is challenging. There will be times where we need to all pull together and work hard to get things done. But equally, we need to have those downtimes as well. And we also need to be making sure that we’re ensuring that the resources are there and we’re doing our planning and our, you know, work up front to, you know, manage the work properly so that it’s. Yeah, it’s. It’s not impacting on people’s wellbeing negatively. You know, I think they’re probably the things that jump out me, you know, in terms of what. What leaders need to be. Need to be doing, I guess. Yeah.
, 19:54
Sarah: So being really proactive is obviously a really important part of that and making sure that, as you said, people have the support both from the work side, but also, as we’re talking to earlier, that, that normalising as much as possible. We’ve talked a little bit about psychological safety and people being able to feel like they can come to work and be themselves at work. Tell me a little bit about what your understanding of that has been in terms of the construction industry and how you facilitated that at work.
, 20:22
Hugh: Yeah, I think it is quite challenging because often we link health and safety practices and processes to extend that to wellbeing and we look at well being through a health and safety lens, and particularly a safety one lens which is a compliance based safety, of course, you know, where we’ve got a checkbox and an audit for everything and a permit to fill out and a process around things. And that way of thinking around safety can be quite blame focused, where we have an incident or an accident, for example, in a health and safety sense. And of course the finger of blame comes out as to whose fault it was, who’s to blame, who’s done this. And people automatically then go into protection mode and they don’t want to step come forward with solutions and there’s no learning that comes out of that event. And unfortunately, that’s kind of been a feature in safety which has kind of impeded the ability for people to feel safe themselves coming forward when they’ve stuffed up or made a mistake or have an issue or see an improvement area for improvement. So I think it’s trying to break through some of those barriers that are probably sitting there and working more in a safety two environment where we want to actually engage. We want to find out what the work’s all about, learn. You know, as leaders, we want to be have a learning mindset that we don’t know everything. The other people doing the work have the answers. And so, you know, what are the challenges and really get out into the front line and try and understand some of these things, you know, and doing that through. So that’s where, I guess, interpersonal relationships are really important and, you know, taking time to develop those interpersonal relationships and do the groundwork so that when those tricky moments come up where people feel like, I don’t know if he’s going to like this because, you know, he’s not done this very well, I’m not sure how he’s going to go down, but actually I know I’ve had a few chats with him, so I feel like I’m okay to raise this, you know, kind of thing. So, you know, you build those relationships so that you kind of feel like people can actually bring things forward or they feel they know you well enough to be able to go, yeah, I know he’s not going to take this the wrong way, you know, take it in the right spirit. And I guess it’s about having all those sorts of conversations and discussions so, you know, your people, and obviously, as larger the organisation gets and as it’s growing, the more difficult that is. So you’re relying on leadership skills throughout the business in order to enable that, and actually having leaders who are trained and understand, you know, what it takes to build those sorts of relationships and engage, you know, truly engage with people where they’re at, rather than being the conventional manager, pushing paper around and not really caring about it. So there is that care part that’s linked to the values of the business and the culture in the business. So I think there’s quite a few strands to it. But at the end of the day, it just comes down to giving a shit and actually people who give a shit about each other and then having those discussions and that sounds a bit crude, but it’s probably, you know, quite a good way of putting it. Care would be another word for that. And, you know, if you’ve got that embedded in the organisation where, you know, you can build that level of comprehension and understanding, then, you know, hopefully you can get that flow of information and it’s working quite well and people do feel safe to speak up. So I guess that’s my thoughts on that one, in terms of creating that psychological safety. And then, of course, there’s doing what you say you’re going to do, which is sort of what we always talk about a lot. If you say you’re going to fix something, actually try and actually fix it and feedback and things like that, if it couldn’t be fixed and all that kind of thing, builds trust in an organisation which is really important to develop that.
, 24:20
Sarah: One of the things that you said in your response then made me think of a letter we had a couple of weeks ago in our weekly newsletter, which was around the importance of visibility for leaders and being seen. And I think that really leads to what you were talking about, building those relationships. So on that note, what are some of the things that you’ve done to be seen and to build those relationships? Because I imagine there’ll be some leaders who’d be listening to this going, okay, that sounds like something I should be doing, but how do I do that?
, 24:48
Hugh: Yeah, sometimes it’s really hard because, you know, you don’t want to show people that you don’t know stuff because then people go, oh, this guy, you know, how’s he ended up in that position when he doesn’t know how to do this, that I’m doing this task that I’m doing. But I think it’s about just a embracing that and going, hey, look, you won’t know everything. So getting out into the field and actually asking the experts in the front line how it’s going, what challenges they are coming, what are the risks that they see, what are the things that the company could do to support them better, all that kind of thing actually gets people to turn around and think, oh, shit, maybe they do actually care about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and trying to improve things. You know, I think that’s a really good step, is just to get out there and really just look at things objectively with an open mind and ask lots of questions without pre determining the answer. And that can be quite challenging, as I say, because people don’t want necessarily be seen to not know things. And so it takes a bit of courage just to step out of your comfort zone a little bit and even get your, your boots and your gloves on and get in there and help with the work and just say, hey, I’ve never done this before. How do you do this? Show me what you do and show a genuine interest. And it goes a long way.
