Exposing "Corporate Wellness"
Can we lose the ill-fitted bandaid wellness programs now, pls?
....Lunch & Learn on nutrition, seminar on communication, walking challenge, catered 'healthy' lunch.
If you're really unlucky, you also paid for a 'healthy food' vending machine.
The cookie cutter, non-strategic, little to no relevance BS above, needs to stop. It's not helping. If your company bought one of these over the counter, or had your people patchwork it together (unsuspecting people that have no healthcare or legit wellness training), then you likely wasted time, money and resources.
This all might feel counter-intuitive, that's okay. On another level, you also feel that it might be true... and you'd maybe like for someone to tell you why you know, what you know, you know.
Allow me to help on some of that knowing...
If you know and feel the truth of that on some level, then you, my fellow leaders, already know exactly what your 'wellness program' actually needs.
I might trigger some aha! moments for you with a few things here - but - what you will also realize, is that you already know these things on a deep level, you just needed someone to help you unlock them.
Bandaid solutions come from linear mental models that only ask “What is wrong with me/them/it/you?” This approach is looking for, and assuming, a defect. Guilty until proven innocent. This form of leadership is tired, and if it wasn't obsolete before 2020, it is now.
A more innovative mental model, one that should be at the helm of #consciousleadership, would ask, “What has happened to me/them/it/you?”
The former only creates space for a 3 dimensional fix. This limited space helped create our modern day, rather useless, "Wellness Programs" and it perpetuates leadership vibes that rule with reward & punishment.
The latter makes space for the multidimensional universal perspectives that give way to the possibility of restoration, turning a problem into a project.
The difference between those approaches is as obvious as the squirrel on the tree outside my window right now - he's pretending not to have his eye on the wet dirt in my flower boxes. He and I are fighting these days. I'd like to keep my petunias alive. He doesn't care about them.
Anyway, back to the differences: Asking what has happened takes pressure off, it creates room for inspired, out of the box strategies, to bubble up. It also does something even more magical - it abolishes blame, shame and guilt, three of most difficult, invisible road blocks, that keep us from moving forward. They are second only to trauma... and for today, I'll be brief on that part. Here's a quote that I throw up on the screen during my mental health keynote "It's not your fault.":
“The person in the grip of old distress says things that are not pertinent, does things that don’t work, fails to cope with the situation at hand and endures terrible feelings that have nothing to do with the present.” - Harvey Jackins
If I have your attention at this point, then please know that somewhere further along this page, you will find at least one - if not three - insights, that will help you sort some of this out in your own head. You will find that these insights take pressure off instead of adding to your list of things to do. To keep this article short-ish, I have put links in everywhere, to relevant posts on the issues mentioned. This is like a "choose your own wellness adventure" book. You are now in control, and you can decide how long this article is.
Now then, with that low pressure strategy in place, let's continue on...
Whether I am investigating an individual’s timeline in my office, teaching Health and Safety Leaders on The Biology of Safety, keynoting on mental health, or sitting in the boardroom with your leadership team and explaining to you how and why and how it got this bad and how to make it better, the fundamental truths that I am speaking to today, are underneath it all.
It is only when we, as leaders, choose to open ourselves up to finding a better question, that a better answer is allowed to surface. I became an exceptional wellness strategist, not because of my training and experience, but because the context that it all that happened in. It was my personal decisions that got me here. My mission to always be willing to find and ask a harder question - and to be brave enough to do something about the answer that would come. One of my best better questions so far, has been this one, on mental health.
I have embraced the "Elsa" to my "Anna". Wether you know it or not, you are familiar with your Anna Archetype. If you're still reading this then Anna, (the next right thing) comes naturally to you. If you keep reading this, then you probably also want to get to know your Elsa (she's the warrior that dives down to find the truth about the past and ask the harder question.) I talk about this archetypal duo here, in a video I do on "Archetypes and Great Leaders" using the "Frozen" archetypes to make a powerful point about leadership.
One of my favourite lines that I use too much is,"It's not rocket science, and that's the problem."
We complicated it, it was never meant to be this complicated.
Is it all complex? Yes. Should it feel and be this complicated? No.
That's why I ignore all the wellness hype, the ridiculous diets, the wellness experts that have THE answer, the supplement company that has THE supplement, the coach that knows the only secret you need, blahblahblah.... blah ...blah. I also don't enjoy the brokering of wellness programs that are built around pacifying our collective symptoms rather than solving the underlying imbalance.
