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Confirmed Speaker - Gian Powers' Mental Health Role Models Make a Real Difference

One of the most exciting aspects of our work with This Can Happen is unearthing some truly amazing people to speak at the conference. Heroes, actually. People who have suffered greatly in the past and have harnessed the memories of their pain into innovative ways to help others. Here’s one such individual. As a former cog in the wheel of the corporate world, previous Deutsche Bank and PwC employee Gian Power witnessed first-hand some of the diversity and inclusivity issues that he felt simply had to be tackled. In 2015 he suffered his own personal tragedy that sparked his passion for creating change. Gian started looking for ways to work with corporates to ignite their employees' emotions in a new and unique way. And so TLC – The Lion’s Club – was born. TLC provides relatable role-models - TLC Lions - who share their own experiences with employees, highlighting a clear message and call to action through their talks. Gian has carefully selected 20 TLC Lions who are some of the most inspirational people in our country, including Dr Kamel Hothi OBE – Britain’s first Asian female banker and now advisor to The Queen and board member of Alzheimer’s UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Another TLC Lion is Paddington train crash survivor Pam Warren, known as the Lady in the Mask, and Matt Lindley, the RAF's first openly gay pilot. To date, clients including Rothschild, Lloyd's of London and Sony have benefited from The Lion’s Club’s unique offering. Gian took some precious time out of his crazy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Q. Please can you tell us a little bit about TLC. What was the inspiration and what's your mission?

A. TLC was founded in 2017 after I had spent a number of years in the corporate world and witnessed some of the diversity and inclusion issues that needed to be tackled. I was fortunate enough to see a number of guest speakers over the years but none left me full of emotion and wanting to take change, or not with the lasting impact. This is what I wanted to change. The urge for change was unexpected and unforeseen when in 2015 my own life was turned upside down and I found myself having to find what it was that made me tick. In May 2015 my father was murdered overseas and it changed my outlook forever. I realised that sharing how you feel in the workplace, as I did, was one of the most important tools. It not only makes you feel more included and allows you to be yourself but also makes you want to work harder and go the extra mile when you feel that those around you care. TLC is all about emotion and empathy and brings together a collective of 20 of the UK’s most inspiring people – ordinary people with extraordinary stories. They share powerful stories from the heart and land deep and important corporate messages and calls to action. TLC is on a mission to ignite emotion within organisations in London and globally. Our Lions (taken from my middle name Lion) have been carefully selected, coached and have incredible stories to share whilst understanding the importance of relating it back to a corporate audience. From London to Belgium, Singapore and beyond we’re working with companies such as Sony Pictures, GSK, Lloyd’s of London and RPC to bring out the empathy that lies within all of us to make for more inclusive and welcoming workplaces.

Q. Do you feel that corporates in the UK are currently doing enough (if anything at all) to tackle mental health problems faced by staff?

A. This differs greatly by company and industry. I’ll be very honest in saying I’ve had friends hospitalised because of poor mental health and wellbeing support in their workplaces and this is simply not good enough. Companies are however now opening up and understanding the importance of mental health problems at work. Realising that wellbeing programmes are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but quite simply a business imperative and have a direct impact on the productivity of their teams and the bottom line of the company. As well as having programmes and wellbeing schemes in place, they have to be made aware of for employees and made easily accessible. Often for companies we have to position it as ‘what’s in it for them’ i.e. a happier and more productive workforce. A PwC report in 2017 showed that 83% of employees surveyed saw a direct link between their wellbeing at work and how productive they are. With that in mind it’s a no brainer that to produce a more productive workforce, investing in their mental health and wellbeing is fundamental. It makes ethical and business sense.

Q. Is this an industry specific problem or is it apparent across the board?

A. Some industries are well known for longer hours, sleepless nights and although we can’t’ change that overnight, it’s now about putting other programmes and plans in place to support that lifestyle. My experience is from a banking and financial one and I’ve seen suicides and breakdowns because of poor support. This has to change. The answer for me is that with TLC clients, regardless of industry, there is an issue that needs to be tackled and some are taking it more seriously than others. Those at the top of organisations need to really believe and understand mental health and the effect on their employees. It’s for this reason we have 5 Lions focussed solely on Mental Health at TLC – sharing their stories first hand to help, educate and guide others.

Q. How do you identify and approach TLC role models?

A. Initially I had reached out to potential Lions, having a coffee and really getting to know them on a personal level. As TLC has evolved, a number of our new Lions join because of word of mouth. Note that TLC Lions are not seasoned public speakers, many have other day jobs. They share their stories to inspire others, to be role models and because they care. They speak with an element of rawness, realness and relatability. I have met over 70 people and have been very careful to bring on the right Lions who align with the TLC brand and values and importantly many of our Lions have an element of corporate experience which really allows them to tailor their messaging to the audience and be incredibly relatable.

Q. How can they help?

A. Our Lions speak from the heart, sharing real stories that have impacted them and those around them at work or at home. Often emotional but equally uplifting sessions, Lions are coached 1-1 by a TLC senior advisor Dr Kamel Hothi OBE who has 40+ years at Lloyd’s Banking group and is brilliant at ensuring stories are authentic but impactful to the audience. Building empathy isn’t the easiest of tasks but at TLC we believe that by storytelling and igniting emotions in the audience is a key way to urge others to think differently and to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. We leave employees thinking about their own actions, changes they are going to make going forward and hopefully being more mindful with their words and actions.

Q. Can everyday people relate to role models who are exceptional people or have experienced exceptional things?

A. I truly believe everyone has a story they’d like to share if we were willing to take the time and to listen. TLC Lions share their stories to encourage others to speak out in the workplace about their own emotions and feelings and we’ve seen this happen first hand at events. The experiences of our Lions may sound unique but the underlying themes be it mental health, coming out in the LGBT community or finding inner strength in times of tragedy affect all of us and so the messages are extremely relatable. We all face challenges be it at work or in our home life and one really can affect the other. Our Lions try to encourage others to recognise that and not be afraid to show some level of vulnerability when at work. TLC is for all.

Q. Mental health is a buzzword. Are we doing enough and what more should we be doing?

A. In the short 5 years since I started my corporate career, a lot has changed both in the workplace and socially. The once ‘stigma’ that was attached to talking about mental health is being removed thanks to many of the brave individuals who have spoken out and shared their own experiences. There is a lot more that can be done and that we will do but it’s also important to stop, reflect and look at how far we have come as individuals, companies or as a nation to support mental health and wellbeing at work and at home.

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This Can Happen plays a crucial role in bringing together businesses from different sectors to share best practice. It’s an inspirational event full of progressive thinking and practical case studies on all aspects of mental health.

Tim Skelter, Corporate Affairs, Quilter