Zoe Fortune, CEO at CMHA HK: 6 Key Pointers for Senior Leaders on Talent’s Wellbeing

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In our third and final part of our conversation with Zoe Fortune, City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong CEO, she shared six key points on the responsibilities of senior leaders around their talent’s mental health well-being and her vision for action on mental health in Asia in the years to come.

On senior leaders taking the first step to making change for their talent…

 I’ve been at an event recently where we’ve had senior leaders talking about their own personal experience. That can be very powerful but that can also be a very difficult first step for some people. I think it’s about being informed, it’s about being aware, understanding what’s happening out there, being aware of the facts and figures on this.

If you are a senior leader, know what’s happening in your organization. Know where your staff’s stress points are. Know if it’s client related, know if it’s internal related. We need to get better at identifying the stress points if we are to make systematic changes within an organization.” 

On the “playbook” for managers as they interact with their staff on mental health…

 “I think it comes back to the point of being human and for definite I think it’s helpful to have skills training on this because we can practice having those conversations. It seems weird but it’s actually really helpful, practicing those conversations. I wouldn’t be scared; there are certain words and certain key expressions that we should avoid because they might be stigmatizing expressions and being aware of what those are.”

On the importance of senior leaders “being human”…

 “If you are going to have a conversation with your employee, it’s about prioritizing them and that time, right now.  It might take a little bit of time to have a conversation you might need to check in with them a few times before they even open up with you. But, it’s about giving them the power of your time with them being able to say: “Should we go grab a coffee away from here?”

Quiet, confidential space, deformalize it. Don’t sit across from them in an interview style, and say “ Ok, I know it’s been a really stressful time recently but this is about you. Tell me what’s been happening with you.” It’s about checking in at a personal level because that’s so important to team camaraderie and it impacts work.”

On the responsibilities of a manager with mental health well-being…

 “As a manager your responsibility is not to be a mental health professional here, it’s not to be a counselor. Your responsibility is to support your staff and be able to redirect towards other sources of help and support. So I would say know what sources of help and support are available in your organization.”

On Zoe’s vision for workplace mental health well-being in the next 3 – 5 years…

 My vision would be that there isn’t stigma, if we can reduce that or really minimize it so that people are able talk openly about mental health. Good mental health, We should be talking about this as a normal thing so that people know the importance of this So that this doesn’t come down to “what is my bottom line?” or “what is the business case on this?” This comes down to “This is just the right thing to do and the fundamentally important thing to do” because this is about employees and it’s so interlinked with everything else.

We shouldn’t be making employees have a conversation around “I need to be able to work from home to submit something” or submit forms when they want to take time off due to a physical health concern. We should be able to be open about this and I hope that we can empower employees and middle managers to be able to make those adjustments appropriately.  so we can have working places that are places that people can go and thrive. Work provides all these amazing things for our mental health and in general, so they should be providing them. I’m not sure that we’ll get there in three years but I really hope that we make some change towards going through that.”

On the current status of mental health in the workplace in Asia…

We are still relatively new on this journey here in Hong Kong. When we’re talking about mental health awareness we are still talking about a relatively basic level of awareness. There’s so much more that could be done. Then in the future, maybe we could start talking about how mental health impacts at different stages, different life events for new parents, for dementia – so let’s just get better at talking about it because then we can really understand what it means to different people. “

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In Conversation with Zoe Fortune, CEO, CMHA HK Pt. 3 from Mark Pigou on Vimeo.

About the author

Cheryl Liew is Partner and Event Director for Make A Difference Asia. She is also founder of Lifeworkz, a firm headquartered in Asia which partners C-suite to evolve relevant, inclusive and high performing workplaces; since 2006 shaping the future of work and the future of Asia. This is done by focusing transformation through three niche areas — Contemporary Organisations, Culture, Gender & Generations Inclusion and High Performance without Burnout. Whether working with multi-national corporations in China and India, or consulting with retail brands and government agencies in Indonesia or Australia, the vision of LifeWorkz remains the same. As a Keynote speaker, author and executive high-performance coach, Cheryl is passionate about inspiring and empowering individuals to thrive without compromising the lifestyle they desire and certainly without burnout.



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