Why you should take a 'family approach' to work

Kevin Vermeer is the president and CEO of UnityPoint Health.

Family traditions go hand-in-hand with this time of year. Whether they're comical or sentimental, some automatically come to mind when you think about the holiday season. What about the family dynamic within your organization? That phrase might seem like an oxymoron.

Not long ago, I stumbled upon a Forbes article written in 2012, which challenges leaders to assess whether or not their organizations take a "family approach" to work. Author Glenn Llopis points out family-owned businesses generally embrace this mentality well, saying specifically, "Not all of them are perfect, but that is not the point. Taking a family approach means establishing a foundation of trust and a cultural promise to unite as one; to perform with purpose and the healthier whole in mind."

Organizations of any size should strive for this. And it's during this season — one of reflection and anticipation — where we can evaluate areas of opportunity for us as leaders to be the force of change. Llopis does a great job outlining five ways leaders can begin this transition in their own organization, and here are two of my favorite points:

Build a Supportive Culture
If you were asked to describe your personal family values, you'd probably respond without much hesitation. But what if someone were to ask you the same question about your organization? An answer might not come as readily. If you build a culture of "family values" within your organization, employees will not only learn, know and resonate with those tenets, but they'll live by them, hold each other accountable and have each other’s backs as well.

Employees Should Feel Empowered to Speak Up
Think of conversation around your dinner table. If someone in the family doesn't chime in, usually it changes the entire mood of the meal. Encouraging employees to have a voice and share their opinion should be the standard. Creating an environment of diverse ideas and feedback will only lead to more trust among the group, as well as better decision-making.

I encourage you to spend time with your families and loved ones over the holiday season, just as I plan to do. But, also express gratitude to a co-worker, acknowledge positive efforts and support your team. After all, your work family matters, too.

Innovation and wellness: Meet Kevin Vermeer

Kevin Vermeer is the president and CEO of UnityPoint Health.

This past January, I filled Bill Leaver's shoes here at UnityPoint Health, transitioning to president and CEO. Though the position itself may have been new to me, I’m very familiar with the health care industry as a whole, having spent the past two decades working in this space.

But things are always changing. Every single day I show up to work, there is an opportunity for new approaches, growth and learning. I wish I could say that innovation comes easy; however, the reality involves a great deal of hard work, stress of the unexpected and fear of the unknown. Each can have a negative impact on one's health and general well-being, so it is important to know how to cope.

I recently shared with my teams an interview with Scott and Mark Kelly, two brothers who work as NASA astronauts. The Kelly brothers outlined seven steps for reaching huge goals, three of which stood out to me:

Execute in Small, Manageable Steps
As the old adage says, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Neither were you. Dream big, and then segment out step-by-step plans. Acknowledge the small wins along the way, knowing that good things take time. 

Take Risks and Challenge the Status Quo
An idea comes forth that's never been done before? Pursue it. Gently push against the status quo. Take risks, be bold and try things that may seem nonconventional. 

Do Things Because They Are Hard
Checking items off your to-do list just to get them done sometimes seems like the easiest way to keep moving forward. But just because it's easy doesn't make it right -- or the best way to propel yourself, your teams or your organization forward. Pushing through difficult situations ultimately makes everyone stronger.

When you're flexing your creative muscles, being creative or exploring new challenges, it's easy to get hung up on slow pacing, small failures and stress -- but don’t let it happen. We are all more capable and confident than we think.

Cultivate gratitude

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Today’s fast-paced business world results in a lot of us communicating via screens: text messages, emails and social media. Sometimes we forget, when we are pressed for time, that there is no substitute for showing appreciation to others.

Entrepreneur Magazine notes that the true purpose for communicating appreciation is that it “communicates a sense of respect and value for the person” – and is important for leadership. 

Research also indicates that belonging to a group or community gives us a sense of identity, and our relationships are crucial to our well-being and happiness. Both personally and professionally, our connections help us feel safe and supported, encourage us to learn and grow and serve as a source of help in times of trouble.

Below are some reminders of easy ways to show gratitude to your colleagues, mentors and teammates. 

  1. Say thank you. It’s that easy – actually say the words, “thank you.” Taking a few minutes out of your day to acknowledge employees and their contributions goes a long way in making them feel appreciated.
  2. Celebrate milestones. Remember that everyone else at work has lives outside of work. Make sure to celebrate moments such as work anniversaries, birthdays, life accomplishments like children or marriage, and work accomplishments like awards or certifications.
  3. Ask for feedback. When’s the last time you made sure you were meeting the needs of your coworkers? How can you help them better reach their goals? Do you help them feel empowered? What are their biggest problems at work, and how can you help to solve them? When your coworkers feel heard, they often feel appreciated – no matter the outcome of the issue at hand.

This November, I hope you’ll set aside time to cultivate gratitude with loved ones near and far – but be sure to make the effort to show appreciation and express a heartfelt thank you in the workplace as well.

Are you procrastinating?

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

While we’re striving to maintain a healthy work/life balance, it seems there just isn’t enough time to get everything on the “to do” list done. Yours may look something like this:

  • Finish the living room project.
  • Conduct training for employees.
  • Lose those last 5 pounds.
  • Address concerns about outdated office equipment.
  • Talk to employees about improving time management.
  • Pay that bill.
  • Schedule a physical.

The list can feel a mile long some days, and it can be challenging to find the motivation to complete teach item on a timeline basis. Each task left undone may not evolve into a crisis, but eventually you’ll be faced with a professional, personal or medical situation that could have been avoided with a little more attention . . . and less procrastination.

I believe the key to success is maintaining focus to accomplish the most important tasks first. Gretchen Rubin, author of three recent books on habits and happiness, offers a few quick tips to “stop procrastinating, and get yourself to do something you don’t want to do.”

  • Ask for help.
  • Remember that most decisions don’t require extensive research.
  • Take a baby step. 
  • Suffer for 15 minutes. (“You can do anything for 15 minutes,” Rubin reasons.)
  • Do it first thing in the morning.
  • Protect yourself from interruption.
  • Remember that work itself can sometimes be a subtle, sneaky way of distracting yourself from another task needing done!

With only a couple of months left in the calendar year, revisit your “to-do list,” open your calendar and schedule time to get things done. You’ll enjoy increased productivity and have more time to focus on your personal and professional goals, resulting in a successful end of 2015.

Set a healthy example of work-life balance

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

We’ve all got a sense of purpose, and in the workplace, it is often tied to a company vision, set of values or guiding principles. At UnityPoint Health, our purpose is Best Outcome for Every Patient Every Time. That mindset guides every decision we make and every patient we treat.

I’ve learned that it is incredibly important for employees to take ownership in the mission and values of their place of work. Believing in the purpose of an organization ensures that employees can find fulfillment in the work being done, which is wonderful.

And just like it’s important for our employees at UnityPoint Health to give patients the best outcome every day, we want them to take care of themselves. All sorts of studies indicate that happy, healthy employees equal satisfied, repeat customers, so it’s up to the leaders at each business to demonstrate ways to maintain a healthy work style and avoid burnout.
This doesn’t mean you need to start running marathons or switch to all organic meals, but a few simple steps will inspire your employees to take care of themselves. In the long run, these efforts will help your company grow:

1. Take time off.

I know it’s tempting to check email on vacation or the weekends, and hold onto those PTO hours for when “things slow down,” but trust me, you don’t want to burn out. You also don’t want to set an unsustainable pace for your employees. So go away for a few days and be sure to relax. Use vacations to allow you to recharge, mentally, emotionally and physically, so you can come back ready and raring to go. Encourage your employees to do the same, so that you can all continue to put your best foot forward in the workplace.

2. Have fun!

Life is short, and we all spend many of our days at the office. Find ways to bring fun and laughter into your organization. This helps build relationships and reduce stress. Schedule the occasional office gathering and use humor with employees to help boost productivity.

3. Get moving.
You’ve all heard of the “sitting disease” by now. Stand up and stretch your legs a few times a day, as well as give your eyes a break from the computer screen. It gets your blood moving and the creative juices flowing. Participate in the ongoing wellness activities at the office. Form a team or create a fitness challenge to build teamwork and get some exercise.

Remember, you as a leader set the tone of the organization. Your employees know you expect the best – maybe you’ve even spelled that out for them in your mission statement. Good health is the first step to reaching new heights.

Slow down and stretch

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Summer is typically a time when the office slows down a bit, and it’s a great opportunity to take stock of projects, goals and efforts. With increasing responsibilities and the need to “do more with less,” business leaders are finding ways to streamline their health and fitness activities and focus on the next project, deadline or crisis of the day.

When it comes to prioritizing, it’s easy to select the exercise options that yield noticeable results instead of stretching. However, stretching at least 20 to 30 minutes a week can provide lasting benefits, especially as you get older. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should stretch at least two days per week.

Stretching offers many perks, including improved flexibility, circulation, balance and coordination. If you need structure and encouragement, participating in a class is an excellent way to get started. Our own City of Des Moines can help with its free “Yoga in the Park” Saturday morning sessions at Gray’s Lake this summer.

Stretching also holds importance in today’s business world, and I think it’s time to revisit the “stretch goals” philosophy of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Stretch goals, by definition, seem beyond reach at the present time, and can be used to inspire employees and encourage innovative ideas.

Using Welch’s goal-setting theory, consider these questions when evaluating professional stretching:

1. How has the stretch goal helped improve performance relative to past performance?

2. What impact has the stretch goal had on your level of performance in comparison to your competitors’ performance?

3. If not yet achieved, how close have you come to the stretch goal? Was the progress meaningful?

Make time to stretch. As in exercise routines, striving for stretch goals may not be an immediate priority, but working toward them can have a tremendous positive benefit on your future.

Are you sleeping enough?

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

Sleep is essential for an individual’s health and well-being. Yet according to the National Sleep Foundation, millions of people don’t get enough, and many suffer from a lack of sleep.