, 26:09
Sarah: And so I imagine also with some of our wellbeing champions or wellbeing managers that are listening, they’ll also be thinking, how do I get my leaders to do this? So if you were in their shoes, what do you think would be helpful or what might influence some of the leaders in their business to think like you do?
, 26:27
Hugh: Yeah, look, I think a good step, you know, a lot of leaders have got pretty good egos, you know, arguably so good start is maybe get them talking about themselves, you know, and say, hey, how do you look after your wellbeing? You know, you’re so busy, you got so many things on the go, how do you look after yourself? You know, what well being challenges do you face? And then say, hey, would you be, once they maybe discuss that in a one on one basis, perhaps say, hey, would you be willing to share that at our next team meeting? Because I think people would really appreciate to hear from you how you do that because you gave some really good examples and it was quite interesting asking those sorts of questions. And it will depend on the individual, of course, that you’re dealing with as to what those questions should be and trying to sort of devise a route around that and to get people to open up. And I think it’s just, you know, also being mindful that, you know, being in leadership roles, particularly, you know, senior leadership roles and things like that, can be quite a lonely place, you know, where you got your own, you know, unique kind of well being challenges and considering, you know, or asking the question, well, how can we as a team support your wellbeing? You know, where are the areas that you find, you know, those pinch points and what are the signs that we can look out for to see when you need support and what can we be doing? And it’s kind of just turning certain things around sometimes as well, that can enable them kind of think differently and go, well, how do maybe they might start to question themselves about how they can support the team better because they can start to recognise some of those signs, you know, which probably I had, you know, when I was, as I say in the village, what was going on, I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Probably nowadays, with the knowledge that I’ve got, I guess, that accumulated over time, that I know what it is and I can recognise those things and I can talk about it, but often people are sort of in that phase where they’re not really able to recognise or understand what’s happening. So I think there are a couple of things. The other sort of aspect is also having that conversation around, well, what are the benefits? And that’s kind of, I guess a conventional approach is going say, hey, if we engage our team and we’ve got a more engaged team, we’re going to have productivity benefits, we’re going to have efficiency gains, we’re going to have a more engaged team, they’re going to come up with answers rather than risk problems. How can we enable that sort of environment and then have a conversation about, hey, when things were working really, really well, can you imagine a time when everything was flowing really nicely at work and the team was kicking all their goals? What was that like? What were the conditions that were present when that occurred? And what’s missing now? What are the things that are missing now? How do we replicate that scenario that we had? And often it comes back to team cohesion and communication and all these sorts of things like having the right resources, having the right skills in the team that more than often will come back to those sorts of themes and you go, well, you can’t really have cohesion without people feeling psychologically safe. You can’t have that kind of environment. People aren’t feeling well in themselves. So I think you can start to maybe influence up a little bit by provoking some of these sorts of conversations, I suppose.
, 29:55
Sarah: Do you think leaders, and we have seen this in some of the research that’s come through, I think some leaders have a rose tinted view of, of how well people are actually doing.
, 30:07
Hugh: I think everybody does. And it’s not probably that whole thing where you ask somebody, oh, how are you, you know, ask them in the smoker room in the morning, oh, I’m great, you know, but, you know, it’s just an automatic response, isn’t it? So I think, yeah, look, everybody probably does and, you know, I think that’s just natural human tendency and yeah, we, but, but again, it’s just about, you know, how authentic are we and how willing are we to actually, you know, have given honest answer, you know, around, around that question. And I guess when there’s always that power-distance factor that comes in when, you know, somebody more senior comes in and asks how you are and you want to put on a good, a good front and, you know, be that person who’s positive or whatever and so you’re not necessarily going to share. But I. But again, that comes back to that relationship that that leader has built with you and you’ve built with that person as to, you know, how authentic and how honest you’ll be at that moment in time. So, you know, I guess there’s some of the challenges that exist in particularly large organisations where there’s lots of layers of management and so on and probably.
, 31:17
Sarah: An extension of that also. And I’m really mindful that this is different in different industries but that’s in construction. A lot of people who are in quite senior positions are older generations. So have you found there’s been a generational there have been some generational challenges as well around engaging people in mental health and wellbeing conversations.
