NCHN Blog

Looking Up or Looking Down?

Jay Seifert
Feb 3, 2014 03:59 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Looking Up or Looking Down?

It’s February 4th which means, among other things, that January is already history.  Did you know that January is named after Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions?  He’s usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. 

So on January first we all made like Janus by saying goodbye to 2013 and looking to a new year of fresh beginnings and positive transitions.  (The comedian George Burns said, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”) 

A month ago we talked about giving ourselves the gift of a good start by deciding what’s important and setting goals that are consistent with what we value.  By behaving with intention, we become mindful of our moment-by-moment opportunities to engage in behaviors that will enable us to reach those goals.

So now that we’re 34 days into our year of living with intention, how’s it going?  (I mean, beside the fact that it has been ridiculously cold, the groundhog saw his shadow, the Super Bowl had too little excitement and the ACA has way too much.)  Other than that, are things looking up, or down? 

Personally and professionally, are you still energized to elevate your intentions and your actions? 

Remember, intentional living isn’t about setting projections for future behavior.  It’s about setting “smart goals” (that means they are specific, realistic, measurable and attainable) and then “transitioning” toward those goals.  Here’s how:   

  1. Be Mindful Just be aware of what’s happening.  Most people move through transitions on “automatic pilot.”  Be conscious, focused and deliberate.  Slow down, take a step back to observe and think about how your actions support your goals.
  2. Be Specific.  What do you want to transition into?  What specific changes do you need to make to get there?  Organizationally, do you want to improve communications, reduce conflict, boost morale or encourage team-building?  Personally, do you want to find a better work-life balance, reduce some of the stressors in your life or improve your lunch-time eating habits? 
  3. Be Positive.  Many of us focus more energy and attention on what we want to avoid than what we want to create.  Reframe the conversation you have with yourself and others.  Replace the negatives (“I don’t have enough . . . I can’t . . . This will never work . . .) with language that reflects a positive, but realistic expectation of success “We have the resources we need . . . I am improving . . . this will be successful . . . ).  
  4. Take Ownership.  Now that you know what you want and have the opportunity to get it, decide what you are going to do to make it happen.  It’s easier to identify what you want others to do than it is to figure out what you must do to reach your goals.  Your power comes from owning what you want to do and doing it.  
  5. Take a Deep Breath.    Anxiety decreases when we take action, so identifying and focusing on what you are going to do will help move you from a state of worry to a state of empowerment.

Next month we’ll focus on two NCHN member networks that are acting with intention in order to give the gift of a good start to their members, their partners and the people and communities they serve.  

For them, on this fourth day of February, things are definitely looking up.

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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Giving Yourself the Gift of a Good Start

Jay Seifert
Jan 6, 2014 03:07 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Giving Yourself the Gift of a Good Start

I know there’s been a lot of gifting going on the last couple of weeks and many of us may be more interested in thinking about how to pay for all that gift-giving, rather than thinking about getting yet another gift.  Besides, isn’t it better to give than receive?  Why not do both?

You can by giving yourself the gift of a good start.  It doesn’t cost anything and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  

Here’s all you do . . . simply behave with intention.  Decide what’s important to you and set goals that are consistent with what you value.  Then be mindful of your moment-by-moment opportunities to engage in behaviors that will enable you to reach those goals.

How is this any different than making New Year’s resolutions (also known as “a to-do list” for the first week of January)?   The difference is simple and profound.  Making a resolution is thinking about doing something.  Living with intention is doing it.  Pablo Picasso sums it up nicely:  

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”

A couple of years ago a friend recommended a novel titled The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.  It’s worth reading if only because the narrator is a wise, old Yellow Lab named Enzo.  But it’s also a really engaging story about navigating life’s ordeals and doing so with intention:

“Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”

So how do we give ourselves this gift of living with intention?

By applying these practices as we begin this New Year:

  • Take the time to engage in personal reflection.  Slow down and think about the goals you want to accomplish this year.  Write it down and make it happen. 
  • Set your intention.  Decide what you want to experience and direct your mental and emotional energy to invite, imagine and begin to experience it now.
  • Make conscious choices.  Be mindful that you have a choice in every situation and then chose thoughts and actions that support the life experience you desire. 

If your intention is clear and you are emotionally invested in it, then your moment-by-moment choices are made through the filter of whether they will support or detract from your ability to reach your goals. 

This gift of a good start will pay benefits to you, your family and your networks for the entire year. 

Here’s to an Epic 2014!

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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I resolve that in 2014 I will . . .