Several research studies examined the impacts of sleep deprivation, and the results are cause for concern. Insufficient sleep is associated with several chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. It can have the same effect as alcohol on our minds.

In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (the organization responsible for medical training programs across the county) took a step in standardizing the importance of sleep in the workplace by implementing standards for resident-training programs. They limited the residents’ hours to no more than 80 per week, averaged over four weeks, and included one day in seven away from work. The requirements produced positive results, including benefits for medical residents and reduced errors.

Consider your team and their schedules, as well as your own personal sleep habit: is everyone getting enough rest? While personal needs vary, the experts recommend an average of eight hours of sleep each night to stay alert and productive.

Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. I suggest adding sleeping tips to your organization’s employee wellness program, including:

  • Establish a regular bed and wake time.
  • Avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least three hours before bedtime).
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable.
  • Discuss the appropriate way to take any sleep aid with a health care professional.

These steps can help your team members reduce mistakes and on-the-job injuries while enjoying peaceful nights and healthier lives.

"Immunize" your organization

- Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that vaccinations are to protect “our future.” As kids go back to school and organizations gear up for a busy fall, take the time to make sure you and your family’s shots are up-to-date and then initiate steps to protect the future health of your organization.

Much like vaccinations are an important shield against health threats for humans, business leaders can defend their organizations against internal and external threats by "immunizations" that take the form of careful planning. Some great tips include:

  1. Focus on what you can control – and let go of what you can’t.
  2. Hold regular team meetings so that you and your team can stay connected on any issues or potential problems.
  3. Establish a “Plan B.”
  4. Teach leaders to remain calm during a crisis, to set a solution-oriented tone in place.
  5. Create teamwork whenever possible.
  6. Be open and ready to reinvent.

A crisis management plan also is essential for organizations. But if you aren’t reviewing and updating it on a regular basis, the plan will be far less effective. In order for your plan to work, all key players need to know their part. Take time to review your plan regularly and make any necessary updates.

Although situations may arise you did not expect during an actual crisis, having a plan in place and practicing your response provides a great foundation to begin to repair the situation.

Along with “immunizing” against external threats, pay attention to internal threats as well, including your employees. Unhappy staff members can bring down the morale of your organization and significantly decrease productivity. Success Performance Solutions found that 17 percent of employers experienced decreased productivity because of unhappy employees. Take time to evaluate your employees’ satisfaction with surveys and use their feedback to create a better work environment.

It’s always important to stay proactive against threats. The important thing is to be aware of what real ones exist in both your personal and professional lives and develop an action plan to put yourself in position for the best outcomes.

The value of pausing to reflect

By Bill Leaver

For the past seven years, I have served as president and chief executive officer of UnityPoint Health. In January 2016, I will retire.

It was a big decision, but the timing felt right. I’m so incredibly proud of what was accomplished during my time with UnityPoint Health. I am thankful for the support and hard work of the leaders in our organization and all of our 30,000+ associates. I have no doubt that the organization remains in very capable hands, and I know firsthand that great work will continue to be accomplished.

If we’re lucky, we spend a lot of our years, in the course of a life, working hard toward crucial goals in order to create positive change in our communities. These efforts are noble.

However, many of us become frantically busy, focused on packed calendars and back-to-back meetings and endless conference calls. We suffer from stress, anxiety and exhaustion, and we rarely pause to reflect, to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses.

In Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte writes,

“You can’t manage time. Time never changes. There will always and ever be 168 hours in a week. What you can manage are the activities you choose to do in time. And what busy and overwhelmed people need to realize is that you will never be able to do everything you think you need, want or should do. You will never clear your plate so you can get to the good stuff. So you have to decide. What do you want to accomplish in this life? What’s important to you right now? And realize that what’s important may not be two years from now. It’s always changing.”

I’ve been guilty of this, too – we all are, at one point or another. But as I reflect on my meaningful time at UnityPoint Health, and look with anticipation toward retirement, I ask you to reflect as well. Consider the following:

  • Do you still have passion for your work, or are you feeling disconnected?
  • Are you always racing ahead to look at what’s next?
  • Could you take one thing off your calendar to make time for something that matters to you?
  • Do you offer flexible time or scheduling for your employees?
  • How do you connect with your team? Do you know their hobbies and interests outside the office?
  • Are you present for those who need you most?
  • Do you need to make a change in order to find more balance?

And so on. Right now, it’s important for me to slow down a little bit.

I’m ready to play more golf, spend extra time with my eight grandchildren and reconnect with loved ones.

You might be feeling the same way, or for you, the story might be different. You may wish to devote more time toward a cause, add team members or pursue a wild dream.

Both paths are perfectly legitimate, but I encourage you to pause for reflection along the way, and decide what's right for you.

Healthcare and wellness trends of 2015

Bill Leaver, CEO, UnityPoint Health

In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels to 2015: a world that includes hoverboards, drone dog-walkers, and flying vehicles. Now that the year 2015 has actually arrived, some of that seems laughable, but twenty-five years ago, the future was a far-off place ruled by innovation.

Today, in our technology-oriented world, this proves to be true, especially in the healthcare sphere. We may not have hoverboards, but we have Google Glass eyewear, mobile applications that organize our lives with the push of a button, watches that function as phones, and a myriad assortment of healthcare wearables to track our sleep and our steps.

What other healthcare and wellness trends can you expect to see in 2015? You will see some of the items below:

  • Focus on personalized, D.I.Y. healthcare for consumers through mobile and digital tools, including wearable technology.
  • Integration of big data through networks of cloud services.
  • Dedication to innovation and partnerships.
  • Concern about the balance of security, privacy and convenience, as more information is shared between manufacturers, regulatory agencies and medical device manufacturers.
  • Quick, intense workouts and fitness plans offered online or in the workplace, such as high-intensity interval training and yoga.
  • Expanded role of nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists within the healthcare sphere.
  • Opportunity to redefine health and well-being for millennials, as more baby boomers retire.
  • Commitment to sustainability and providing more care with less dollars.
  • Emphasis on mindful eating, real foods and a balanced lifestyle.
  • Increased number of insured individuals.

These are just a few I've noticed, and as the year continues, I think you’ll discover that health and wellness will continue to be a growing and important focus for any business. And when we think about what’s to come over the next quarter of a century, we can anticipate even more changes and opportunities related to innovation and technology, in order to improve our work, our homes and our lives.

Now - I wonder what Marty McFly envisions for 2025?

Best business book recommendation

I spend a lot of time reading, and often find valuable insight and information that I like to share with leaders within our organization. Jim Collins is one author whom I feel provides thoughtful review and insight on business best practices that are applicable to many audiences. 

Last year, I took the time to read How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. In it, Collins suggests that all organizations are vulnerable to decline, but “great companies can stumble, badly, and recover.” Below are key takeaways that any business leader should keep in mind -- even though it may seem like business and health are two different categories, it's not the case. All leaders should constantly look out for the "wellness" or their organization. 

First, Collins says to consider if the right people are in the right roles, and then work to develop a culture of discipline. This type of culture begins when people understand what, exactly, they are responsible for – which is different than what their job title might say – and ends with a shared vision, set of values or overarching purpose. All of these elements work together, and are critical to longevity and success; however, Collins discovered that successful organizations continue to be susceptible to decline, and will fall and fail without proper attention or preparation.

Next, ask the following questions of your organization:

What do we do ten times better than anyone else?
Successful organizations focus on this relentlessly, without distraction.

What is on our “list”?
Your “list” includes the durable, specific services that you provide which produce replicable results over time. For example, how Southwest Airlines focuses on “low cost.”

What’s our 20-mile march?
Focus on a concrete outcome based on steady performance throughout the years. These goals need to be measurable and acknowledge constraints.

How do you know when to change your “list”?
Successful companies do not change strategy, focus, purpose and value very much over time. Collins notes two big myths related to change: that we must change as much on the inside as we do on the outside, and that winners change all the time – but he claims neither are true. Instead, he offers three levels of change to keep in mind: buzz about change with no substance, questionable change that may subvert something on your list) and actual change that does affect your list.

Do you understand why you were successful in the first place?
Failure results when you don’t.

Are you innovative?
Small tests of change lead to success that can be replicated for scale. Collins warns that failure happens when you don’t test enough and when you don’t learn from previous efforts.

I encourage all business leaders to add How the Mighty Fall to their reading list this year, and keep it on their bookshelf as a point of reference. I know I will.

Avoid the "busy" trap

Bill Leaver is president and CEO of UnityPoint Health

In today’s day and age, it seems like we’re all busy – so busy, crazy busy – with packed calendars and long to-do lists. Even our kids can get easily overscheduled. Almost everyone I know is busy, including myself, and life only seems to get more frantic at the beginning of a new year, as we rush to create and achieve our resolutions.

Everyone has a different definition of “busy." Sometimes being busy is a good thing; it’s part of a larger effort and can have positive consequences: such as when we work overtime to hit a target business goal, when we help out a friend in need, when we travel to see family, when we explore something new in our community.

But our busy lifestyles can just as easily result in negative consequences, both personally and professionally. We feel stressed and anxious. We make less time for exercise, sitting all day at our desks to get “just one more thing” done and then coming home to plop on the couch, because we’re so tired. We eat less healthfully, either in front of a screen as we multitask or in our cars at a fast-food drive-in.

Stress can have all kinds of massive effects on our bodies, moods and behaviors – headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, irritability, depression, lack of motivation, substance abuse, withdrawal – and stress left unchecked can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

To escape the “busy” trap, consider these practical tips:

  • Make time for physical activity
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Avoid tobacco use and excessive caffeine and alcohol intake

You can also take a look at your calendar, both at the office and at home, and ask yourself what needs to stay and what needs to go. Encourage your employees to cancel meetings that aren’t necessary and actually take their lunch breaks. Spend time with your friends and family without a set agenda. Say no to opportunities that result in a feeling of being “crazy busy.”

