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Q&A with Ellice Whyte

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ellice Whyte , Director of Mindset and Business Psychologist

How could you describe your career path in few words?

Surprisingly I left school thinking I wanted to be a musician! I went to university to study music, and it was there that I discovered my passion for psychology whilst doing a music therapy module. I distinctly remember the first session being gripped by the neuroscience of music and instantly decided to spend the rest of the degree focusing on just that. I did a study looking at the impact of personalised music on Alzheimer’s for my dissertation, and that was it, I knew I had to do something in healthcare. After I graduated, I started working with people with dementia in a private care home. Although it was rewarding, I realised that working in mental health was my true vocation, so I retrained as a psychologist and never looked back! I’ve become a bit of a ‘serial learner’ since: I’m always doing courses and I’m currently completing my doctorate exploring the efficacy of mental health awareness training. I guess I’d say my career path has been unexpected and indirect because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and it took a while for me to find my feet compared to some. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

Unfortunately, I had quite a difficult start to my career when I was bullied at one of my first jobs. I had just finished university and was very keen and enthusiastic to be working and I was told I was too nice! I’d have thought being part of the team to support wellbeing and provide activities for our residents I would be ideal! But eventually, colleagues would exclude me from meetings, say unkind comments about me and give me evident looks of disapproval. At one point, we would be given money each month to spend on activities or treats for the residents and my team went without me and spent my allocated budget on rubbish. At that point, my unit manager stepped in and made a complaint for me (I was too scared to make things worse, which it did). Eventually, I was so sick with stress I ended up in the hospital having had symptoms of a TIA (mini-stroke) and the consultant told me it was likely stress-related. I learned how much of an impact our workplace can have an impact on our mental health and this experience is why I decided to specialise in occupational psychology and mental health in the workplace.

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think? I’m lucky to have an incredible support network with people I know I can rely on. When facing uncertainty, I’ve learnt that there are no prizes for going it alone, and talking to people you trust, and get diverse thoughts from, will often have the most successful outcomes. So, if I’m faced with an unusual or uncertain context, I stop and speak with people about what is going on, and what I am thinking or feeling and I will seek advice from people I trust and value their opinion. I have used a decision styles assessment tool to learn what my style of decision-making is (I really recommend this!) and this revealed that I am a very cautious decision-maker and like to weigh up all the facts and involve other people before I commit to a decision. This analytical approach has served me well to make a sensible and measured approach. However, at times it can be something that holds me back where I am taking too long to deliberate! But now that I am aware of this, it’s easier to recognise when I might need to get a move on!

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

The magic happens when you have created a psychologically safe environment for all. Being able to show up to work as our authentic selves, embrace our strengths, learn from our mistakes and speak up for our values and beliefs without fear of judgement and retribution is the climate that unlocks our potential and enables us to thrive at work. If someone feels frightened to put a foot wrong or not be themselves, they are not able to do their best work and you’ll likely see a high turnover, sickness absences (like me being sick with stress), conflict and complaints. If you want to be a successful leader: be inclusive and embrace diversity, connect with your team, appreciate each other, learn from your mistakes, support people to speak up and share ideas and trust each other. Psychological safety is the foundation of success in the business, but it can also be wonderful for our physical and mental health.

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