Jay Seifert
Dec 2, 2013 01:54 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

I resolve that in 2014 I will . . .

Ready or not, it’s that time of year again.  Out with the old, in with the new.  A new year, a new opportunity to get a fresh start.   For the last four millennia, we humans have been marking the New Year by vowing to get rid of some of our bad habits and generally improve our behavior.  Back in 2000, B.C. the Babylonians vowed to pay off all their debts and return all the stuff they borrowed during the previous year.  This New Year most of us Americans will vow to lose weight, adopt healthier habits, save more money and get more organized.  But, unlike previous years, this time we’re actually going to do it.  Really.  Seriously.  We mean it, this year will be different. 

For network leaders seeking to improve the health status of their networks, their partners and the communities they serve, this is an opportunity to take advantage of this renewed interest in working toward healthier habits, and ultimately, better health.  

But as you know, most resolutions aren’t kept. And if you’ve been reading these posts, you’ll anticipate that I’m about to say that the reason for that has a lot to do with the expectations people have about their ability to be successful.  Here are a few things to pass along that will help create the realistic expectation of success.

  • Problems aren’t necessarily solved just because you have the information needed to solve them.  They are solved when people are motivated and take the actions they already know they need to take.
  • Unfortunately, the easiest solution to an important problem is usually not the best solution.  If it was easy, you would have been successful a long time ago.  
  • To be successful, you can’t be afraid to fail. And that’s OK because that’s how we learn.  Armed with the right “toolkit” and the realistic expectation of success, you will continue to take steps in a positive direction.  With each small success, the fear of failure subsides.
  • Those initial successes will lead to the realization that realistic, personal resolutions can lead to real, sustainable change. The rewards that came from a bag of chips or vegging out on the sofa all afternoon are replaced by the rewards that come from making better choices—more energy, lower weight and better health. and the powerful and self-affirming realization that you been successful. 

When even a few people in your network experience even modest success and it is shared with their co-workers, it fosters a new culture within your organization where healthier behaviors are learned, adopted, shared and sustained.

Four weeks from today is New Year’s Eve.  This is a perfect time to begin to plan a positive, realistic strategy to support your people and their personal goals.  Doing so is a Win-Win-Win.  As network leaders, you can provide the direction and support necessary to make it happen. 

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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Clara Peller Would Have Been Proud

Jay Seifert
Nov 4, 2013 01:03 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Clara Peller: Would Have Been Proud

Who would have been proud? 

If the name, Clara Peller doesn’t ring a bell, how about this:  “Where’s the Beef?”  Some of you are going “Oh, that Clara Peller.”  But for those of you who don’t know (and haven’t already Googled it), in 1984, Wendy’s Restaurants began a television ad campaign where Ms. Peller, an 81 year-old character actress orders a hamburger from a fictional Wendy’s competitor that turns out to be a whole lot of bun and very little beef, causing her to exclaim: “Where’s the Beef?”  This quickly became a catchphrase for any situation lacking substance or content and even became a slogan in that year’s presidential election campaign.

And why would she be proud?

I think Ms. Peller (who, unfortunately, is no longer with us), would have been proud of the fact that those network leaders who attended last month’s NCHN Leadership Summit never had to ask themselves “Where’s the Beef?” Unlike so many conferences where you really have to wonder just what the real “take away” value is, I’m confident that the Summit participants returned to their networks knowing that they had received real-world, high value insights and information that they could apply directly to their networks. 

After way too many years attending way too many conferences, it’s both refreshing and encouraging to have been a part of a conference experience that actually delivered on its promise to provide sufficient value to justify the cost of attendance.  The credit for this goes to both the conference organizers—and the participants and the fact that the sessions were interactive, experience-based, timely and relevant.     

What does any of this have to do with leadership and organizational health and well-being?  Actually, a lot.  The Leadership Summit took place at the beginning of the 15-day government shutdown.  This provided dramatic, if unnecessary, proof  that the need for “High Performance Collaboration in High Pressure Chaos” that Mary Kay Chess addressed in her workshop is much more real than theoretical. Clearly, today’s networks will continue to be asked to do more with less and do so in an increasingly chaotic environment.

And then (just to keep the “fun” in “dysfunctional”), the Health Insurance Marketplaces opened with what can only be described as a resounding “thud” and we now face many more questions than answers regarding the status and future of the ACA.  In addition to all the other challenges networks are facing, there is now increasing uncertainty regarding how and when we will implement healthcare reform. 