Being busy feels important in the short term, but doesn’t benefit us in the long run. I know that this year, I will try to avoid the “busy trap” for my own health and help my teams to do the same.

Leadership, Part 1: Gathering the band

An energy surge. That's exactly what propelled me for several days following my company's recent annual Leadership Symposium. Held for executive and staff leaders throughout our regions in Iowa and Illinois, there is something about being in a room full of bright-minded, forward-thinking leaders that naturally provides a lift.

Even though it may seem to be outside of your 2012_june20_marchingband_LS1core daily mission, setting aside some time to get every leader together to focus on the big picture is a good way to spur collaboration and execute strategy. It provides the opportunity to grasp the tools necessary to succeed in an environment of change. After all, even the greatest conductor, with the most memorable musical score, won't make a sound without first gathering the necessary people and instruments to make a marching band!

In a constantly evolving environment with ever-updated regulations and demands for better results and lower costs, taking the time to break routine and bring an organization’s leaders together can refocus energy and give direction to what may seem like a chaotic phase.

At the 2012 Leadership Symposium, one of things we discussed at length were the changing tides in our industry and how much of the future is unknown. The time we spent on that one day, disconnected from those tides and instead connecting to each other, helped everyone to see that, even in a time of great uncertainty, we can still exercise control. In fact, it seems as if those who maintain their bearings during times of change are the ones who find themselves exercising even more control than they did when times were more placid.

Instead of reacting to outside change, the need to be internally prepared to seek a shared vision of coordination is great. Getting your organization’s leaders on the ‘same page,’ so to speak, will make it much easier to maneuver through tides of change.

Improving Coordination

Every organization has limited employees and resources; coordinating them is critical. Executing coordination does not happen on its own. Leaders must actively and constantly encourage coordination by having mechanisms in place to ensure that not only are the best people in the right place in the organization, but that they have the tools necessary to satisfy both the organizational objectives and their personal ones. Bringing those into alignment is the ongoing effort of coordination.  Organizing a leader's summit may seem like a lot of work for a one-day conference, but I believe that if you do it right, it won't be "just a one-day conference." It will be an investment in coordination. 

Leadership development and strategic planning are two pillars for every organization, large and small; taking the time to forge, acknowledge and inspire leaders will produce results.

In my next post, I'll write about the important steps necessary to develop an effective leadership conference.

If you could inspire the people of your organization to do one thing well, what would that be? How would you measure it?

-Bill Leaver

'That's the way things are' is about to change

Since the passing of business and technology guru Steve Jobs last October, his words have received a lot of attention. In an interview from many years ago, when asked how he learned to run a company, Jobs responded, “You know, throughout my years in business, I discovered something - I would always ask why you do things. The answers that I would invariably get are: “Oh, that’s just the way things are done around here.” Nobody knows why they do what they do.”

“Oh, that’s just the way things are done around here.”

Whether uttered as a response to a question regarding motive or a suggestion of an alternative method, if you hear, or say those words, it should serve as an important signal that "the way things are done" need to be more closely evaluated, and very likely, need to be changed.

Being able to explain the reasoning behind actions will help you identify processes that are done solely out of tradition and may be outdated. It can bring awareness to gaps in efficiency or misaligned practices. It can help you develop innovative approaches to almost anything.

2012apr14_changethingsYou should encourage your employees to be inquisitive and always thinking about the ‘why’ behind their actions, because a culture of curiosity can be extremely valuable to an organization.

I can think of a great example in one of our hospitals, where a new surgical technique for evaluating heart conditions has been implemented.

The technique, known as radial artery access led by Dr. Edward Zajac, allows surgeons to achieve the same diagnostic results as the traditional "way things are always done" method, but enables patients to have a much shorter recovery time, reduced complications and fewer complaints about pain.

Getting the same results while also increasing patient safety and comfort? Thank goodness Dr. Zajac took the time to ask “what if we tried it this way?”

In your organization, are there procedures or standard practices that could be done in a different, more effective way yet still accomplish the same results?

Promote open discussion and questioning from your employees. Someone who works for you knows where change is needed; they are just waiting for the conversation to be started.

Start the conversation, and your employees will soon be able to say, "That's how we used to do things around here. Now, we do things better."

- Bill Leaver

A company's greatest asset

Follow almost any form of news and you are bound to hear about the latest and greatest technological advances being made. Headline after headline touts the “next great thing” that is going to transform your life.

Major news corporations usually cover products intended for personal use, but industry news publications share developments in business-related technology. In the health care industry, for example, the ‘trending’ technological advances have been the creation and implementation of electronic medical records and many online resources to help make hospitals paperless.

2012mar30_peoplebehindtechnologyAs leaders, we are challenged to keep up with technology introductions and stay current with technological standards as advancements are made. But according to MediaPost contributor Jason Heller, the “role of technology in our endeavors is only as valuable as the insights, strategies, creativity and oversight provided by our people.” With all of the news coverage given and strategic discussions held regarding technology, it can be easy to lose sight of the most valuable asset within organizations: people.

Every employee, no matter his or her rank, responsibilities, or number of years with the company, has the ability to make a direct impact on your business. They can affect productivity, customer service, growth, even your bottom line.

So the questions to consider are: How are you investing in your greatest asset? How is that investment reflected?

There are several ways to nurture talented employees to increase their satisfaction while also investing in your organization’s future.

  • Purpose: Employee commitment is driven by a feeling of purpose within the organization. By making sure each employee understands how his or her role contributes to organizational objectives and goals, you can develop this sense of purpose.

  • Connection:  According to Kristin Kaufman, founder of Alignment, Inc., a consultancy for corporate coordination, “creating an environment where people are truly valued as the company’s greatest asset starts with the individual.” This means that it is your responsibility to make the people who report to you feel both valued and connected to the organization. Get to know your employees, take an interest in their lives and find out what their aspirations are, what motivates them; this will help you to better personalize their goals, incentives and overall experience with the company. The best way to successfully engage your team is to have a good understanding of them on a personal level.

  • Advancement: For many employees, promotions and advancement are among the things they would like to list as professional accomplishments. On the employer side, finding the "right place" for your "right people" to exercise their strengths leads to mutual long-term success. Invest in your employees and the future of your organization by helping employees develop a career path, encourage continued training and education, pair promising individuals with a tenured employee in a mentor program, and so on. All of these things will help people to grow in their current role while also preparing for future ones. Drive employee loyalty by helping them picture a future with your company; this will help you retain top talent, a key to the success of any business.

  • Recognition: A 2010 survey conducted by a top talent management software company found that apart from compensation and benefits, feeling appreciated motivates employees and makes them more likely to stay with an organization. Remember to say thank you and give praise where praise is due. Don’t underestimate the value of showing appreciation to your employees for their efforts.

  • Empowerment: One of the best ways to empower employees is to give them the opportunity to be heard and actually listened to. Involve employees on projects and decisions at every opportunity; seek their opinions when changing company policies or procedures. The more involved an employee feels at your company, the more dedicated they’ll be to contributing to future company growth. A recent article in BusinessWeek advises empowering employees to deliver strategic value to your organization as this will enhance what is truly your greatest asset.

Focus on making improvements in these areas, and you can develop a satisfied workforce that feels valued. You are bound to see great returns from this investment.

- Bill Leaver

Right person, right place

Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. However, not all forms of exercise are for everyone. Personal preference, physical limitations or a combination of both may dictate your workout plan. From cycling, to group fitness classes, to Wii Fit bowling, there are numerous activities you can participate in to boost your mood, control your weight, relieve stress and more.

Regardless of what you choose to do for improved wellness, it is important to recognize your workout style and preference, and use this awareness to make sure you are working out at the right intensity and duration and doing the right exercises for you. Make sure that everything you do is focused on what’s right for you.

As a business leader, focusing on what’s “right” can be a major factor in your organization’s growth and success. Shirley Poertner had a great post last week about Jim Collins' latest book, “Great by Choice.” Being a huge proponent of Collins’ work myself, for this post, I decided to return to his first international best-seller, “Good to Great,” in which Collins introduces the idea of “right person, right place” in his “first who, then what” concept.2012mar14_jimcollins

At the core of Collins’ “first who, then what” philosophy is the idea of attracting and retaining talented individuals. He tells readers to think of themselves as the bus driver and their company as the bus. Collins explains that “those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

The first part of Collins’ claim may seem intuitive as it is standard best practice to hire top candidates and terminate poorly performing employees. It is the last part that I find the most intriguing; the notion that, in addition to getting the best people on your organization’s bus, you must also make sure that they are in the right “seats.”

It is more than simply hiring talented people; you need to make sure their role and duties within the organization are playing to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Evaluate whether a person is adequately fit for their job; would they fit better in a different department or with different responsibilities? In order to accomplish this, you have to really get to know your employees and get to know them within their roles; you can then use your knowledge of the company and strategic intelligence to move people around until they find a good fit.

Create opportunities for your employees to shine. Hold leadership development seminars or annual conferences where you invite employees to share ideas and give feedback. These events will give you invaluable employee insights and help you identify individuals who could potentially take on larger roles within your organization.

Several years ago, we went through a visioning process for Iowa Health System. After several strategic planning sessions, it was obvious that an important element of our continuing success would be a strong focus on moving the right people to the right positions. Since then, making sure the right person was in the right position for his or her talents and experience has influenced every decision I make. This has led to more engaged, more fulfilled employees and overall, a better-running “bus.”

I will leave you with a quote that I think sufficiently sums up why Collins’ method works and why I apply this philosophy in my organization.

“For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” -- Jim Collins

A Healthy Introduction

According to the National Mental Health Association/National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, one of the top 10 things you can do for your mental health is to surround yourself with good people. Those with strong social connections tend to be healthier than those who lack a support system.

That's good news for me. I am always interested in meeting new people, so it is nice to know its good for my health!