All of these things have the same fundamental flaw: they ignore scientific laws and universal principles, forces that no man can ever stop or circumvent. I mean, we tried, we are still trying. In all of our updated human wisdom, we are still trying to outwit the universe. (I said "updated" on purpose there, btw. We seem to have erroneously outdated and written off real wisdom in the last 150 years. ) Unfortunately, all we've really got out of those efforts, is a way to get to a moon while simultaneously not being able to build a toilet seat that doesn't break or come off. We temporarily (until the current generation) extended our expected lifespan - while simultaneously reducing the quality of that life span. We ignored the dirty thirties, pretended the dustbowl was god's fault and now we've got seeds that don't need much of anything to grow - so our soil has turned into dirt and another dust bowl is on it's way. (I'd recommend the "Kiss the Ground" documentary if you want fairly balanced perspectives on this issue.)
Can you see it? Can you see the blinding arrogance of man, ignoring universal laws and forces? Where is Yoda when you need him anyway? By doing things like creating seeds that don't need a lot of water or nutrients to grow, killing the microbiome in the soil, turning it into dust, we have created nutritional deficiencies in the bodies that relied on those things for 1000s of years. We have droughts and fires everywhere right now - or floods - depending where the chips fell. (I live in Southern MB, we are not even allowed to water our lawns or flowers right now, that's how bad it is. My city is mostly brown. And we are two weeks into a heatwave. So much fun.)
How does our need for a one-pill answer to shut up a symptom, or for a 5 minute meal, or for seeds that don't need water, or a substance to push down grief, tie into corporate wellness? What does all of this have to do with effective leadership going forward?
Those things above and the rest of #allthethings that I don't have time to mention, are THE cumulative reason that you need a wellness program. Those things are what costs our society and businesses and citizens, billions of dollars.
"You can't get something from nothing."
Remember that science thing? From grade 10? It was true.
You shouldn't have to need to pay for a wellness program, and you know it. But you have to now. The worst part at this point, is that if you don't do it, no one else can. We are tapped out. Our need to outwit universal laws and scientific principals has created a healthcare system that is too overburdened to have any choice but to medicate the symptom and push the compounding cost of the root cause down the road. Who is left to pay for it? Companies and the people that own them. Who is trying to hold it all together as everyone's mental health falls apart? Leaders.
Crazy unfair, hey? As a business owner, CEO, or any kind of leader, you KNOW it's not fair that you are now responsible for these things. You know you are paying for it through escalating benefit costs, sick leave, accidents and incidents, absenteeism and presenteeism - and - you know the cost of stress leave is about to skyrocket. It has already begun post-pandemic - you're also losing your people left and right. Even before 2020 happened, we had already collectively landed in a shitshow of an unavoidable need to pay people to teach us how to eat, sleep, breathe, spend, move, love and have sex.
Can you step just a little further than I am already forcing you too?
If you can, ask yourself this: How did we even get to a point where experts in basic human function became necessary?
Why does Sonia even have a job? Seriously.
Why have we forgotten how to eat? When did our relationship with food get so messed up? Why can't we just eat what our body needs and not have to think about it? How did a multibillion dollar industry form around the concept of calories? And that's just on the food side, don't get me started on sleeping, exercising, breathing and spending money.
Okay. I'll stop before my head, and yours, explode. You've already had to carry sooooooo much more than usual the past 18 months. If you want to choose a shorter wellness adventure today, then here is the biggest takeaway that I want for you:
Screw wellness "programs" and get a strategy. Please. Ask some of the questions I ask in this short video. (There are some gooders in that video.)
Or put this quote here, up in your office.
Contemplate this for a whole week. Just step back and look at it. This world hurts. 2020 hurt. A lot.
Do you want to be a #badass? That's your 'Anna' archetype - but you need a better question and a strategy (Elsa) if you're gonna go back in.
Don't feel like you have to do something right now, just sit back and commit to being willing to find the better question. Start there. Why? I'll tell you why: The harder the question you are willing ask, the faster, easier, more practical the answer will be. It's my wellness boomerang theory. Why do I have a boomerang theory? Because physics. And because in all of my work I respect fundamental universal laws. In this particular case it's Newton's 3rd:
"To every action in the universe is an equal and opposite re-action."
(The harder the question you are willing to throw out, the easier the answer that comes back.)
This force, btw, is why diets don’t work. So please, for the love of god, let’s all stop dieting against Newton’s Third Law. This is another example of "updated" human wisdom getting us nowhere except back where we started. It's like all the autocorrect updates on iphone since Steve Jobs left us alone on this earth with a his little spelling elf in our phone - that still tries hard to be helpful, but has in fact been quite drunk, for almost 10 years.
Anyway, I digress.