So what’s a network leader to do?  Well, how about doing what the Leadership Summit participants are doing?  While the politicians and policy-makers continue the negative, partisan and escalating debate about how to provide and pay for healthcare, these leaders have teamed-up to start a new, positive conversation about how each of us can engage in a small collective action and begin to take charge of our own health and well-being.

These leaders are aware of the impact the declining health status of their members is having on their organizations.  And they understand that in order to be effective leaders and role models, they must be willing to “walk the talk.”   So, they have challenged themselves and each other to successfully navigate this holiday season without experiencing the average American adult’s  3 – 5 pound weight gain.  By setting and meeting a realistic and highly-achievable goal, they will demonstrate to their networks and their partners that no matter what happens in Washington, D.C., each of us has the skills, resources, and the opportunity to make modest, but meaningful improvements in our own health and well-being.  Let me know if you would be interested in joining these leaders in this Help Me Through the Holidays Challenge.

What have you got to lose?

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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2013 NCHN Leadership Summit

Jay Seifert
Sep 30, 2013 03:30 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

The 2013 NCHN Leadership Summit

It’s my fondest expectation that I will see many of you at this year’s Summit, which begins today in Austin.  For those of you who aren’t attending, I regret that you won’t be here to enjoy Austin’s many charms and take advantage of the absolutely gorgeous early-fall weather we’re having.  And since you won’t be able to attend my presentation, here’s a synopsis of what we’ll be covering.

The official title of the presentation is:

How to Have Fun and Find Success with Leadership
And Organizational Health and Become

More Popular and Better Looking in the Process

(I wanted to share that with you in order to make you feel better about missing this year’s summit.)  Actually, everything we mention in that title can happen.  The question is, does it create the realistic expectation that it will happen?  If you’ve been following these monthly posts, you know that when it comes to intrinsically-motivated behavior change, expectations are everything. 

Today’s network directors face unprecedented real-world challenges and the last thing we want to do is create a set of unrealistic expectations about what is and is not possible.  So here’s the “Keeping it Real” title of our presentation, something more in line with what a network director might be thinking:

Say What? This can’t be Fun.  I’m already a Successful Leader.  Organizational Health is an Unattainable Myth.  Who Needs Popular? And as For “Better Looking,” How do you Improve upon Perfection?

So my job during the presentation is to respond to each of these challenges by:

  • Telling the truth
  • Sharing what we’ve learned over the last 8 years
  • Creating the realistic expectation that today’s NCHN director already possesses every skill, every resource, all the knowledge and the opportunity to improve the health status of their networks, their partners and the communities they serve.

And we have to be able to do so with a full understanding of the many profound challenges facing today’s rural healthcare providers.

We’ll explore:

  • What is the leader’s role?  
    Providing the vision and inspiration necessary for constructive change is only the beginning.  But what is realistically possible?
  • Burden or opportunity?         
    How a subtle, but fundamental shift in perspective can make the difference between success and failure.
  • Carrot or stick (or none of the above)?          
    Do your employees believe the initiative is being done to them or for them?
  • Top-down or bottom-up?       
    While the organization’s leaders must start the process, its sustainability will depend on whether its employees have taken ownership of the initiative.
  • Team-building            
    A well-defined, short-cycle team-building challenge will much more than increase health status.  It will improve communication, morale, and engagement while strengthening a shared sense of mission.
  • Emerging leaders       
    When your employees believe that everyone, regardless of their condition, has something to contribute, as well as something to gain, and they prove that they can be successful; they become powerful influencers within the organization. 

This will give you some sense of what we’ll be covering at the summit.  Unfortunately, having fun, getting a better personality and becoming better looking only happen at the summit.  Hope to see you next year. 

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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The Collaborative Leader

Jay Seifert
Sep 4, 2013 08:04 AM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

The Collaborative Leader

OK, just what does that mean?  Over the past six months, these posts have discussed a number of attributes usually ascribed to an effective leader.  Being collaborative hasn’t been one of them.  In fact, one of the meanings of the word “collaborator” is “someone who willingly assists an enemy of one’s country.”  Not very leader-like.

But here’s something interesting.  We just celebrated Labor Day and the word “collaborate” comes from the Latin com + laborare which means “to labor together.”  And since collaboration will be a recurring theme at this year’s NCHN Leadership Summit, this seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up.  And, on top of that, Diana Nyad just completed her historic Cuba-to-Florida 110-mile swim.  Not only did the 64 year-old proclaim and demonstrate that she’s in her prime (something that ought to gladden the hearts of all of us over the age of 50), as she walked on shore she said:

"I got three messages.  One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams.  Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."