A month ago, I had the opportunity to meet an unusually large number of new people. I was struck by how much a person can convey through the act of introduction. A good introduction is a great opportunity to present oneself in a specific, deliberate manner to make a strong impression.

2011_nov28_connectionsHow you introduce yourself to someone new is how that person will “know” and remember you. A good introduction sets the stage for a relationship.

There are several things that you can do to prepare for future introductions and to familiarize yourself with the practice of introducing the best version of yourself.

1.Take a look at yourself

How do you determine what is most interesting about yourself? We all have natural traits, talents and skills; how do you determine what distinguishes you? Some people refer to this as having good personal brand, but I just call it self-awareness. Whatever you call it, the important thing is to analyze what you really have to offer others.

Do sort of a personal SWOT analysis. Honestly assess your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats to your success. This can help you to better determine how people see you in the future. Promote those aspects about yourself with which you are most happy. Let those strengths guide your introductions. It isn't boasting: it's enthusiasm, and that's contagious.

2. Prepare to meet

After you hone in on the personal strengths that you want to highlight when meeting others, it is important to do a few trial runs before utilizing this method with a new client, potential employer, etc. Use this introduction technique by practicing with new people that you encounter in your daily life. You can prepare yourself by practicing with strangers you will meet and greet for a very short time, such as cashiers, clerks or o. If it comes off wrong (and it usually won't), you won't have jeopardized a long-term relationship.

Practice introducing yourself in a way that highlights the skills and positive characteristics you possess.  This may sound phony or forced, but it isn't. People who practice their introductions are doing a favor for the new people they meet: they make it as easy as possible for strangers to become familiar with the authentic person. A good introduction avoids confusion and noise, and simply shows who you really are.

3. Practice what you Preach

Similar to any business that claims it offers great service or value, if you are all talk and no action, you will lose credibility, brand affinity and customers (or in your case people who believe in you). You must have the ability to deliver on the person you claim to be if you want to permanently transform others’ perceptions of you.
According to an August 2011 Forbes Top Brands study, people are more interested in what a brand stands for than what it produces or offers.

This same concept applies to introductions: at heart, people are more curious about who you are rather than what you do. So clearly introduce yourself and promote who you are, what you stand for and what value you provide.

Of course, you must be able to live up to your "brand’s" promise; whether you present yourself as charismatic, confident, passionate, detail-oriented, or results-producing you must you portray what is true in any first introductions.

- Bill Leaver

Aim for the top

The Healthiest State Initiative is a privately led public initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. Ranked No. 19 in 2010, Iowa is challenged with moving up 18 spots in five years. 

The Healthiest State Initiative is a lofty goal for our state and will likely be the driving force behind several new programs and marketing campaigns. In the professional realm, setting challenging goals, such as being ranked at the top of your industry, gives focus to your organization’s efforts and can serve as a strong motivator for employees. 

Step 1: Align Goal with Company’s Mission

Think about what your organization could accomplish in five years and where you want to be ranked among your competitors. While the majority of companies already have an established mission, making a goal of being ranked for something can help bring greater tangibility to a company’s ideals.

If, for example, your mission was to provide quality healthcare at an affordable cost, a goal might be: become a Top 100 Hospital in America. To be included among the top tiers of hospitals, you would need to achieve excellence in clinical outcomes, patient safety, patient satisfaction, financial performance and operational efficiency. Each award criteria forces a hospital to improve strategies and perform better; the goal directly enhances the company’s mission.

Step 2: Communicate New Focus

Provide your employees with a clear understanding of where you currently are, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. It is important that all staff know the ultimate goal so they can approach every decision, action and interaction with it in mind.

There are several ways to publicize this new focus; what works best depends on corporate culture. Weekly e-newsletters, department meetings and open forums are a few ways to reach employees. Whichever method you choose, it is important to keep employees informed on progress made throughout the journey.

Step 3: Set Short-term, Measurable Goals

Iowa Well-Being ChartIf you are serious about making a change in your organization, you need to have everyone working to reach the goal and have measurable steps towards it.

Data collected by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index determines a state’s ranking for health and well-being. This data is gathered daily and available annually. It is a great way to measure and track Iowa’s progress to the top.

The Healthiest State Initiative launched with the Start Somewhere Walk on October 7th. Over 291,000 Iowans walked in support of this initiative. I was impressed by the number of participants from my office.

The walk was a symbolic first step on the journey to a healthier state. It is also a model for making progress at your own place of business. Take your first step by targeting a top ranking in your area of expertise. Together we can make strides towards improving business and health in Iowa!

- Bill Leaver

Green business in the black - Part 2

WHO Benefits?

Aside from stockholders, there are a number of groups who will potentially benefit from green business decisions:

• Customers/Public opinion - More and more, green products are becoming expected.  Consumers are more likely to buy a product if it is green, or from an eco-friendly company than one that is not. 101215640 Therefore, switching to an environmental mindset will fulfill customer satisfaction as well as develop a positive reputation for your business.

• Employee wellness – Wellness programs are implemented to improve and promote healthy habits, control costs and increase workers' output. Coincidentally, those are the same goals of sustainability strategies. By putting green initiatives into effect, your employees will be influenced for the good. Effective wellness programs can show people that good health equals fewer expenses while emphasizing that the state of your personal health does in fact have an impact on the organization that employs you. Wellness experts claim that moving your company towards greener ways will also better educate that company’s employees to go green for their personal health as well.

• Regulators - New regulations by the government are being implemented for public buildings, technology and even marketing strategies. Meeting these requirements efficiently will position your company in compliance with regulations.

HOW to do it?    

1. Measure & Manage

Your starting point will likely be with your supply chain. Measure use of materials, natural resources and energy. Once you have the facts of your business’ consumption of material and resources, it will be clear to see the opportunities for green initiatives. It is difficult to springboard into going green without this step. If you fail to measure it, you will fail to manage it.

2. Start Small While Thinking Big

Imagine the green initiatives you see your company demonstrating. Form a “green team” within your company to focus on sustainability projects. The first project does not have to be groundbreaking but rather an effort that impacts the business in a visible way. When it succeeds, move on to bigger projects.

 3. Communicate. Motivate.
3 men and earth Communicate the goals and vision of the effort to all employees. Inspire your organization and customers to buy in to your ideas by making a compelling strategy towards becoming green.  Publicize the success of your initial green initiative internally and show plans for the future in sustainability.  Not only will you gain support and build morale, but your company’s brand will be strengthened in the process.

The most successful green initiatives are done with leadership that recognizes new opportunities, anticipates changes in trends and develops strategies to adapt to the changing times. Innovative thinking is needed to find creative and effective ways to take your business to a new and improved level of community and conservation.

Changing the culture of your business is not easy but it is rewarding. Sustainability will keep your company lean, your employees healthy and your customers satisfied. When you combine innovative leadership and a creative vision the results should be remarkable.  

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Green Business In The Black - Part 1

In the last decade, there has been significant growth in environmental awareness not only in the public sphere but also in the business world. "Going green" means a lot of different things to different people, but when it comes to businesses looking into sustainability, there are three important questions to ask:                                  

            · Why your company should go green?                                 

             · Who will benefit?

            · How your company should begin green initiatives?                 


There is a common misconception that going green is costly compared to traditional habits.Green Blog 1 Image This misconception is based around the first costs of becoming environmentally sound. Buying the energy efficient light bulbs, redesigning packaging and launching recycling programs like all projects require initial funding that during a recession can be difficult to justify. However, you have to view the expenses as investments and not losses.

However 93% of CEOs find sustainability vital to the future success of their businesses and 96% agree that eco-friendly initiatives should be fully integrated into their strategic growth. What used to be a nice gesture for companies to recycle or choose eco-friendly products has become a necessary factor in maintaining a competitive edge in the business world.

Ultimately, the bottom line in sustainability, is, well, the bottom line! The Institute for Health Care Improvement (IHI) white paper, Increasing Efficiency and Enhancing Value in Health Care, explains the savings potential for a hypothetical hospital looking to reduce waste. It projects that even just mere 1-3% reductions in waste could lead to increasing the hospital’s margin by 3.5 – 7.1%, significantly boosting their bottom line. The cost of achieving this goal is high but because of the expected success of the initiative, approaches were coordinated to achieve the projected goals.


The outcome of sustainability is more than  a matter of conservation; it is now a main factor in good business. Whether you are eager or hesitant to adopt this new strategy, you now know the big reason why you should go green – your bottom line. Knowing why will help you embark on your green transition. Next time, in Part 2, look to gain the tools to complete your green initiatives by learning about who will benefit and how your company should begin the green process.

Leadership Unplugged

New technologies develop at a dizzying pace. What is often forgotten is the parallel: the pace of technology-related stress. With all these gadgets, there is a growing obsession with constantly being "wired-in" and connected to the world.

There are 40% of people who admit to checking their work email or work phone while on vacation or at home. When the work day ends, we don’t log off, clock out and go home. Instead, the seductive glow of the smartphone tempts us; we remain completely connected to work, wherever we are.

Leadership Unplugged

Technology can be an ever-present symbol of work-related problems. Anxiety from competition in the workplace suddenly has no off-switch. Connection can, in this way, cause disconnection from what is important.

Constant communication can have a detrimental effect to the original goals of communication. It becomes sort of the technological equivalent to "paralysis through analysis."

Permanent plug-in has some measurable drawbacks. One in seven married couples that use mobile devices admits that the devices are causing them to see less of their spouse. Also, 1 in 10 people claim they spend less time with their children under the age of 18 due to technology.

Technology has created a double edged sword in our society. It has increased productivity but at the cost of increased stress on the worker. Innovation in technology has led to America being more productive in terms of speed and output, but that does not mean being permanently plugged in is a cause of this.

Learning where to break from the constant flow of information, and when to direct it, is an important skill. Good leadership recognizes the importance of focus, and can recognize when technology is assisting productivity, and when it is inspiring employees to merely go through the motions.

