Scottish hospitality industry given leadership and culture advice from students in response to mental health fears

Principal of George Heriot’s School, Lesley Franklin

The LEADING communicator in progressive business thinking and opinion, EP Business in Hospitality, hosted a special debate forum for the hospitality industry at The Bonham Hotel in Edinburgh.

During the forum, Principal of George Heriot’s School, Lesley Franklin spoke about the challenges we face as a society today regarding stress and anxiety levels and also how schools like George Heriot’s is rising to the challenge by ensuring the right values are in place for its students.  

When it comes to creating a high-performance, successful and resilient workplace culture, businesses have a lot to learn and the debate was designed to help hospitality leaders to take inspiration from other sectors. 

Speaking alongside four of her students who each spoke with confidence and eloquence on what, until more recently, has been a difficult and taboo topic, Franklin addressed a number of Scottish business leaders who were in attendance about the need to place kindness as the foundation stone to culture.

Franklin explained: “It is important to help develop the mental resilience of students as well as possessing a mind-set that has kindness at its core. This changes the culture and creates a “safe” environment for people to talk and have a voice as well as to fail and grow. Too often environments are driven by a fear factor and a feeling of insecurity. It is important today to ensure that people feel safe in their environment whether at school or at work.”

Leaders heard how the approach implemented by George Heriot’s starts with four core pillars, ensuring that the right values are in place and are built on a strong belief in kindness.  The school also fosters a culture of speaking out and having the freedom to talk. Mental health education sits within the curriculum and real-time is dedicated to it. 

Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality, who hosted the event commented: “It is interesting that schools like George Heriot’s are instilling these values within their own communities, especially as many businesses are also asking how they can find the same values in their own talent. The question posed by Lesley is that it does need to be part of your culture and therefore starts with your approach to leadership. One of the features of Lesley’s talk that really struck home is the link to honesty and openness within the school, which in turn, creates a greater understanding, compassion and safety in talking about the issue. This was well illustrated by the four students who all spoke about their own experiences.”

The mental health issue is becoming a discussion piece on all board tables and across several industries. George Heriot’s School is a live role model and case study for some of the changes that are taking place and needed. 

Sheppardson added: “One of the most common conversations that we face today is answering the question as to how much is investment is needed to make the necessary changes to culture and also the cost associated with addressing mental health. Only yesterday, a senior industry player asked me ‘What would you do if I gave you a £100,000 to work with?’ The answer is, changes have far less to do with cost and far more to do with culture, mind-set, values, leadership and structure.”

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