So stop. Hit pause. Pause on trying to save everything and everyone with all the one-pill answers that everyone is selling. If you don't see a strategy that acknowledges the interconnectedness of EVERYTHING, don't buy it. Understanding that emotional, mental and physical imbalances/injuries/illnesses are all the same thing, is key. In all our "updated wisdom" they have been treated as separate issues - but that's a fallacy, an expensive one. Everything that happens to you on any level, affects all levels of who and what you are. Take a breath, go inward, breathe and find your question. Then throw that question out - using all the force of the pent up frustration, isolation, loneliness and angst, of this last 18 months, and demand the answer. You'll get it, Newton promised. So did Einstein.
Now then, if you're still on this adventure with me, then here's the rest of it. (For now. There's a sequel, it's called "Our Endgame Plan")
The universe doesn't take you personally, it just has laws and ways of working, and if you work with those ways, your life gets easier.
The universe is impartial, that means it's actually friendly. It doesn't hear the "I don't want" in "I don't want to be stressed" - it only hears "to be stressed". This is where understanding the neuroscience of our words and thoughts helps us. If someone gave you the right words to use with your toddler to get the response you want, would you not use them?
I like to sum things up a couple different ways, because we all think and process differently. So here is another way I say these things:
A couple weeks ago I commented on a post on burnout by Adam Grant, Linkedin featured my comment. (My "Profile Views" went up by 5000%, which totally made me giggle. I've never had a 5000% improvement on anything in my life. It was a historic moment for me.)
It sums all of this all up quite nicely. You can take these insights into any context, I certainly do:
A little more simple, but important advice on all this...
Don't try to do it all yourself. Find someone to help your company with this, whose job it is to do these things. Do it for the same reason I hired a house keeper. I can have more impact in my business with the 2 hours I get back by paying her to clean my house. The other thing those 2 hours buy me, is another 2 hours in my business. How does that math even work? It works because these things are complex. (but not complicated!) It works because I respect my needs in a way that allows me most productivity with the least amount of interference. I have a back injury, washing dishes, vacuuming, and anything that has my hands/arms working in front of my body, hurts. That pain keeps me away from my laptop. It makes no sense for me to not invest that small amount of money when it allows me to do what I need to do, what I am best at. That's the universal math at work. Our economy doesn't use universal math, it uses irrational math. Our Leadership models of overworking, of sacrificing, of pushing our people to perform, use irrational math. Our wealth and our #firstworldproblems are based on ignorance of universal laws.
"You can't get something from nothing. You can't sell all the water, cut down all the trees, kill all the fish, make a bunch of big holes for profit, and not pay it back - climate change is Mother Earth's loan shark. #highestinterestrateever
What we have been doing is not working.
We all know the definition of insanity is to keep doing it the same way, expecting different results. We have to find better questions if we want better answers. I vote for Socrates' Strategy.
And I'd also suggest that we tackle it with my late uncle's determination.
Do you need help with this in your company? Then hire someone like me. Someone like me can help you find a starting point, can coach along the way, can help you find that first hard question that can change everything. I can demonstrate these universal laws at work in your bottom line. I can do the assessment that shows you where your people are actually struggling. Don't pay to bandaid the symptom, help them in a targeted way that turns the problem into a project. If you don't, you will pay for another 3 bandaids for the same issue. It's like that time my kiddo split her chin. It should have been stitched the first time. It wasn't, and the smallest second bump a week later split worse. More stitches were needed than if it had been dealt with properly the first time.
If it helps for the way your brain works, here is a tidy little list. Just pick one or two and start with them, put them on a post it note somewhere. Personally, when I teach leadership workshops, I suggest starting with #1 as a new practice to try and spending some time contemplating #5 until you start to see it operating everywhere. Those two will help you with the rest of the list.
Ask "What has happened" instead of looking for the flaw.
See the problem as a project and allow the strategy to emerge.
If you don't see a strategy that is based on the interconnectedness of everything, don't buy it.
Don't try to do what you're not good at doing or what gets in the way of doing what you are best at.
You can't get something from nothing. To every action in the universe (or in your company) there is an equal and opposite re-action.
Make a choice to be willing to see and ask the better question so you can find and easier answer. Embrace your Anna AND your Elsa. (If you need solidarity on this, my 4 year old feels feels your pain)
Sonia Funk is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and Corporate Wellness Strategist. She has travelled the world as both student and teacher, gathering as many perspectives as she could and trying her damnedest to integrate them all. She doesn't think she as ALL the answers. But she's pretty sure she has decent questions. You can send her a message through this site to request a call with her to see if she is a good fit for your company's needs or sign up for her email list (bottom of homepage) to get the low-down on the Group Wellness Coaching Program that she will be opening up in Fall 2021.