If you are constantly "wired-in" to the new age of technology you will not be able to hear yourself think. Good leaders establish the expectations for communication with the latest technologies but great leaders are the example of these expectations and have learned to balance demands of work communications with being present in person.

No matter what is going on at your job, always allow time to unplug and recharge.

The Secret Cure: Empathy

Empathy is not automatic. A 30-year study on empathy in college students, for example, indicates that today’s students are less likely to express empathy for his or her fellow human than the student of yesteryear.

86796574 hand on shoulder

Even for those who recognize the importance of empathy, it is easy to forget that empathy requires choice and action. Unlike an expression of sympathy, which often is a subconscious response that acknowledges someone else’s pain, joy or sorrow, empathy is the process of actively putting oneself in the shoes of another person.

In an interview with the Yale School of Management, Jenny Machida of Katzenberg Partners illustrates how organizational empathy with individuals (in this case, patients) leads to excellence and satisfaction: “Sometimes patients are less able to judge the excellent quality of medical care that might have been delivered, but they remember that children’s toothpaste was available in the lobby for the siblings of the patient; they remember having meals or parking taken care of or the efforts of desk attendants, patient care representatives, technicians, transporters — the people who really defined the holistic experience of being at the hospital.”

Empathy is a critical component of providing value to the patient in a health care setting. But empathy isn’t limited to the caregiver-patient relationship.

In fact, wellness in the workplace also depends on an employer’s empathy for employees. Feeling and expressing empathy for employees in a professional setting can be challenging for some. This is because business leaders tend to enact strict controls in dealing with employees or others in sensitive situations. Physicians are very aware of the unfortunate professional barriers to empathy.

Self-control and order are important to leading others, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of empathy. Too often in our work environments, leaders can get caught up in processes of improvement, but lose sight of the people who make the improvement happen.

Can empathy from leaders actually lead to employee wellness?

A recent study seems to indicate that it might. Bernie Wong, a writer at Greater Good explains the study this way:

“Feeling sick at work? Maybe you need a more empathic manager. This study followed 60 employees at an IT company over two weeks, finding that employees were less likely to report feeling sick if they had a manager with a strong inclination to take an employee’s perspective and feel what he or she was feeling… The authors suggest that managers who demonstrate empathy foster a climate of support and understanding at work, which boosts employee well-being—and, in turn, might make these workplaces more productive and cost-effective.“

While it hasn’t been scientifically proven that it is a cure for the common cold, leaders who put the action of empathy into practice are likely to foster wellness in the workplace.

The Secret to Savings: Access to Medical Records

Tax season seems to bring on a frantic look in a lot of people’s eyes. Searching for documents, double-checking forms and filing returns are tasks that all endure and none enjoy. After the deadline, a common refrain can be heard almost anywhere:

“Next year, I’ll have all my stuff together in one place.”

As important and urgent as taxes are, there is something more pressing: your health.

Preparing for your annual “health audit” doesn’t take as much effort as preparing for taxes. It merely involves contacting specialists and former primary care physicians and requesting that they send copies of records to your current primary care physician. Medical Records Check Up 4-12-11

Better yet, keep a copy of records for yourself, so that you can add to it and take it with you to every doctor you may see in the future.

Gather your medical records under your primary care provider. It can result in lower health care expenses and earlier detection of potential problems.

Dr. Davis Liu, a family physician and author of "Stay Healthy, Live Longer and Spend Wisely," recently saved a patient the cost and hassle of an unnecessary exam that had been recommended by another doctor.

The key to the cost savings? Dr. Liu had access to all of her health records.

Unified, centralized records can be a hassle to collect, but once they are gathered in your primary doctor’s hands, he or she is much better equipped to treat any health issues you do have and to avoid spending a dime on any health issues you do not have.

One Year Into Health Care Reform – Its Impact on Wellness

In light of the one-year anniversary of health care reform, I am frequently asked what I think of it.

Health Care Reform I see it as an opportunity to create a new way for health care providers and employers to deliver on the promise of greater wellness. Suddenly, wellness isn’t a concept that employers and health care providers are pursuing in spite of bureaucratic barriers – it is a value that can be freely expressed because those barriers are falling.

From where I sit, health care reform has made four areas in the promotion of wellness better by:

Empowering the Patient-Physician Relationship. Health care providers rely on a core team of professionals to ensure the greatest care for that population. This means that physicians must lead in the mission to strengthen patient trust. Organizations are encouraged to make the transition from being hospital-driven (high cost, acute) to becoming physician-led (lower cost, long-term).

Building technological bridges to the patient. Telemedicine, particularly for rural patients, is a critical component of controlling and reducing health care costs while improving quality of delivery.  It goes without saying that - in Iowa - that is a big issue.

Lowering bureaucratic barriers. Something has always challenged the ability of physicians, clinics and hospitals to achieve the best care for patients: the structure of Medicare reimbursements. Historically, Medicare has reimbursed hospitals based on patient volume, not quality of care, penalizing high-quality care states like Iowa. This created a system where the patient can become an afterthought. That is changing.

Providing greater wellness for the local community. Following reform, compensation for care is much more likely to compensate providers for “best” care, rather than “most” care. Health care reform allows for and encourages Coordinated Care. 

Organizations are encouraged to pursue Coordinated Care payment reform models involving a variety of allied organizations that will improve the health of the local populations, enhance quality of health care services and reduce local health care costs. These models involve organizations that previously were not encouraged to collaborate. If successful, the programs can be repeated wherever it makes sense for our communities.  They better support overall wellness than the current models.

So, one year in, I see dramatic opportunity in areas that have been stuck in neutral, at best, for decades. What do I hope to see in the next five years?

A simple-to-understand, wellness-centered experience for the patient, led by physicians with a renewed personal approach to the practice of medicine in a system that invigorates our workforce to foster vibrant communities of people living at their healthiest.

Staying Well With Chronic Disease

About 50 percent of all health care costs are tied to about 5 percent of the patients – those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Some of the high cost is in the nature of long-term disease. Obviously, something that is treated once, such as a broken arm, will cost less over the long-term than something that should be managed daily for many years.Puzzle - Chronic Disease Management

But some of those costs are excessive. Many chronic diseases have management approaches that are well-defined by physicians, research and other experience. For example, some sort of approach that involves medication, diet, exercise and monitoring is often involved in the treatment of chronic patients. Where the high costs kicks in is when a person with a chronic disease is hospitalized or has some sort of episode that requires extensive and expensive testing.

A lot of this problem can be laid at the feet of third-party insurance providers who have processes and payment models that guide patients toward the emergency room or hospital.

But there are steps that a person managing a chronic disease can do to keep their own costs down while avoiding an unnecessary hospital stay.

There are approaches that the individual can take to feel better and more in control of his or her chronic disease. From maintaining a regular schedule of “well” or “maintenance” visits with the primary physician to maintaining healthy fitness and eating habits, one can convert disease management into a total wellness approach. Even finding an outlet to tell one’s own story can contribute to wellness!

Employers can also help:

  • Evaluate the workplace wellness program’s approach to chronic disease.
  • Consider implementing the CDC’s free web-based LEAN Works! Program.
  • Encourage interested employees to take part in a local or work-site based chronic disease management workshop.

The creation of a health care delivery model that increases the ability of the patient to access better care and avoid hospitalization is critical, but there are steps that you, as an individual and as leader of employees, can do today to ensure that those who contend with chronic disease are nevertheless able to achieve wellness.

Bill’s best business books

Seated man reading a bookImage by National Media Museum via Flickr

Bill Leaver, president of Iowa Health System, writes about his three favorite business-related books:

“Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin - Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet was famously contentious, consisting of a variety of strong-willed advisors from across the political spectrum, including his key opponents for the Presidency in 1860. What is amazing is this was Lincoln’s intention: He believed the best decisions could be made in an environment of conflicting perspectives. This is a great book on leadership, managing big egos and a great account of a troubling and unsettling time in American history: the Civil War.

“Undaunted Courage” by Steven Ambrose - A riveting account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, this is a story about adventure and perseverance in uncharted territory. But it isn’t sugar-coated. The author does a great job of putting you on the ground with Lewis and Clark. It inspires the reader to take on impossible challenges, one possible step at a time.

“Game-Change” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin - An objective account of the 2008 Presidential caucuses, primaries and general election. Both parties are covered, and this book shows how narrow the strategic difference is between winning and losing really is. There are so many conflicting personalities and agendas and so many moving parts to political campaigns. It makes for fascinating reading and a useful lesson on planning, teamwork and taking advantage of the right timing.

- Bill Leaver

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Warm up with water

Winter cold wears on our bodies, and our minds wander to sunnier, warmer days when windshield frost and snow fade into memory. Today, however, trudging through harsh morning winds, scraping ice off the car, and bundling up are activities that seem to be a very fixed ongoing routine. 

Winter hydration 2-25-11
Along with all of this, our appetites rise during the winter months. Guzzling down coffee and eating rich foods become staples in our diet used to cope with the wintry chill. In the midst of trying to beat the cold, we forget about the most important element of our diet. Water.

In the summer, it is easy for you to remember to hydrate. The scorching heat makes you sweat more and it seems obvious to drink more water.    

Even though you aren’t hot and thirsty in the winter, water is still crucial. The rich foods and consumption of caffeinated drinks makes your body demand more water to ensure proper functioning of your digestion system. Water can help protect your skin, as well as counteract the dry conditions that cause your skin much stress in the winter. Also, keeping hydrated is important in preventing congestion and sinus diseases that are all too common in the winter months. 

When it gets to the details of exactly how much water one should drink, there are differing opinions. But regardless of the specific recommendations about the exact amount of water per day, there’s no question that hydrating is an important daily element of wellness.