In other words, it was a collaborative effort.  So, based on all of the above, let’s see how big a stretch we have to make to connect the ability to collaborate with effective leadership.

As it turns out, not much of a stretch at all.  The idea of Collaborative Leadership originated in the 1990’s in reference to emerging strategic alliances between private corporations and public sector organizations.  Those leaders were able to deliver results across traditional boundaries and do so in a way that would create value, deliver social benefit and generate wealth. 

Today’s network leader has an opportunity to do just that.  By working effectively (collaborating) with both private and public stakeholders, they are uniquely situated to assume a leadership role in addressing an issue that is having a profound impact on their organizations, their partners and the communities they serve—our escalating healthcare cost crisis.  More importantly, they have the ability to do so in a way that will deliver multiple tangible and lasting benefits to their network.

“And just where do I find the time to do all of this?” you ask.  Very fair question given the multiple challenges facing today’s networks and their partners.  And the answer is the same one we give our Team Esteem Challenge participants: 

  • Ask yourself what will happen if you take no action.
  • Be mindful of the opportunities to make modest but meaningful improvements in a few low-risk, high-return behaviors.
  • Use these initial achievements to provide the self-belief that further achievements are possible.
  • Create an environment that fosters well-being so healthier behaviors can be learned, adopted, shared and sustained.

If this sounds too good to be true, I invite you to attend our session, "How Leading By Learning In the Face of Mounting Obstacles Makes For An Awesome Leader," on October 1st at this year’s NCHN Leadership Summit  You’ll have an opportunity to be a part of the NCHN / LoneStartNow Collaboration to demonstrate to your network and your partners, other NCHN members, the communities you serve and anyone else who cares about the declining health status of our nation just what can be accomplished if we heed the wise words of Margaret Mead: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
Committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed,
It is the only thing that ever has.”

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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The Incredible, Credible Leader

Jay Seifert
Aug 5, 2013 08:35 AM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

The Incredible, Credible Leader

Wait. That’s a contradiction, isn’t it? After all, to say that someone is “credible” means they are believable, trustworthy and reliable.  If they are “incredible,” we’re saying they are unbelievable or not to be trusted, right? Well, yes—and no. Because it can also mean they are extraordinary, as in “Her’s was an incredible story of perseverance and triumph.”  In fact, we often use the word “incredible” to describe something that’s really, really good. “Wow, that’s incredible (fabulous, fantastic, far-out)!”

So what does it take to be the incredible credible leader of an organization that is committed to improving the health status of its members?  It’s really pretty simple—it means you are believable and can be trusted.  But once again, simple isn’t always easy.

Think about the leaders who have had the greatest influence on your life.  Chances are, you would ascribe a whole host of positive attributes to them, including inspirational, energizing, sincere, competent, committed.  And they were credible because you trusted that what they said and did was honest and important.  They were doing the right things for the right reasons.  But most importantly, their credibility was earned and reinforced over time.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you strive to enhance the credibility of your efforts to instill a new culture of well-being in your organization:

Core Values

What are the core values that you will not violate as you move forward?  Are your actions consistent with these values?

Integrity

Does everyone believe you are doing the right things for the right reasons?  Are you keeping the promises you make?  In the unlikely event that you would (gasp) make a mistake, do you own up to it and correct it as soon as possible?

Authenticity

Your intentions are clearly stated and your actions are consistent with your intentions.

Communications

Are you not only speaking clearly, but listening clearly as well?  Are you depending on familiar “catch phrases” and jargon to establish your credibility on the subject of health and well-being or are you expressing your beliefs in terms that are relevant and realistic to your audience?  Do people believe their questions, comments and concerns are being heard and are important to you?

Transparency

It’s hard to trust what you cannot see.  As you propose and implement your initiative to improve the health status of your organization, have you left any doubt as to your motives?  Is the initiative clearly understood in terms of how it will be implemented and measured?  Does everyone understand the individual and organizational rewards and sanctions for participation and results?  

The credibility you earn and exhibit is critical to your ability to lead your organization in the creation of a new culture of health and well-being.  When a leader demonstrates the ability to (as we say in almost every one of these posts) “walk the talk,” they build trust, confidence and enthusiasm for a shared organizational objective.

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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Jay Seifert
Jul 1, 2013 12:54 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Leadership and Organizational Health:
Why “Nuts and Bolts” beats “Bells and Whistles” Every Time.

