We should thank our lucky stars that President John F. Kennedy wasn’t a former workplace wellness expert. If he was, back on May 25, 1961, he would have challenged the nation, “…to set up a certification program that follows best practices in getting a U.S. space satellite program up and running to slow the rising cost of communications.”
But that’s not what he said. He was inspirational. Instead, he set a national goal of “…landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. The people needed and wanted to hear that. They wanted to achieve that goal. They wanted to be told they could do it.
Think Big. Act Big.
Unlike Healthy People 2000… 2010… and now 2020, the nation didn’t fall backward and miss every goal. We did exactly what President Kennedy envisioned for us. We set up the Apollo Program, then nailed the goal. And we did so out of a belief that pursuing and achieving that goal would be transformative. And it was. We also did so out of fear that the USSR would become more technologically advanced than America with all the implications that circumstance would have entailed.
Inspiration and Fear Conspired to Move Us
Not only did we have the advantage of thinking big, we acted big, too. There was no certification program, no example to follow, and no model. We had to fail fast at hundreds of tasks to know what did work. We had to immerse ourselves in the problems that faced us and take them on daily. We had to recruit new talent and invite new ideas. We have to have that attitude now in wellness and public health.
Having a truly healthy population, a nation of well individuals, is our best chance to rebuild our country’s economic engine. It’s time we step up and get with it.
Here’s The Right Stuff to Build a Well Nation
- Community: Let’s stop talking about “workplace” wellness and start talking about “community” wellness. Tap into the existing resources within a five-mile radius of where you live and work. Piggyback and utilize every program, natural asset, educational opportunity, and event. Team up with other workplaces, schools, and organizations. Drop the duplication of efforts and work together. Literally get everyone moving!
Wellness coaches could be hired by workplace partnerships to tie your entire community together as a resource and wellness focal point.
- Energy: Don’t measure wellness outcomes in terms of lower health-care costs. That is a symptom not a goal. Measure outcomes in how innovation, inspiration, and energy flow from people into your business. Make sure people want to be there, that they love their work, and that they’re making a contribution. Make sure your culture is vibrant and buzzing, and that there is room for humor and fun. Wellness should be in the DNA of your core competencies and daily tasks.
- Performance: Quit talking about health-risk reduction or health-risk management. If I hear one of those piss-ant terms one more time, I am going to scream. Talk about higher performance, greater production, and higher efficiency as the characteristics that you need in your business to be competitive in today’s world, and then how those attributes can only come from the people who are in that business.
- Vision: The only ROI you need to wring your hands over is your organization’s growth. NASA lost some great astronauts in trying to accomplish its missions over the years. Rockets blew up. The problems to solve and overcome were mind boggling, but NASA kept its eye on the moon. What are you keeping your eye on? If it’s on claims data or trying to make sense of arcane statistics, here’s a little advice: STOP! Instead, start looking at what competitive advantage you can give your folks. If you develop a “can do” culture, a winning attitude, a solid game plan, then all the costs data starts taking care of itself. At some point, it makes more sense to make $2 instead of trying to cut another $1.
- Leadership: Set an example. Participate in the community activities you’ll be supporting. Have walking meetings. Eat better. Congratulate people who are trying to improve personally and professionally. Do some of the hard things yourself for no other reason than your need to walk-the-talk and show 100% buy-in. Lead shoulder-to-shoulder. That old adage that “what you do is more important than what you say” is true.
- Attitude: Wellness is not a business strategy. It’s not a tangible, measurable entity. It’s an attitude, a way of living. Sometimes, we tell people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Wellness lives in the person who not only takes the stairs but does so two steps at a time, without even thinking about it. Wellness is a life of possibility, curiosity, high energy, and drive. Managing illness is a long-term proposition for managing low performance.
We’ve got to raise the bar. My Dad always told us (kids) we would be successful in life because everyone around us expected a lot out of us. They did, and then we did, too. My message to presidents, boards, business owners, and managers is to take full responsibility for how to support your people and your communities in achieving superior wellness.
I am an optimist. I still think we have the Right Stuff.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read, and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.