Over the past year I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with business leaders and leadership teams across the United States. I’ve been able to share with them many of the lessons I’ve learned through the course of my military career, lessons that span the gamut from leading through volatility to the human dimension of work. Of all the things I teach, the human dimension has developed into a passion and has evolved into the most important part of my work today.
Why is this? Because if the human system fails, we can’t do the rest of the work we’ve set out to do. It’s that simple.
On a very personal level, it's because I failed to listen to my own personal system when it sent me mission-critical signals...and I missed the opportunity of a lifetime to keep myself healthy enough to stay in the cockpit.
Articles and talks abound on the need to take time for self, on the need to make sure that the human system is functioning properly. At this point in time, there’s nothing revolutionary about suggesting that leaders and followers alike—people from all backgrounds and status levels—develop personal goals and take time out to achieve them. What might be considered revolutionary is getting people to actually follow-through with this part of the program…which is difficult to understand because the risk of not focusing on health means having to deal with the consequences down the road.
One of the popular ways in which many people begin the quest for their wellness is by setting the New Year’s resolution leading into a new year. However, in her article titled, “This is How Many People Actually Stick to Their New Year’s Resolutions”,author Ashley Moor cites a University of Scranton study suggesting that “only eight percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions will actually fulfill those goals in a timely fashion—if ever.”
Another popular way people advance their wellness is through work—companies of all sizes are increasingly offering wellness programs to help people become and then stay healthy.
However,In her blog titled, “Do Corporate Wellness Programs Really Work?”, author Briana Morgaine notes, “A recent RAND Corporation study found that while 85 percent of U.S. employers with 1,000 employees or more offered some form of wellness program, only 60 percent of employees at these companies were even aware that the program existed. Furthermore, of this 60 percent who knew that a wellness program was an option, only 40 percent actually participated in it.” In his Harvard Business Review article titled, “Employers Need to Recognize That Our Wellness Starts at Work”, author Jim Purcell notes, "Collectively, employers spend upward of $8 billiona year on wellness programs—yet the programs underperform by most measures, and barely 25% of employers even try to understand how well their programs do." How can this be, especially when metrics are so much a part of organizational life?
Supposing that these are the outliers—that the people we’re concerned with don’t just look at wellness as a New Year’s resolution-worthy event, and that they address their wellness needs outside of work—let’s look at how effective we are in the United States at “being healthy”. Jim Purcell suggests, “We all know that moderate exercise, proper diet, and not smoking are essentials for good health. Right? How many of us follow through on it? According to a 2016 study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2.7% of Americans meet this fairly low standard of healthy living.” 2.7%, my friends. 2.7% of us meet this very basic, very rudimentary standard, at least as of 2016.
The simple fact of the matter is that care and maintenance of the human system can’t afford to be relegated to “something I’ll get around to.” Quite the contrary, care and maintenance of the human system has to be one of the, if not THE priority in each of our professional lives, specifically because our health is the engine that enables us to race along doing all of the things we need to do to be successful leaders or contributors to the teams with which we work.
So how do we break the mold and gain traction in the world of personal wellness?
It’s actually incredibly simple: we follow the process that works so well to help our teams achieve their goals—The Debrief-Focused Approach™—and we apply it in our personal lives. We start by defining what success looks like in terms of our health and wellness and we set achievable, measurable, and time-constrained objectives to help us achieve this definition of success. We develop actionable health and wellness development plans and communicate these plans with the people in our lives that we know will hold us accountable.
We demand of ourselves the discipline to follow through with our plans, and we regularly debrief our progress. And in our debriefs we hold ourselves accountable for meeting our objectives and marching forward on attaining the success we’ve mapped out to achieve.
The fact of the matter is that we have the tools, the know-how, and the smarts to do what we need to do. Now it’s just a matter of DOING what we need to do…and doing it NOW.