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Influential Wellbeing Leaders - Meet Genevieve

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Genevieve Koolen

Genevieve Koolen

Human Resource Director

SAP Africa


Genevieve was appointed HRD for SAP Africa in June 2019. She moved here after a successful stint as CHRO of Neotel where she quickly established herself as a key member of the Executive Committee and Leadership team.

She is first and foremost a business leader who is experienced in operating across strategic and tactical areas of the business to implement imperatives to drive growth and sustainability of the business.

Prior to joining Corporate, Genevieve spend almost 20 years in Management Consulting honing her skills as a strategic implementer on various projects, programmes and initiatives in large scale organisations, industries and sectors.

She is also an experienced Human Resources Specialist who focuses on all aspects of Human Asset Management, including organisational re-structuring, organisational design, policy design and implementation and all other aspects of practical HR administration. Genevieve is an Industrial psychologist by training.

Connect with Genevieve via LinkedIn

"When YOUR Business affects THE Business, it becomes MY Business."

We reached out to Gen and asked her a few questions regarding Wellbeing and her valuable input is shared below:

This is such a good question and I think the answers lie in recognising how complex the world is right now … from micro to macro we are all feeling overwhelmed, the world is in an uncanny amount of trouble and leaders appear both scarce and unwilling to make some of the tough choices needed to pull us through to the other end… !

When taking account of global events one can be excused for thinking that in many ways all indications are that the current world view, axis of power and ways of thinking about the future are all coming unstuck – ( the end of the Petro dollar, the rapid emergence of AI and its impact on the world, the new alliances of world powers and the end of old empires) and not in a good way.

This creates a personal dilemma for many of us individually as we try to calibrate the rate and pace of change, recognise the uncertainty ahead and try to calibrate a future which is unknown and more than a bit apocalyptic….( wars, climate change, economic collapse…etc)

So when all systems are in turmoil we have to be careful not to over personalise the experiences of individuals as if they are the ones who are “not coping” with the craziness in the world and thus experiencing symptoms like heightened levels of anxiety, increased levels of depression, or worse a sense that life has no purpose or meaning beyond the drudgery of surviving the calamities of every day events…  ie load shedding, water outages, unemployment, social unrest, crime, violence, etc … what we have to do instead is give voice to the changes, uncertainties and craziness around us so that we create supportive places for people to articulate their feelings and be “held” while they explore and gain an understanding of the new world around them, so that they can re-orientate or recalibrate in a sustainable way…

No one disputes the negative impact of wars, catastrophic events, trauma and multiple social upheavals on peoples mental and physical health, we also know that well-being is both personal and collective so if we don’t take collective responsibility for understanding, facing and dealing with the social aspects of the world that make us feel “ill” then we ask individuals to take on the burden for societies social ills and ask them to deal with those alone. Workplaces are also social spaces and we must do what we can within the context of these spaces to openly discuss and understand where people are at and how the current changes in the world are impacting them within this context.

We hire whole beings who think and feel and get stressed and get ill due to the everyday stresses they face – focusing on wellbeing for everyone allows us to opportunities for facing, managing and thinking about the things that stress us and make us ill…. It takes away the burden that pathologizes mental health and it allows us to normalise our very real concerns and stresses  and supporting each other rather than turning en masse to the  pharmaceutical industry.

W A L K 

Every article I read seems to focus on the importance of taking a 20-30 minute walk every day preferably in the outdoors, connecting with nature, watching a sunrise or sunset and getting to move your body… adrenalin burning in our cells from perpetually heightened levels of anxiety can make one feel increased levels of despair and disconnection – where possible we must move and take some time to calm our nervous system by doing something pleasurable – and walking is accessible to all of us at no additional cost 😊 Also make a real effort to disconnect from social and other media as well – too much information can make us feel overwhelmed and more stressed about things that sit outside of our locus of control – this perpetuates our heightened stress levels.

Embrace the need to make people feel cared for in the most fundamental way (listen,  empathise, provide tools and create safe spaces) when people feel that you care about what’s important to them – they will in turn care for what’s important to you. Have empathy for the fact that everyone in your business from the receptionist to the COO is living a life which is as complex and complicated as your own and often they don’t have the advantage of being able to throw money at their problems. Be kind without infantilising people … everyone is adulting as much as you are!😊

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