Way back around 1980, employee healthcare costs were consuming around 7 percent of corporate profits and trending upwards.  “Corporate America” responded to this issue in a way that was utterly logical—they outsourced the issue to the “experts.”  Large employers began contracting with places like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic to develop strategies to reverse this trend—and the “workplace wellness” movement was born.

The strategy was to focus on knowledge and skill-acquisition.  So they brought in dietitians, physical therapists and trainers to tell employees what they needed to know in order to get healthier.  “Do this, don’t do that.  Eat this, don’t eat that.”  This “diet and exercise” model quickly became standard workplace wellness strategy.

How well has this model performed in these last 30-some years?  Not well.  By 2006, over 50 percent of corporate profits went to employee healthcare and today about 86 percent of all full-time employees are obese and/or have at least one chronic illness.  By any standards, the “diet and exercise” model has failed to either improve the health status of employees or contain employee healthcare costs.

As Employee Benefit News put it in 2006:

“There’s a lot of ignorance out there in terms of what works and what does not,
and a lot of what doesn’t is being put in place by employers.”

Unfortunately, this is truer today than when it was written. According to the most recent Rand report on wellness, employers are now spending an average of $1,000 per employee on wellness programs and incentives while the health status of their employees continues to decline. 

There are several reasons why this is true, but one critical factor is that today’s $6 billion workplace wellness industry is profitable because it is designed more for scalability than effectiveness.  As a result, their programs tend to be:

  • More passive than active
  • More “top-down” than “bottom-up”
  • More on-line than in-person
  • More “bells & whistles” than “nuts & bolts”

Let’s look at two specific offerings that are promoted not because they are effective, but because they are profitable:

Health Risk Assessments

While they have a legitimate role in disease management, HRA’s are an unnecessary,  expensive and often counter-productive component of most traditional wellness initiatives.

  • Several studies have shown that not only are HRA’s unnecessary, they can actually be dangerous by giving a completely false sense of health status, both on an individual and on an aggregate level.
  • The problem is that common “white lies” become the “new truth” when committed to paper or online during a HRA. People leave the experience believing they’re healthier than they are, and that although they could stand to improve a few things, there’s not that much to worry about.
  • HRAs keep us preoccupied with health risks, or health failures, when we should really be focused on those aspects of health that directly improve our productivity and lower our health care costs.

Health Coaching

This is a little trickier, because the right kind of health coaching can be very effective, especially when it invites and encourages the active participation of the individual being coached.  Unfortunately, because of the provider’s emphasis on scalability and profitability, health coaching is often:

  • Intrusive, one-directional and confrontational   
  • Intended more to check on participant compliance than to respond to their specific needs at that moment in time 
  • The cause of resentment and suspicion and reinforces the notion that this program is “being done to me, not for me.”

Here’s where the “Nuts & Bolts” come in.  Most people want to be healthy and most will respond positively to a message that is:

  • Simple
  • Positive
  • Concrete
  • Credible

The good news is that this can be accomplished simply by inviting your employees to be a part of a new conversation about health and wellness and keeping that conversation renewed and refreshed.  The better news is that it costs very little money to accomplish this.  That’s good for you and your organization, but not so good for traditional wellness providers.

You have to wonder just whose bottom line is really benefiting from all those “Bells and Whistles,” theirs or yours?

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.   

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Jay Seifert
Jun 3, 2013 11:45 AM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Leadership and Organizational Health:
Why Wellness Doesn't Work

Does this sound familiar?

“Every year we do Health Risk Assessments, offer on-line coaching and support and have a health fair.  And every year we have health insurance premium increases because our high-risk employees aren’t changing their behavior and every year there are more of them.”

Unfortunately this sad refrain is something we hear more and more often when talking with leaders about their efforts to contain their employee healthcare costs.  The fact is that the vast majority of wellness programs fail to do what they’re intended to do: reduce healthcare costs.   

You may have seen a recent Reuters article about a RAND report prepared for HHS: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/24/us-wellness-idUSBRE94N0XX20130524  This article has created quite a bit of controversy and if you read it, you’ll see why. 

According to Reuters, the RAND report concludes that:

  • “Programs that try to get employees to become healthier and reduce medical costs have only a modest effect.” 
  • “People who participate in such programs lose an average of only one pound a year for three years.” 