Water is related another part of your health besides the physical -- your mental health. Fatigue, weakness and poor concentration can all be early signs of dehydration.
Although we all forget to hydrate on occasion, dehydration can be a symptom of common mental illness such as depression. Some symptoms of dehydration can also further intensify the ill effects of dehydration: it can become a debilitating cycle of illness.

Water is your friend in the workplace. It provides energy, hydration and mental health. It is easy to implement a water wellness program in your place of work. Moving from drinking fountains to the more sanitary Bottle-less Water Coolers will keep your office better hydrated as well as environmentally friendly.

Whether you are trying to stay healthy in the winter or stay on your game at work, water is a key factor that can help you achieve both these goals. The benefits to your health and wellness are endless when you are adequately hydrated. So, as you persevere through the end of the winter months, don't forget the water!

A Healthy Twist for Your To-Do List

It’s 2 a.m. You are jolted awake by the stark revelation that tomorrow is, in fact, Tuesday and your half-finished report is due in eight hours.

Ever experienced this?

Lists are an effective way to eliminate the stressful uncertainty of tomorrow. A daily to-do list can be the difference between getting a few things done and leaving your desk a clean slate.   To Do List Twist 2-11-11

A simple way to infuse the day with a healthy slant is to add a health-related task to your daily list. For example, your list may say, "Deliver report at 10 a.m." Your next item could be "Take the stairs instead of the elevator." Just add one healthy item to your daily list; by the end of the year you’ll have done 365 healthy things for yourself. 

Lists are a great way for individuals to simplify their lives and make tremendous improvements to their health. When it comes to everyday health tips, things like taking vitamins, drinking water, eating an apple a day and sleeping more come to mind, but adding a little something extra or unusual will help keep you engaged.  Odd, easy little exercises like "balance on one foot while brushing teeth" or "take the long route between meetings" can enliven your list and invigorate your body and mood.

The typical soccer parent has to make meals, pick up the kids, run errands, et cetera. But by adding "walk around the park during the kids’ practice," that person is also taking strides toward a healthier life.  Business leaders are busy with building and leading their teams, planning for the future, growing their organizations. Adding to that list something as simple as "go to bed by midnight" could do wonders to a leader's next-day productivity and energy levels.

Whatever it is you do, make your health a bullet point on your list.

So tonight before you go to bed, make your list. After you’ve covered work responsibilities and chores, make sure to add a healthy task. Not only will you sleep better without the unorganized chaos swirling in your dreams, but you could be "365 times healthier" by the end of the year.

Protecting the Heart

February is American Heart Month. During this month, the American Heart Association leads an effort to continue to raise awareness and money for research and education of heart disease.  It is the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke is No. 3.

The heart is our “ticker.” It keeps us going each day. By protecting our hearts, we are Protecting the Heart protecting our lives. The heart is susceptible to many risks, some that can be controlled, and others that cannot. The American Heart Association identifies three steps you can use to reduce your risk of heart disease – the ABC’s of preventing Heart Disease.

  • Avoid tobacco
  • Be active
  • Choose good nutrition

Other factors you can control include lowering your blood cholesterol and blood pressure, aiming for a healthy weight, managing diabetes, reducing stress and limiting your alcohol intake.

While these lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk for heart disease and stroke, there are some factors that are uncontrollable, such as:

  • Age – 82 percent of people who die from heart disease are 65 or older
  • Gender – men are more susceptible than women
  • Heredity – Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to have it as well
  • Race – African Americans, Mexican Americans and American Indians are more susceptible

For those who are at higher risk, it is important they make the lifestyle changes necessary to help fight heart disease. In order to live a healthy life and keep your heart ticking, it’s important to begin prevention early, allowing your heart to beat longer and stronger.

Although this month is dedicated to taking care of the heart in your body, you should also consider taking a look at the heart of your business as well. What is the core idea at the heart of your business?

Each business has a defining principle that drives the business and allows its leaders to make decisions. For example, in the book, Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath use Southwest Airlines’ core value – “THE low-fare airline” – as an example. According to the Heath brothers, Southwest bases every decision they make on this one simple statement.

It’s a company’s core value that helps create, and fulfill, its mission. According to Early to Rise, an online wealth and success magazine, core values:

  • Clarify who you are
  • Articulate what you stand for
  • Help explain why you do business the way you do
  • Guide you in making decisions

Just like your heart is what makes you “tick,” the heart of your business does the same. During American Heart Month, take time to take care of your body’s heart, as well as your business’ heart. Line up your decisions at work and in life to benefit your heart and help it to beat longer and stronger.

The Strongest Link

Do you perform best when you play to your weaknesses? Admittedly, it is an odd question, but it is surprising how often we rely, not on our strengths, but on our weaknesses when attempting to do something well.  In fact, when the question is worded more “fairly,” the answer might surprise you, too.Strongest Link 1-12-11

A study by Gallup asked, “Which do you think will help you improve the most: knowing your strengths or knowing your weaknesses?" More than half of Americans believed that knowing their weaknesses would be more beneficial.

They are wrong.

In our attempts to be well-rounded, it is very tempting to spend a lot of resources on our weaknesses. Now, improving areas we are weak in isn’t a bad goal, but it can be if, in the process, we neglect our strengths.

When people enjoy their work, they are more engaged and productive. Managers often wonder what they can do to increase employee satisfaction and engagement.

The key is strength-based leadership. Each person’s strength can become a platform for both sustained contribution to the organization and increased employee engagement. By focusing on the strengths each employee possesses, managers can provide positive and effective opportunity for employee engagement.

Neuroscience suggests that between the ages of three and 15, the brain organizes itself by strengthening synaptic connections which are frequently used and those which are used infrequently wither away. Those connections which wither away are not easily changed later in life. Focusing on fixing weaknesses has shown to be more time consuming and less efficient than focusing on increasing the areas where a person expresses talent or strengths.

According to authors, Donald Clifton and James Harter, we are keen at finding faults, in ourselves and others. But “when people become aware of their talents, through measurement and feedback, they have a strong position from which to view their potential.”

Clifton and Harter point out three stages in the strengths approach, identifying, integration and changed behavior. Managers should encourage those who take the assessment to reflect and act on each of the following steps in order to fully appreciate their strengths.

  • Identifying: This involves taking an assessment to help specifically identify strengths and taking notice of them.
  • Integration: In this step the individual learns more about their talents and strengths and understand the reason.
  • Changing Behavior: This involves taking your talents and applying them to your work and everyday life.

Refining one’s strengths leads to the eventual flawless execution of important tasks. This leads to employee satisfaction and engagement, and perpetuates long-term excellence in the workplace.

Every person has weaknesses. If an employee is underperforming, perhaps he or she isn’t a “weak link,” but instead a “strong link” in the wrong place in the chain! Encourage employees to discover their strengths, and you may end up unlocking your organization’s true potential.

Resistance is Futile [Useful!]

The New Year provides an opportunity to implement changes in your workplace wellness program.

People are looking forward to the year ahead and may even have fresh resolutions.  What better time to realign your workplace wellness program? Because employees are already in “change mode,” changes to wellness plans, assessments, goals or other arrangements should be welcomed with open arms.


Of course, you know the opposite is true. Change, even positive change, likely will inspire resistance. However, resistance to change is not only inevitable, it is also useful.

In physics, the term “inertia” describes a special sort of resistance: the resistance of an object to change. It is perfectly natural.

Expect resistance. Accept resistance. Learn to use resistance as a catalyst for positive change, not an impediment.

It is important to identify different types of resistance to appropriately address it. I like what change management expert Rick Maurer has to say about levels of resistance. 

Level One resistance is the one that most of us expect: an intellectual resistance to the new idea, usually stemming from incomplete knowledge of the idea. "I don’t get it." This occurs when a team member resists the idea on the grounds that it is new or “different from the way it has always "worked" or doesn’t make sense to them in some way. They may have misinformation, missing data or lack some other key component that will better help them understand, adapt and then embrace the change.

At this level, what is important is communication of the idea, to the point of overcommunication. Once these people have been thoroughly educated, they will, in turn, become advocates of the new idea and in a position to educate others. They will own the change.

Level Two resistance involves deeper issues at the professional, interpersonal or personal level, usually emotional. "I don’t like it." In other words, if employees feel they are not valued or have experience that causes them to distrust certain leaders, they will naturally resist an idea, regardless of how well they understand (or even believe in) the need for change. The stressor doesn’t even have to be work related: concerns at home can contribute greatly to an employee’s receptiveness to change.

In other words, it isn’t the idea, it is the emotional environment the employee “lives in” that causes the resistance. With level two resistance, communication is important, but not in the same way as with level one resistance. Instead, what is most important is to address the resistor’s environment.

Level Three resistance goes deep and can be the most problematic if it is misidentified. "I don’t like you!" resistance is the biggest challenge. If team members are historically difficult, have values that conflict with the organization, or simply have goals that are incompatible with the team objectives, it is time to make moves. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the right people in the right places, and to have the fortitude to make that happen.

 Productivity and Resistance to Change Graphic Compressed

So, expect resistance, identify resistance and use that resistance to catapult the organization toward new heights through change.

Three keys to long-range workplace wellness

Workplace wellness programs, when properly implemented, can save a business a good deal of money over time, according to a recent longitudinal study at the University of Michigan.Workplace Wellness Keyboard and Apple 12-14-10

Still, more than 66 percent of employers indicate that the poor health habits of employees are a top challenge to maintaining affordable benefit coverage for their workforce.

In other words, the greatest opportunity to reduce your company’s health care costs is also the greatest obstacle: employee behavior. Sound like a Catch-22? The solution just may be employee engagement, and there are three keys that can help your company develop a stronger wellness ethic:


1. Change Your (then their) Mindset
2. Right-Size the Wellness Program
3. Design for Sustainability


Change Your (then their) Mindset

“But…Poor Health Habits Are Who We Are!”

Company mindset is critical to workplace wellness.

Fast food restaurants are an example of an industry that you might think would not be a hotbed for employee wellness programs.

But fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A proves otherwise.

