The Mindful Leader: One Green Bean CEO Claire Salvetti

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AW360 speaks with One Green Bean’s Claire Salvetti about what being mentally healthy means to her.

Firstly, can you tell us your role? 

I’m the CEO of One Green Bean and an executive coach.

How long have you worked in the industry (and what was your first role)? 

Almost half my life! My first role was Account Assistant in the International Team at a PR agency in London. I recall feeling lucky to be offered a job there.

What does being mentally healthy mean to you?  

Mentally healthy is about being in a state of well-being in which you understand your potential, are willing and able to deal with everyday stress and can functionally contribute to society.

Can you tell us about a time when you realised your mental health was impacting your work or home life?

In the first half of my career, I was working in a fast-paced agency. The harder I worked, and the quicker I got through work, the more work came my way. I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling, I just got in earlier and stayed later.

How did this manifest itself?

After a particularly epic project in which I had more responsibility than I knew how to handle, I found myself crying on my own, late in the evening, whilst hiding in a boardroom.

My brain wouldn’t work and I couldn’t get through the most simple of tasks. When my manager eventually found me, she sent me home.

My manager then must have escalated my situation because not long after a very senior person said to me, “you’re burning yourself out so you can either get professional help or go to your mum’s”.

I chose my mum’s house because it felt less dramatic and I didn’t want to make a fuss. I don’t think I actually told my mum why I had gone home, I felt ashamed and horrified with myself for being so weak.

How did you overcome this challenge?

I spent a week at my mum’s, caught up on sleep and gained some perspective. I realised that I hadn’t helped myself by not communicating to my colleagues. It also felt like I was experiencing severe burnout, and that was scary enough to not want to get to that place again. Looking back now, I should have taken longer to recover, but I had a strong urge to get back to my team and not let anyone down. Since then, I have spoken out when I have felt overwhelmed and managed my boundaries better; there is no benefit from a stressed or burned out employee.

This experience has made me aware as a leader to spot the often-invisible signs of struggle, which enables an early conversation.

What do you do now to practice better mental health?

I have studied the psychology of peak performance as part of my executive coach training, during which the benefits of mindfulness were discussed at length. I used to scoff at people who meditate but now I appreciate the clarity I gain from daily practice.

What are the three things companies should do to create a mentally healthy workplace?

 Listen. Talk. Flex.

What are you doing at your own company to address mental wellbeing?

The above.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry? 

Good choice! Our industry is full of awesome people who come up with game-changing ideas and are seeking to better themselves. When you’re looking for a role, speak to as many people as possible to find out which companies have inspiring leaders who care about their people, implement flexible work practices and develop fulfilled employees.

Claire’s session, Mental Health: The Industry’s Big Issue is on at the ThinkTV Stage at 1:35 on Wednesday July 31. You can get your tickets to see Claire and over 150 other industry luminaries right here.

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