, 31:36
Hugh: Yeah, look, and I think there’s that old school attitude you touched on, you know, where, yeah, take a cup of concrete or concrete pill or whatever and get over it and yada, yada, yada, you know, but I think we sort of society, I don’t know, my mind anyway, feels like it’s moved on a bit from that. We’re kind of, you know, grappling with some of these challenges. We’re trying to understand them or we’re trying to kind of be able to communicate about them better. You definitely find some attitudes that are pretty hard to deal with and hard to change. And often, you know, if you’re surrounded by people like that, then you got to wonder whether you’re in the right organisation. To be honest, it’s probably, you know, a good question to ask, am I, you know, actually ever going to make an impact here? Because there’s so many people that are not even interested in this discussion. So that’s probably an honest kind of place to go, but not ideal. But the tone is set from the top in terms of the culture of the business and willingness for leaders and people in senior positions to actually lean into this stuff and see the benefits with it. And I think it does come back to that journey of trying to get them to share about what they do. Acknowledge, maybe. Yeah. That they are also impacted by it, by, say, mental health or other sort of factors around well being and that in a roundabout way, try to maybe change their mindset a little bit through some of the things I’ve spoken about earlier and then try to turn the conversation around? Well, can you see the benefit if we dot, dot, dot, you know, if we try to empower the team a bit more, if we engage people already felt a bit more engaged, that might actually have a benefit to the business, you know, and how can we sort of harness that and so on? So, you know, definitely challenging conversations. No two way around it, but no two ways about it. But I think there’s still a lot of opportunities there to sort of unlock on the journey.
, 33:44
Sarah: So, yeah, I like that way of thinking about it, is unlocking the business, because I know that’s one thing we often find in organisations, is leaders see business performance over this side and, well, being over this side as two completely different things. And what you’re talking about, and the evidence would show, is that the two are really closely aligned, interwoven, in fact. Again, not all leaders understand that. So what are some of the messages that you would share with them around that?
, 34:10
Hugh: Yeah, look, I think it’s similar to the health and safety thing. You know, I guess in the past people have viewed that as being a thing on its own. You know, we look at safety and we report on that, but it’s, you know, got very little to do with operational performance. But actually what we know is that it’s just work. It’s just about what the work is. And the work’s either good or it’s not good or, you know, some aspects of the work that need improvement. And we know that, like, the more engaged people are and the more interested they are, more passionate they are about what they’re doing, the more likely the work’s going to be good. And, you know, so it’s all, I think, part integrated with that and it’s about having that operational excellence focus that what we’re delivering is really good work and, you know, we want to have help people to feel good through delivering that work. So, yeah, I think it’s got to be looked at as one thing which is work effectively and not out on its own. And, you know, and looking at, you know, when people think of well being initiatives, they’re thinking about gym memberships and fruit baskets and yoga classes and all that stuff. But actually, you know, that’s nice, but it’s not going to really shift the dial. What we need to be looking at is the design of the work, the system that we’re operating in, the relationships that we’re having throughout the supply chain, from clients to companies delivering projects and their supply chains, and also how the work is designed and to really enable better work, I suppose. And I think that’s some of the things which is great that are really being looked at now in terms of those aspects and trying to shift the dial at the system level, which is where I guess we’ll hopefully see the benefits.
, 35:57
Sarah: That Mainland New Zealand ad was on tv a while ago now, good things take time. So obviously these are not an overnight endeavour. How long has this journey been for you and Pipeline and Civil? And what does the journey ahead look like?
, 36:13
Hugh: Yeah, look, I think it’s just a journey without an end, isn’t it? So, I mean, you start where you started and you just keep persevering until you feel like you got somewhere which is reasonably comfortable. Then you think of something else that you need to work on. So I don’t think there’s any endpoint. I think it’s just particularly just being open to learning how we can continue to continually improve for us. You know, I guess I was very fortunate. I came into a business nearly ten years ago which had a very strong values base that was instilled from the foundation documents of the company and our values are part of our constitution and being an employee owned business, all the shareholders who are actually out delivering the work as well have bought into that and signed up to that. I guess when we look at our business objectives and our strategy as a business, we’re not looking at quarter on quarter returns, we’re not looking at trashing everybody to appease the stock market. I suppose we’re a privately held business so we can set our own destiny, but we very much shape it around sustainable, good work, doing it safely, planning our work well, having good, obviously delivering really good quality services and products and things like that, and building trust and openness with our clients and within our own teams and our other values. One of our key values around care, which is looking out for our mates and building a positive culture and around investing in successors and things like that. So if we do all that, we’ll be a successful business. And I think it’s about, I guess, we often go back to those values and that’s, I guess, what guides what we’re doing. So, yeah, I think in terms of where we are on that journey, you know, we’re a bit down the road but there’s obviously plenty more to be doing. And as I say, we’re not certainly, you know, not perfect, but, you know, we’re still, you know, striving to do better, I suppose. Yeah.
, 38:20
Sarah: So it’s definitely a process of years, isn’t it? Not months?
, 38:23
Hugh: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And hey, you know, everyone’s going to be on a different point along the path, but, you know, just taking a step forward is they’re the ones you got to celebrate and, you know, regardless of how far away you are from the destination, I guess just perseverance is key.
, 38:46
Sarah: Thanks again for listening today. It’s been great to have you along. If you’re keen to join the revolutionaries of wellbeing, head to rowwellbeing, that’s r o w,, and follow the links to sign up if you’re in our community. Thanks again and we look forward to catching up with you really soon.

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