It is a company in a notoriously “unhealthy” industry, but its wellness program is a national model, both in employee participation and in ROI.

It’s proof that no industry is “exempt” from encouraging healthy employees. If a company like this can change a seemingly entrenched mindset, any company can.

Leaders in the workplace should adopt a proactive, positive mindset toward wellness and employee engagement. 

Right-Size the Wellness Program

“We are too small (or too big) to provide a cost-effective wellness program.”

Company size is a common excuse for wellness program resistance and low employee participation. Small companies simply don’t have the budget for a large employee fitness center or a health-food-focused cafeteria. Large companies have workforce scale issues that complicate and confound even the most battle-hardened actuaries. 

But in the end, the size excuse is just that. An excuse.

After all, if Verizon Wireless (65,000 employees) can effectively manage employee intramural sports, nutrition counseling and exercise programs , other large companies have no excuse.  Thousands of healthier employees should, over time and on balance, equal thousands of reductions in employer costs associated with health care benefits.

Alternatively, small companies can take note from Oregon’s Tec Labs, which simply incorporated employee wellness during the construction of its new headquarters. Upon discovering about one-third of its 42 employees enjoyed playing basketball, Tec Labs’ leadership included an on-site court in the construction process. The point isn’t the basketball court, the point is that the company was small enough to get to know its employees’ fitness tendencies and responded accordingly.

So, the answer to the “too small/big” myth is to right-size your wellness program.


Design for Sustainability

“Our last wellness initiative was short-lived hype.”

Many new wellness programs start off with great fanfare and enthusiasm, only to wither down to an easily ignored (and sometimes costly) “wellness website” after the initial shine wears off. If your company has been burned by or simply burned out on a wellness program in the past, it likely isn’t the concept that was the problem, but the execution. And you aren’t alone.

A recent study by the National Institute for Health Care Reform discovered that:

“Behavior modification programs offered in isolation don’t have a strong track record. Participants who quit smoking or lose weight often revert to former behaviors.”

Surprisingly, the study also indicated that strict financial incentives for measurable targets, such as pounds lost during the course of a program may backfire on an annual basis if proper steps aren’t taken. Someone who lost the most weight in year one of a program may unintentionally be incented to gain the weight back only to attempt to lose it again in year two.

The study determined that “programs that are comprehensive, integrated and diversified stand the best chance of success.”

So, sustainability should be by design.

Implementing and maintaining an employee wellness program with good outcomes and cost effectiveness is not only possiblem but likely if you can change mindset, develop a program appropriate to the size and culture of your company and build it for the long run.

The Proactive Approach

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

November 2010 - ProactiveYou can improve both your health and wellness in the workplace with a single change of mindset, from reactive to proactive.

Unfortunately, the default for most people is to be reactive. A reactive approach to health comes naturally which is why so many can get stuck in a rut.

There is an old joke about a man who took his health in his own hands, and how it made a big difference in his life:

    A woman walked up to a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch.  "My goodness, you look happy and spry! What is your secret?”
    "I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day," he said. "I also drink a case of whiskey a week, eat fatty foods and never exercise."
    "That's amazing," the woman said. "How old are you?"

The “little old man” proactively sought poor health… and earned it! When one proactively seeks positive outcomes, the results will be just as dramatic.

Proactive people choose their destiny by choosing how they will respond. Health science educators Randy and Tana Page have identified some characteristics of proactive people as:

  • Taking personal responsibility for their actions.
  • Believing their behaviors are a product of their own conscious choice based on their values, not products of their conditions based on feelings.
  • Being value-driven and carefully selecting and internalizing a value code.

Proactive people are those who say “I can…,” “I control…,” “I choose…” and “I will…” An example identified in the Pages’ book Fostering Emotional Well-being in the Classroom is the story of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychologist imprisoned (and seemingly doomed) in a Nazi concentration camp who realized he had one item left to his control: his response in the face of overwhelming evil. His proactivity gave him the ability to foster freedom and exercise a great power over his captors: the power to forgive. He survived the war and went on to become the renowned founder of logotherapy.

Many people tend to default to being reactive because proactivity involves risk, taking responsibility for potential failure and going off the beaten path in order to achieve goals. 

Forbes asked 34 entrepreneurs, celebrities, athletes and politicians what the greatest risk they ever took was. In 2006, Richard Jackson, CEO of Jackson Healthcare, took his biggest risk. He decided to acquire World Health Alternatives, a company twice the size of his own which was having significant financial and legal issues. This risk paid off. The company made $220 million in sales that first year.

In health, life and business, it can be a daily challenge to practice a proactive approach, but it is a daily challenge that can be met.  Those who meet that challenge and take risks, such as Jackson, Frankl, and even like the “little old man,” will enjoy something else: the rewards of proactivity!

Reduce "Presenteeism" to Decrease Absenteeism

Fall is here, winter is coming and cold and flu season soon will be in full swing. Close quarters and bad health habits in the office create an environment for one of an employer’s greatest seasonal challenges: increased absenteeism.

But did you know there is a hidden contributor to absenteeism? It's called presenteeism. And it could be costing all of us more than you might think.

Presenteeism – a term coined for people who come into the office when under the weather and are often less productive – has been found to be costing employers more than absenteeism. According to a study done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), presenteeism costs organizations $180 billion annually, while absenteeism costs $118 billion a year.

Not only are ill workers who come to the office less productive, they increase the chances of other employees getting sick as well. This contributes to a perpetuation of even more presenteeism and absenteeism.  This unspoken “culture of illness” puts your personal productivity and the productivity of your company on the line. Why do people insist on coming to work instead of calling in sick?

Productivity vs Presenteeism and the Workplace Culture of Illness w Caption

Corporate culture can invite illness into the office when it fails to encourage employees to stay home when ill. An article from Business Know-How lists three causes of presenteeism: 

1. Increase in dual-earner and "sandwich generation" households

  • Parents are saving their sick days to take care of children or elderly parents

2. Employer expectations

  • People don’t want to seem less committed to their jobs                            

3. Little or no paid sick days

  • Many employees are not offered paid time off for personal time

In order to reduce presenteeism to decrease absenteeism what can an employer do?

Take some of these suggestions into consideration in order to encourage your employees to stay home when they are sick:

  • Review your company's policies to make sure there are no provisions that unduly pressure sick employees to report to work (e.g., absenteeism policies that say employees who use up their accrued sick time may be subject to discipline, even if they have a doctor's note.)
  • Send sick employees home. Acknowledge the employee's commitment, and stress that the directive to go home isn't disciplinary in nature but that you're looking out for everyone's best interests.
  • Make sure executives, managers and supervisors do not exert pressure on workers to come into work while sick; tell them they are also expected to lead by example and stay home when they are ill.
  • Encourage all departments to cross-train staff, so employees will be able to cover for absent colleagues.
  • Allow sick workers to work from home, if they are able and they choose to do so.

As an employee, what can you do?Reducing Absences By Reducing Presenteeism w Caption

Before you go to work when feeling sick, answer the following questions:

  • How well can you carry out your work duties?
  • Are you contagious?
  • Will resting at home help your body to overcome the illness? 
  • Are you taking medications that could impair your ability to think, work, operate machinery or drive?

Make an effort this cold and flu season to do your part to reduce presenteeism in your workplace, which will, in turn, decrease absenteeism overall.

Can Changing Your Soap Reduce Your Company’s Sick Days?

You know how a small pebble tossed into a still lake can cause a giant ripple? Iowa Health – Des Moines recently made a tiny shift in the workplace culture that resulted in a measurable increase in workplace health.  You could make that shift, too.

Hand Hygiene 10-30-10 Increase your attention to hand washing. 

Obviously, the health care industry has long held to a culture and standard of hand washing that is high. But you might be surprised at the results of the recent one-touch hand hygiene campaign at our Iowa Health hospitals here in Des Moines.  By taking some simple educational steps and making hand hygiene easier for employees, Iowa Health was able to achieve a 25 percent reduction in infections.

A good workplace hand hygiene campaign isn’t expensive.

Obviously, the Iowa Health campaign wasn’t built from scratch: Health care providers are naturally held to a higher hand washing standard than most employees at non-health or non-food service-related companies. Nevertheless, what our hospitals learned during the increased awareness campaign directly applies to any organization looking to reduce workplace-transmitted illness.

Three low-cost steps can reduce lost productivity due to illness:

1. Place permanent alcohol-based hand sanitizers at convenient locations throughout your workplace.

2. Use foam soap in your organization's restrooms. According to custodial services experts, people strongly prefer the sensation of foam soap, and are more likely to properly wash if foam is available.

3. Get leadership buy-in. This is true with most workplace change. Change, even something as straightforward as an improvement in workplace hand hygiene, won’t happen without your managers, directors and executives placing priority on the change.

A good way to bring about effective, positive change is to make change easy. Changing your soap and enacting a hand washing campaign should reduce disease transmission in the workplace, a big health dividend for such a small investment of time and leadership.

Health and Wellness Go Hand In Hand for Employers and Employees

It’s mid-October and the hallmarks of fall - trees splashed in color, football conversations at the water cooler and pumpkins on front-door steps - are everywhere. Another staple of the season for many businesses and their employees is open enrollment for employer-provided health and dental plans.

Insurance Employers, more specifically their human resource and finance departments, typically put a considerable amount of thought into offering their employees the optimal health and dental packages. Employees should, in turn, give deliberation to their options to make selections that best fit their care needs and financial situations.

A recent article in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus outlines the following approach to ensure a good fit:

  • Determine your Needs
    • Think carefully about the health needs of your family for the coming year.
  • Research and Learn
    • With the passage of federal health reform legislation, it is important to look closely at your employer's health plan options.
  • Evaluate Costs
    • Rising health care costs continue to impact the cost of health coverage and could increase what comes out of your paycheck, or the co-pays or other out-of-pocket health care expenses you pay.
  • Consider Cost-Saving Options
    • Are there tools you could be using to help you save on your health care costs? Many insurers offer these on their Web sites.
  • Jump on the Wellness Bandwagon to Help Preserve your Long-Term Health
    • If your employer offers wellness programs, take advantage of them to help lessen your future health care needs.

