How do Leaders Navigate Performance Challenges vs Mental Health Issues?

Post-workshop resources

Welcome. Let's dig in.

In the live workshop, you explored how to drive more incredible performance from your people while simultaneously supporting their wellbeing and mental health in a hybrid world.

Key learnings of the session included: 

  1. How to navigate the difference between performance issues and mental health challenges 
  2. How to have effective conversations that nurture and support colleagues 
  3. What proactive wellbeing behaviour is and how to action it

Re-watch the event above.

In this post-event resource page, we expand on some of the essential learnings so you can begin to implement them right away.

You can find:

  1. Evolve your performance appraisals
  2. Address mental health issues early
  3. CARE conversations in action
  4. Troubleshoot 

Evolve your performance appraisals

Traditional workplace solutions fall short of what people need to flourish at work. It's time to evolve performance reviews to include a whole-person approach.

It is time for the typical approach to a performance check-in/annual review to be replaced by a whole-person conversation. Rather than using the standard format of checking in against goals or reviewing performance against a set of competencies, we must consider how to evolve this format to include the whole individual working experience.

Consider the different elements that impact performance from a mental health perspective. By considering the whole person and what really matters to them, you can create action plans that address:

  • Individual factors and ways of working
  • Cultural factors and how these may or may not support them
  • Team factors and how they can better collaborate

Click this link to access the questions you can ask your employees cheat sheet.




Early intervention = prevention. Discover the sweet spot.

Paving the way with ongoing, open conversations allows you to spot the signs of mental health issues early and intervene before things become complicated.

Are you noticing that someone is struggling or showing signs of performance burnout?

Ask yourself:

  • Are you seeing the whole picture?
  • Are you making assumptions about what may be truly impacting the person?

If you can identify the potential challenges early on, this will avoid problem escalation.

Click this link to view examples of signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health.

Brilliant Minds Post Event - Signs and symtpoms of mental health

Ongoing CARE conversations

Start the conversation around mental health and then follow-up with performance.

Sometimes, it is appropriate to address both mental health and performance in the same conversation, but sometimes is best to first have a conversation only about mental health, and then follow up with a conversation about performance.

When someone opens up for the first time about mental health, it is hard to jump from a state of vulnerability to a state of ideating solutions.

The state you, the leader, are in when discussing mental health and performance should also differ:

  • The first is all about listening, understanding, and making the other feel like their experience is valid, emphasising there won’t be consequences for opening up.
  • The second should still involve listening, but it may be more about ideating solutions, asking questions, and empowering them to make a change.


"You are safe." Remind them they matter. It is safe to share and you are the company care. If the subject is too sensitive, just listen and agree a follow up to discuss performance.

"I understand your view." Try to understand their perspective and show you understand. Ask questions to assist them in understanding the truth about their performance, focus on the solutions and outcomes rather than on blame.

"How can we make this work?" Discuss solutions that consider their own ways of working, the team, and your responsibility as a leader. Support them in creating their own solutions.

"I believe in you." Inspire autonomy, empower them and coach them to find solutions. Ensure they know you are supporting them because you know they can reach the expectations and assure you are in this together.

Avoid these conversation habits

  • Acting suspicious. Do not be suspicious and investigate whether a mental health absence is ”genuine”.
  • Normalising and generalising. Avoid saying ”What you are experiencing is normal” or start talking about yourself, this suggests their experience is not valid.
  • Crossing the line. Avoid asking intrusive questions or forcing the person to disclose health issues.
  • Assuming. It is best not to make assumptions about how a mental health issue affects an employee or their performance. For example, if performance drops, it could be as a result of the team, not because of at-home problems.
  • Removing all pressure and responsibility. Scaling back is good, so long as you don’t undermine their confidence and ability to perform. Taking everything away could lead to a loss of respect from their colleagues.
  • Focussing on the past. Do not bring back their mental health, personal challenges, or time they had off in case something doesn’t go well. This will make them lose trust in you.
  • Giving orders. Acknowledge autonomy and avoid telling someone they “need to” or “ should do” something.
  • Forgetting to follow up. Avoid forgetting about the conversation and assume everything is fine if they have not reached out or if their performance seems to have improved.


Your performance v mental health checklist

Brilliant Minds Post Event - Performance vs mental health checklist



Real-world scenarios for you to explore.

What do you do if they need more time off?

Next steps

Ali has been struggling with their mental health due to some problems outside of work. You have been understanding and offered Ali 1 week off, which doesn’t seem to have been enough, and they want to take more time off. However, the team is under a lot of pressure, and you don’t know what to do anymore.

What would you do if this was physical health? If someone came to you and said they have a chronic health problem what would you do? 

Mental health should be treated with parity to physical health.  It is time to move from this place where mental health is disregarded, and physical health is the only thing we consider to be ‘health’.  They take the time they need off to get well. Follow your company’s sickness absence process and check in with your HR department to see what steps need to be taken. 

Try asking the individual “What support would you like from me and the team during this time?” Discuss whether they would like to be kept in touch with, or not whilst they are off. If they do want to keep in touch, ask them how regular and on what topics. Make sure you also get in touch with them to check-in on how they are doing and to show you care as well – with no pressure about returning to work.  

Read more

I can’t help as I can’t change things around here

Next steps

I manage a team of 6 who I know are struggling. But, there is pressure on me, coming from all sides. I am not sure how I can support another person when I can’t change the workload.

First, think about what you can do to support your own health and wellbeing. You can not support others if you are not supporting yourself. What support is available for you, both within and outside the organisation? What small changes can you make to improve your ways of working and make it more manageable? Starting with yourself will help role model positive behaviour, and it will give you the energy to help support others directly later on. 

Secondly, have open conversations to address the situation honestly with the team and to show you care. Simply sharing our stories and experiences can help reduce the impact of stressful situations, help build trust, and has a positive impact on our mental and physical health.  

When your own wellbeing has improved, think about how you can be the voice for change in the organisation. How can you set new boundaries for the team, explain to stakeholders why you are doing this, and courageously voice your concerns about job intensity and your ideas for change to senior decision-makers.

Read more

Aarav is back from a mental health break

Next steps

I am not sure what I should and should not do. He is back at work now but I’m worried if I put too much pressure on him, I may make things worst.

Have an open conversation about how they are feeling about coming back. Talk about how they would like to work, what support they would like from you and the team and how you can help them with their motivation. Ask questions to understand if they are worried about any aspects of the job or workload and talk about how you can regularly check-in with how they are doing. Make sure they feel comfortable sharing any challenges early on.  

Agree together their key objectives, and review these on a regular basis to celebrate progress and ensure they are achievable. It can be useful to have clear projects to focus on at work, as long as these are challenging enough but not too outside of someone’s comfort zone to cause more stress.

Read more

Sam is an overachiever

Next steps

Sam is always outperforming the other colleagues on her team, consistently working late and never saying no or turning down a new project.

Even when people are seemingly ok, taking on a lot of work and bringing good results, it doesn’t mean that you should not consider their mental health. Have regular check-ins with everyone, and do look out for signs of burnout for the overachievers. 

Ask them, what are your goals and how do they relate to your wellbeing? Explore if there is anything they can change in the way they work to make work more sustainable?

Make sure they know it is ok to ask for help, in fact,  it is a sign of strength, and that saying no won’t harm their career prospects or change how you see them. 

Read more

Performance is fuelled by mental health.

Brilliant Minds: Mental Health Training for Leaders empowers your leaders to confidently support their colleagues' mental wellbeing when it matters most. Discover how Feel Good's innovative approach to mental health training is breaking through the noise and delivering incredible results.
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