How to build a mentally healthy team in a growing business

Starting a new business or pushing the boundaries of an existing one can be very exciting. You are constantly pushing harder and reaching for more – often surviving on pure adrenaline.

While these periods of intense growth and activity can reap many benefits, if you’re not careful, the ongoing stress can also lead to burnout for you and your team.

Adam Trippe-Smith l Founder & MD, Kegstar

Adam Trippe-Smith l Founder & MD, Kegstar

In a previous blog post on The Mentor List website, Healthy ways to avoid burnout at work (based on our interview with John Drury), we described burnout as follows:

“Job burnout is a well-documented condition with three key symptoms:

  • Exhaustion – Physical, mental or emotional.

  • Detachment/cynicism – Feeling alienated from those around you.

  • Ineffectiveness – Reduced personal accomplishment or a lack of self-belief.

In other words, we become so run down that we stop caring about our work, relationships and health and they begin to suffer.”

Adam Trippe-Smith is also no stranger to burnout. As an entrepreneur, he was a co-founder of in London, co-founder of McLaren Vale Beer Company, co-founder of the Independent Brewers Association, founder of Kegstar and founder of The Balmain Ball. In other words, he’s been busy.

In his interview on The Mentor List, Trippe-Smith described the ups and downs of his entrepreneurial journey. As well as sharing his successes, he was quite open about the delayed effect his years of constant activity had on his mental health.

“I am not perfect at it, but I am certainly improving. I had burned myself out by the end of 2013, it was a delayed reaction from … doing a start-up cash, having children, doing an MBA and being on the verge of bankruptcy … Whilst I was exercising, you are up and busy from 5.30am and then at night you are catching up on all your board reports whilst still trying to make time for your family. For me, it eventually all caught up … It got to the point where I literally could not move, where I couldn’t get up off the couch for a month. It is not only physically hard but also mentally hard to bounce back from that.”

Unfortunately, stories like those of Trippe-Smith and Drury are not uncommon. What sets both men apart, though, is that they have made it their goal to help ensure others do not reach burnout point too. Drury by training and mentoring other leaders in similar positions to turn their personal and professional lives around and Trippe-Smith by putting strategies in place to reduce the likelihood of burnout in his team members.

“Having gone through that myself, a large focus of mine around the Kegstar team is about how we manage that as a start-up running hard in 5 different countries which has exploded in the last 18 months. Not only am I teaching myself how to lead but you also have to teach yourself how to have resilience and to set your team up to have that same resilience. Over the last 12 months, we have had two members of our team burn out despite making the efforts around it, it is an ongoing learning experience of how you best manage that … We haven’t cracked the nut, but we keep revisiting it and looking at how we can do it better. It’s easy to fall off the bandwagon but it is all about getting back into it and managing your family life and everything else a lot better.”

Leading a mentally healthy team

Some ways you can help protect your team from burnout and other mental health issues include:

  • Limiting and managing the expectation of work done outside of normal work hours.

  • Not restricting promotions to those that can work extended hours.

  • Eliminating any discrimination and bullying that make employees feel pressured to give all their time to the company and none to their personal life.

  • Not allowing any stigma around those facing anxiety, depression or other mental health issues and offering them your full support instead.

Tools to support you and your team

These tools include allowing flexible work arrangements, developing workplace mental health strategies and following best practice guides such as the Best Practice Guide: Work and Family produced by the Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Heads Up website has a large section full of resources to help leaders create Strategies for healthy workplaces. This includes tips for policy development, creating action plans, and much more.

Finally, you may like to make use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This is a government-funded work-based intervention program run through a network of approved providers throughout Australia. It was designed to enhance the overall wellbeing of employees (and sometimes their families) by providing preventative and proactive interventions for the early detection, identification and/or resolution of both work and personal problems. To find a provider of these services, contact the Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia.

In business, there will be high levels of stress, but as a leader, you have the responsibility to give your team the resources they need to deal with it in a constructive way. When you do, everybody benefits.

You might also like our blog article Why it’s important to talk about our mental health, based on our interview with Brendan Maher, CEO of the R U OK organisation.


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Adam Trippe-Smith’s career has gone through many phases. From a background in corporate finance, he went on to help establish several notable brands in Australia’s beer industry, including the McLaren Vale Beer Company and Kegstar - an asset pooling business specialising in stainless steel kegs used to transport beverages such as beer and cider.

If you’d like to hear more of Trippe-Smith’s fascinating career journey and how he continues to manage the welfare of his team, be sure to listen to his podcast interview on The Mentor List. Why not share the link with your team as well?

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