James Bishop on Mental Health and Well-Being in a Sales Team

Experienced Sales Leader at Salesforce, James Bishop is a passionate advocate of mental health awareness, particularly the impact our work place can have on our mental well-being. We caught up with James to find out more about why he’s so passionate about this subject matter. All the views below are James’ own and do not represent Salesforce.

Why do you think mental health and wellbeing is so important within Sales teams specifically?

“It’s not just sales, it’s everyone! 1 in 4 adults will suffer from mental health challenges every year, ranging from stress, anxiety through to suicide.  Whilst 1 in 4 will suffer, 1 in 6 will suffer symptoms that don’t meet the criteria for diagnosis.

However, the transparency in Sales regarding individual output or quota achievement and the pressure that this creates makes us, in my opinion, more susceptible to mental health challenges.

An additional statistic is that 75% of those with diagnosable mental illness won’t receive any treatment… clearly some of this will be due to the stigma surrounding mental illness and concerns that any admission of fragility around your mental wellbeing is seen as a weakness. Due to this stigma people avoid getting help. I believe that those in Sales environments will be affected here especially in those organisations where needing to be perceived as ‘bullet proof’ is all part of the image.”

Would improving mental wellbeing support within a sales team improve their performance?

“Definitely. A focus on both physical and mental wellbeing will, without doubt, improve individual and team performance; from reduced time off, to enhanced productivity and better decision making you will reap the rewards.

There is also a separate body of research and thinking developing around the importance of ‘psychological safety’ within organisations. Closely tied to positive cultures, the research has identified the impact of creating teams of diverse and authentic individuals. According to a 2014 Deloitte study 61% of people apparently ‘cover’ at work which means they are hiding their authentic self. This is draining for the individuals concerned, not only could this impact their mental wellbeing in the long run but also hampers creativity and ultimately competitiveness for organisations. Google’s Aristotle project from 2015 identified the characteristics of any high performing team and psychological safety underpins everything.”

Can you give us some examples of where you’ve seen companies successfully supporting their team’s mental wellbeing?

“A big challenge is for organisations to help their employees get past the stigma associated with mental ill health. Successful organisations will create a culture where ‘it is ok to not be ok’ every day; where people can talk openly about their challenges without fear of reprisals or negative actions regarding their ability in the workplace. These organisations will also embrace well-being. Some of this culture is created by policies and procedures, some is due to wider support frameworks such as health insurance and programmes/ initiatives run by experts like Mental Health First Aiders, or Kamwell (well-being organisation).

At Salesforce we have mindfulness and meditation rooms on every floor of our office in the UK, our nutrition is considered with the availability of free fruit (and nutri-bullets for making smoothies etc!) plus gym time is encouraged during the day to help us decompress. However, I believe the biggest driver of this positive culture is created by empathy and understanding from management and leadership in organisations. How do you gauge this? Well, if the leadership don’t value their own wellbeing then they probably won’t value yours!”

Where should you start if your company doesn’t currently offer mental health support?

“Most corporate health insurers offer diagnosis and treatment options now. Failing that your manager, if you trust them. Failing that, your GP.”

What are your top tips for managing your own mental wellbeing?

“I am still learning what helps my mental health and what hinders it, these are a couple of things that I’ve found really helpful.

  • Mindfulness
  • Don’t just focus on work achievements, focus on maintaining connections with people and giving back to people less fortunate
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Sleep more
  • Exercise regularly”