Speaking of wellness, this is a topic that is top of mind for many employers right now. Prior to the recession, a lot of companies were ramping up preventive care measures in effort to create healthier workforces, build productivity and save money. More recently, however, there has been a dip in wellness program offerings as companies seek to reduce costs

Taking such steps may be short sighted. Companies have been shown to reap an array of long-term benefits after implementing wellness programs, such as these listed by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine:

  • Increases in employee morale
  • Improved employee health
  • Reduction in workers' compensation claims
  • Reductions in absenteeism
  • Increases in productivity

The federal government is seeking to renew employer interest in offering worksite wellness programs.  Included in the health care reform law sinned in March are $200 million in wellness program grants available to small businesses that do not currently have a workplace wellness program. The assistance is designed to make these types less of a luxury and something that is far more feasible.

The reason the government is getting involved is because preventive health measures promoted by wellness programs affect much more than the companies offering them and the employees participating. The resulting reductions in health care costs and increases in worker productivity benefit everyone.

So, whether you lead a small business considering the addition of a wellness program, are part of a large company thinking about what to do with its current wellness efforts, or are an individual studying your insurance selections for 2011, now is a great time to make choices that will pay dividends well into the future.

Getting in Touch with Your Producers

Nothing says “autumn” quite like biting into a crisp apple. In fact, now is the perfect time to find a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and there is no better place to take advantage of the fall harvest than at the Downtown Farmer's Market

Farmers MarketThis local treasure features more than 200 vendors and gives residents the chance to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods and other healthy items directly from Iowa farmers. The popularity of farmers’ markets has increased nationally in recent years, and for good reason. The U.S. Department of Agriculture outlines their benefits:

  • Consumers are encouraged to try new, healthy food
  • Eating locally can be better for the environment as products do not travel as far
  • Food that is fresh and in season tastes better
  • Individuals are able to meet the farmers that have grown their food

As most of what we put on the table usually comes from the grocery store, this last point is especially important. Food is essential, and yet most of us don’t know where ours comes from. By visiting farmers' markets, we become closer to what we eat. We support local farmers and strengthen our communities.

In the same way our bodies are fueled by healthy food, our organizations are fueled by the individuals who work in operations and production. These are the people who produce the goods we provide, carry out the services we offer or make sure our workplaces run efficiently. Again, though these employees are vital to our businesses, we may not always be very connected with them.

Farmers’ markets and supporting local businesses in general are partly about building a sense of community, and Henry Mintzberg, professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal and Harvard Business Review contributor, says that business leaders must do the same. “Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring,” Mintzberg explains.

He adds that it is important to bridge the gap between management and other employees in order to re-engage them and form a more collaborative business environment. Visit the employees who keep your organization running, see what they do and talk with them.

Still, simply talking is often not enough. Ken Blanchard, author of several best-selling leadership books including The One Minute Manager and chairman of Ken Blanchard Companies, and Terry Waghorn, executive consultant and author of The System, offer the following tips for communicating with employees:

  • Build a team – Remember that every member of your organization is important; and ensure that all departments work together.
  • Have a higher purpose – Your business exists to do more than just make money, so communicate your goals to employees and welcome their feedback.
  • Encourage open communication – Those who work in operations and production may have fewer chances to offer their opinion, so create these opportunities and always listen.
  • Provide positive reinforcement – You realize how vital these individuals are, so remind them that you and the organization appreciate their hard work.

Take the time to get to know the employees who help keep your business moving forward, and also take a trip to a farmers’ market this fall. The Downtown Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon through the end of October, and smaller markets can be found all week throughout Des Moines. Get to know what fuels your body… and your business.

Balance: Equally Important to Personal and Organizational Health

It is important to be aware of your health during any month of the year, but as September is National Cholesterol Education Month, now is the perfect time to take steps to be more heart-healthy. High cholesterol increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. For the more than 65 million Americans living with high cholesterol, diet and exercise are important factors to be reviewed with a physician.   Scale 2 Balance Blog


But lowering your cholesterol doesn’t have to be about completely altering your lifestyle. Physicians advise raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol, levels and lowering LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, levels. The key is achieving a sustainable balance between them. Changing habits can be difficult, but the American Heart Association offers these simple tips for taking that first step:


§  Exercise for 30 minutes more days than not


§  Eat less meat – replace with beans for protein


§  Substitute egg whites for whole eggs


§  Lower dairy fats and saturated fat in meats


§  Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains


§  Decrease your sodium intake

Similar to improving our personal well-being, creating a “healthier” business may involve making a few changes that complement one another. Again, the prospect can seem daunting, but it isn’t necessary, or always wise, to overhaul your organization to increase success.


Just as we strive to lower bad and raise good cholesterol, when enhancing our business we need to do more than simply remove or modify what isn’t working. We must also look at what is strongest in our organizations and put more energy into these practices or ideas.


A survey completed by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that businesses that change and grow effectively have something in common. A corresponding article in Forbes reporting the findings explains, “A focus on strengths and achievements, not just problems, throughout the entire transformation process is strongly tied to success.”


In other words, to inspire positive change in your organization, there’s no need to throw everything out and start over. Change a few inefficiencies here and there. Take a critical look at old practices. And remember to search within the organization for opportunities to innovate.


McKinsey offers the following advice for creating a healthier organization:


§  Set clear targets – If your goals are understood by everyone, it is more likely that they will be achieved.

§  Create a strong and apparent structure – Have a plan and ensure that employees’ roles complement one another.

§  Maintain energy and involvement throughout the organization – Your employees are your best asset for positive change so engage them and inspire enthusiasm.

§  Exercise strong leadership – If you have conviction during a transformation, your team also will feel confident.

Whether you want to become more heart-healthy or your business needs a boost, balance is always central to change. Cut out some fatty foods, but eat more of your favorite fruit. Alter a process that is outdated, but listen more closely to your employees’ great ideas. You’ll be moving down a more positive -- and healthy -- path before you know it.

Break Out of Your Routine to Avoid Burnout

Webster's defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” A condition that can affect people of all ages, burnout can also arise out of almost any activity.

Burnout Blog

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article cited the struggle many parents and children go through to avoid burnout while seeking to find the right balance with sport teams, family time and other interests. It's a topic of discussion that has ramped up in recent years as the number of children involved in travelling sports leagues grows, and the age when they begin to play competitively continues to lower.

While there are many positives to playing sports, children specializing in one sport can experience too much competition, overtraining and excessive travel according to Dr. Gerald Masterson and James White. To avoid burnout, they suggest:

· Encouraging children to learn a lot of skills

· Allowing for breaks from sports in the calendar year

· Not having children specialize in one sport until they are in high school

· Remembering that sports are just games and should be fun and enjoyable to those who participate


In business, people often feel similar dissatisfaction stemming from repetitive, undiversified or unrecognized work. This can lead to stress and burnout that will result in decreased productivity and ultimately hinder one's chances of success.



It’s important when you notice your productivity level decreasing due to burnout to take steps to prevent the situation from getting worse. Consider these steps from

  • Actively address problems. Take a proactive approach and you’ll feel better if you assert yourself and express your needs.
  • Ask for new duties. If you’ve been doing the exact same work for a long time, try something new.
  • Take time off. Sometimes you need a complete break from work. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and take perspective.

Pressures to win and succeed in life can cause stress in anyone’s life, which can lead to burnout. In order to stay healthy, enjoy what you’re doing and succeed in life, take the proper steps to avoid burnout.

Immunize Your Organization

“We vaccinate to protect our future.” This succinct message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the importance of immunizations. During National Immunization Month, take the time to make sure you and your family’s shots are up-to-date and then initiate steps to protect the future health of your organization.


Much like vaccinations are an important shield against health threats for humans, business leaders can defend their organizations against internal and external threats by "immunizations" that take the form of careful planning.

 Immunization Blog 2010

With our economy in flux, CEOs must have plans in place to navigate today’s difficult economic times. Lee Froschheiser, president and CEO of Map, a management consulting firm, outlined seven steps for a plan to survive difficult times:


1.   Concentrate on what you can control - understand what you can and cannot control, so you’re not misdirecting your time, energy and resources.

2.   Hold regular team meetings- gather your team and set up weekly meetings to discuss and report what is happening within your organization.

3.   Have a “Plan B” - when hard times hit, have a strategy for cutting expenses.

4.   Step up your leadership - in times of crisis, emotions and actions set the tone. Remaining calm sets a good example for your team.

5.   Create teamwork - during a crisis when teamwork can weaken, challenge your team and push them to perform.

6.   Face the brutal facts - only then can you see where the business needs to go and how your leadership can take it there.

7.   Be open and ready to “reinvent yourself” - if you do reinvent yourself, and dabble in a different market or diversify products or services, you will need to define new business components for that fresh direction.


A crisis management plan also is essential for organizations. But if you aren’t reviewing and updating it on a regular basis, the plan will be far less effective. In order for your plan to work, all key players need to know their part. Take time to review your plan regularly and make any necessary updates.


Although situations may arise you did not expect during an actual crisis, having a plan in place and practicing your response provides a great foundation to begin to repair the situation.


Along with “immunizing” against external threats, pay attention to internal threats as well, including your employees. Unhappy staff members can bring down the morale of your organization and significantly decrease productivity. Success Performance Solutions found that 17 percent of employers experienced decreased productivity because of unhappy employees. Take time to evaluate your employees’ satisfaction with surveys and use their feedback to create a better work environment.


It’s always important to stay proactive against threats. The important thing is to be aware of what real ones exist in both your personal and professional lives and develop an action plan to put yourself in position for the best outcomes.

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