An Operational Manager’s View of Wellbeing

9 March 2022

An Operational Manager’s View of Wellbeing – Action or Bust?

As we reach the third part of Wellbeing in Aviation Awareness Week the focus shift towards the vital role that you have to play as an operational manager when it comes to wellbeing. In your role you naturally have a huge focus on delivering safe and effective operations. With so many things to do, it might not be easy to figure out where wellbeing fits into things for you and your team.

The benefits of wellbeing in improving performance

If your previous exposure to wellbeing has been in the context of yoghurt and yoga, it is first useful to highlight some of the benefits that wellbeing can bring to your operational performance. In a previous article here, we explain exactly what we mean when we talk about wellbeing at a personal level. You can also find further information from an organisational point of view here and explain in detail the benefits of wellbeing. You can even use this article to inform your strategic leadership more about wellbeing.  

The main thing you should be aware of are the operational benefits that wellbeing you. These include:

  • Wellbeing drives human performance, ensuring safe and effective operations.
  • It helps people to speak up about safety and operational challenges, ask difficult questions, make a point or come forward with an idea without fear of being ridiculed, ignored or discriminated against”. It’s very close to what we are trying to achieve when we talk about Just Culture.
  • It improves efficiency and reducing costs through reduction in sick leave, enables staff to be more engaged and therefore more productive and encourages people to stay with your organisation, minimising the challenges of staff turnover.

What practical things can you do to support your operational staff in their performance?

Given the huge operational performance benefits that you can gain from wellbeing, here are some key things that you can do to support your teams and enable them to achieve to the highest potential.

  1. Manage the BioPsychoSocial (Stressors, workload etc) risks that impact human performance as part of your management system. Consider how your operational procedures and activities impact the work of you staff at a practical, operational level. This is related to something you might hear as “Work as imagined – work as done”. The difference between expectation and reality.
  2. Particularly during the COVID-19 ramp-up, your teams will consist of people who have been through very different situations, who will have different levels of recent experience and training. Consider the situations of every individual in your team and what you can do to help the perform to their best.
  3. Seek to create a positive culture that encourages people to speak up when there is a problem, without fear of retribution. The ability to speak up and talk openly about safety, operational or wellbeing challenges is vital to successful performance. Creating such a psychologically safe environment within operational teams will bring huge benefits.  

Helping staff to speak up and be more engaged - the 4 Stages of psychological safety.

Taking positive action to encourage front line staff to speak up rather than just the pursuit of achieving operational objectives will ultimately benefit your day to day tasks. It will enable you all to be more prepared for tackling operational problems as they arise and to learn valuable lessons during operations, and training. Consider how the 4 stages of psychological safety apply to your teams:

  • Inclusion Safety. Members feel safe to belong to the team. They are comfortable being present, do not feel excluded, and feel like they are wanted and appreciated.
  • Learner Safety. Members are able to learn through asking questions. Team members here may be able to experiment, make (and admit) small mistakes, and ask for help.
  • Contributor Safety.  Members feel safe to contribute their own ideas, without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. This is a more challenging state, because volunteering your own ideas can increase the psychosocial vulnerability of team members.
  • Challenger Safety. Members can question others’ (including those in authority) ideas or suggest significant changes to ideas, plans, or ways of working.

Don’t forget yourself

Finally, as you apply these ideas and concepts within your teams, remember not to forgot about yourself and your fellow managers. Talk to each other about the challenges you are facing together and encourage the same positive aspects for yourselves as well as your teams. At a personal level, use the resources in the Wellbeing Resource Hub to maximise your own personal readiness as well.

Additional Resources

Initially we provide some resources from other sources to help you but over time we will develop more specific information to help you look after those who rely on you. If you find any interesting places with information, let us know in the comments section.

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