If this is true, wellness programs aren’t delivering much “bang for the buck.” According to the latest figures available, the average cost of traditional wellness programs is over $170 per employee year and companies are spending an average of $521 on program incentives.  So, according to the RAND study, these companies are spending almost $700 per employee to achieve a one pound weight loss!  That’s a terrible R.O.I.  It’s no wonder so many organizations suffer from what we call “wellness fatigue.”  They know they need to address the declining health status of their organization, but despite these considerable costs, there’s hardly any return.

So, what can we do?  Well, we can start to be a little more logical about what it takes to actually “move the needle” on an organization’s escalating employee health cost curve. 

If the “Godfather of Logic,” Aristotle were writing this article, he might put it like this:

  • If we want to bend the cost-curve, we must change outcomes.
  • If we want to change outcomes, we must change behavior.
  • If we want to change behavior, we must change the way we think.
  • If we want to change the way we think, we must instill two beliefs:
    • This is worth doing     (I’m motivated)
    • I can do this    (I’m confident )

After all, that’s only logical, right? 

So here’s my take-away for the Reuters article:

  • “Traditional wellness barely scratches the surface.”
  • "The strongest predictor of whether someone will lose weight or stop smoking is how motivated they are."
  • “Initiatives succeed if they have senior level support and a high degree of employee engagement in healthier behaviors.”

If visible, authentic leadership wasn’t essential to a successful initiative, we wouldn’t be doing this column.  And if you attended our presentation in New Orleans, you know that without genuine, sustainable participant engagement, we won’t change outcomes:  http://youtu.be/4H-cNGMyYJY

Think of it this way.  “Before we can get in shape from the neck-down, we need to get in shape from the neck-up,” and the “same-old, same-old” way of doing things keeps missing this unalterable fact.

And as far as Aristotle is concerned, what was true back in 350 B.C.E. is still true today.  But it makes me wonder, if Aristotle was around today, would he be an Apple or P.C. guy and do you think he would bother to Google himself?

Next month:  Why “Nuts and Bolts” beats “Bells and Whistles.” Every Time.

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or jseifert@lonestartnow.com.    

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Leadership and Organizational Health: Overcoming Barriers

Jay Seifert
May 6, 2013 12:44 PM

Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

Leadership and Organizational Health:
Overcoming Barriers

(If you missed Jay’s presentation at the conference, here are two video clips, one from the opening, the other from the conclusion: http://youtu.be/2gZhSNEBGDE http://youtu.be/1DcU5h00rBA )

There is now widespread agreement that our declining health status is an issue we can no longer ignore or defer.  And most of us are beginning to understand that it’s an issue in which we all have a very big stake. 

Link to Video: Wellness OpeningIf those two sentences seem familiar, it’s because they were the first two sentences in last month’s article on Leadership and Organizational Health.  Why repeat them?  Because these are the premises upon which all of the articles in this series are based and I am sincerely interested in knowing if you agree or disagree.  If you disagree, then I would love to have a conversation with you.  You might be right and, if you are, I’ll learn a lot.  If you agree, I’d like to know that as well because that will lead to the next questions, which are:

  • Does your organization actively promote the health and well-being of its members? 
  • Can you name specific actions you take to do so?
  • If you aren’t actively promoting better health, why not?
  • What are the barriers that keep you from doing so?   

These are interesting questions to pose to leaders whose organization’s mission is to improve the health status of the communities and individuals they serve.

Here’s why:  If I were to ask if your organization discourages smoking, you would probably be a little insulted and wonder why I would ask such a stupid question.  Of course it does.  You can easily list a number of specific actions you have taken to reduce the use of tobacco in your organization.

But here’s a tougher question:  Can you list specific actions you consistently take to encourage better nutritional practices and increased physical activity within your organization?  That’s usually a harder question to answer, even for organizations whose mission is to improve the health status of the communities they serve. 

This seems illogical until we consider the real and perceptual barriers to implementing an initiative to improve health and well-being.  The fact is that, unless mandated to do so, most leaders do not take the initiative to address the declining health status of their organization.  So what does it take for a leader to proactively address this critical issue and what will ensure its success?

Wellness: leadershipThe answers to both questions are pretty straightforward.  The primary barriers (real and perceptual) to implementing an employee wellness initiative can be grouped into three general categories:

  • Cost:  Is it an expense or an investment that will deliver a measurable R.O.I.? 
  • Complexity:  Will its implementation be a burden for an already overloaded staff?
  • Effectiveness:  Will it reduce costs and improve productivity, and will these improvements be sustainable? 

These are very real barriers to implementation, but each can be overcome with a well-crafted and well-grounded initiative that adheres to established principals of learning theory, team-building and intrinsic motivation. 

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