The team at Headspace are committed to the mental wellbeing of all young Australians. They are also dedicated to the continual improvement of their team culture through the provision of skills development training.

Context

Headspace is Australia’s national youth mental health foundation. Its staff provide mental health support to young people across Australia through clinical care and public mental health campaigns. They also set the tone for youth mental health policy and best practice across the nation.

In 2023, Polykala were contacted by Headspace to facilitate sessions with their executive leadership team. As a result of that session, we were invited to deliver targeted communication skills training for the clinical and communications team. The team at Headspace wanted to build on their existing clinical and communications practices to improve their ability to have feedback conversations in the workplace. Rather than waiting until ‘problems’ arose, they could see the value in being proactive and further developing a skillset that many of their staff had significant expertise in.

The session was open to all staff to participate, ensuring a mix of staff from across the organisation. For us as trainers and facilitators, this is the perfect set up; participants who are experienced, have chosen to be there and from a mix of professional backgrounds and perspectives. The facilitator adage of ‘the wisdom is in the room’ was apt for these sessions.

Approach

Before we dive into any teaching of skills and practice, we take the time to consider the professional environment in which those conversations are taking place. What’s the relationship of the organisation to difficult conversations? Is conflict welcomed or avoided? These are important questions to consider. Difficult conversations don’t just sit between two people, they exist in a wider system that has a history and a present relationship to these types of interactions.

We then explored the signs of a healthy feedback culture; what to look out for, strive for, and celebrate. This includes behaviours like staff going directly to the source of the problem rather than around it, actively seeking feedback from others, and all staff feeling responsible for upholding the values of the organisation.

Most importantly, we introduced a step-by-step guide to preparing for, and having, feedback conversations. Participants were given the opportunity to take the time to prepare for a feedback conversation they would soon be having at work before pairing up and practising. 

Outcomes

We are thrilled to be partnering with Headspace to provide bespoke facilitated sessions and communication skills training in an ongoing capacity. We’ve been informed by the team that the quality of feedback conversations has risen sharply since the training. Staff are seeking feedback and giving it with greater precision and grace. Working on communications skills with mental health and communications professionals is a bit like offering a root canal to a dentist, which is to say it’s a potentially fraught gig! Yet, all teams and all professionals need to ‘take their own medicine’ and sometimes having skilled facilitators independent of the working context is just the remedy. 

“Thank you to you both for such a thoughtful workshop. I’ve had a steady stream of participants getting in touch to tell me how much they valued the session and how keen they are to keep this conversation going. It’s been pretty unusual to get this level of engagement from a workshop so it clearly really resonated.”

Kate Raseta – National Initiatives Lead, Clinical Practice, Headspace

Client

Headspace

Year

2023

Number of participants

60

Number of sessions

3

Location

Melbourne (VIC)