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Nino Severino: 'British culture is about carrying a stiff upper lip and this needs to change' - How sport can help improve mental health at work

PUBLISHED: 10:55 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:55 30 October 2019

Nino Severino with his and wife Elena's Olympic kit, and her Olympic Torch at a business and corporate education event at Portman Road Stadium. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

Nino Severino with his and wife Elena's Olympic kit, and her Olympic Torch at a business and corporate education event at Portman Road Stadium. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

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In his latest column, Nino Severino shares his thoughts on how sport and the coaches' skillset can transfer into business and help tackle the mrntal health problems seen in the workplace.

Nino Severino with senior bosses at a Regional Barclays Bank development day. Picture: NINO SEVERINONino Severino with senior bosses at a Regional Barclays Bank development day. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

During the last year I have been adapting my sports mental skills programme for the business and corporate world. I've had a lot of experience working with individuals who operate in the high-pressured environment of the office, including Barclays Bank senior managers.

The more I study the area of sporting mental skills, the more I believe that sport can have the answers to many of the health problems now being experienced by those at senior level in the business and corporate worlds.

I found myself surfing the web regarding this area, and came across a very interesting article on this subject. It suggested that senior members of staff suffered more mental health issues than other members in their team with less responsibility and stress.

As I read through the article, it stated that senior managers need more training and more time to deal with other staff members who are dealing with pressure in the work place.

I see the role of senior members of staff as very similar to the coaches in a sporting environment - athletes are placed under huge amounts of pressure, some can deal with this pressure very easily, but my experience is that many cannot.

The statistic that 31 percent of management level staff had received at some point or another a diagnosis of mental-health related issues, is very worrying.

This was followed by the statement that managers in the workplace desperately need more training, which could potentially minimise mental and emotional trauma, simply through being able to hold meaningful and purposeful discussions with those who are struggling to deal with workloads and pressure.

I am now coaching the coaches in sport, and one area of my teaching is to highlight the importance of discussion and communication. This area of coaching support cannot be overlooked in sport, and I believe it can play a very big part in the workplace as well.

Pressure in sport can present itself in many different ways, athletes comparing themselves with others, setting aspirations too high, not being able to deal with failure, unable to set appropriate goals, inability to deal with the pressures of others.

Nino Severino with Rob Houston, Barclays Premier Banking Manager. Picture: NINO SEVERINONino Severino with Rob Houston, Barclays Premier Banking Manager. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

Every item that adds pressure to an athlete's life on that list, can also add pressure to any manager in the business and corporate environment.

The British culture is very much about carrying a stiff upper lip and this really needs to change - in the same way I encourage coaches to develop the ability to guide athletes through experiences that can create stress and poor performance, I encourage managers in the work place to do exactly the same.

My approach to building athletic mental strength in sport is driven by creating the right environment and culture, and this is of course driven by the coaches.

For them to do this, they need to have the knowledge, skills, methods and principles to know how to create this culture. This is developed by them committing to self-development - once they start on this journey, it enables them to change the way the athlete perceives their wider world, and how they act and react in their world. When there are issues, the coach then possesses the skills to deal with these situations.

Athletes are developed from a very young age, often you see them entering the world of sport at the tender age of four or five, instantly they are being affected by good habits and developed in high quality environments, and this will hopefully play a very large part in the process of prevention.

It helps to build a personality and character that can avoid mental and emotional stresses and strains, but when experienced, the athlete is empowered to deal with them and overcome them, with the support of their team.

I see the work place in exactly the same way. Managers need the skills to create positive environments, the skills to educate and develop, the knowledge to react when their staff needs them, and of course focus on prevention rather than cure, providing junior staff with a positive entry and experience into the work place.

A big part of my professional life is now linking sport to business, I am working very closely with Jason Turner, the Director of East Region, Barclays Private Bank, and Jennifer Leeder, a senior lawyer based at Birketts Head Office in Ipswich.

With their involvement, I am hoping our sport to business programme called Sport Skills for Business will gain powerful traction and hopefully deliver some of the solutions for this debilitating issue we are battling in our workplaces across Great Britain.

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