I recently attended the annual Human Resource Conference for the State of Ohio, and was able to hear a presentation from one of my heroes–Coach Lou Holtz. This was the fourth or fifth time that I’ve heard the Coach speak, and like each time before, I was mesmerized and captivated by his ability to connect with people and share simple life truths in a way that is so encouraging. After listening to him, you’re ready to run through a wall (or through a defensive line) for him–and for yourself.
Unlike when I heard Lou years ago, I’m now the founder of a thriving business that has the opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of individuals. This is not a responsibility that we take lightly at Bravo, as we are directly impacting two very precious elements of peoples’ lives–their health and their money. As I listened to Coach Lou, it reinforced the significance of our mission:
“Bravo helps employers and health plans leverage wellness to strengthen their business and optimize healthcare investment. We define strength as: motivating and equipping the heart of any business (their people) to make measurable progress towards their best personal health.”
We can do a lot of things at Bravo. With over 160 employees, gifted programmers, project managers, analysts and service staff, we love a good challenge! We’ve achieved success because we are different than other wellness solution providers. Yet as we grow, the market tries to push us to look like everyone else. Yes, we all do screenings, HRAs, offer coaching solutions and have all the latest and greatest resources for total well-being. You can join a team challenge, sync your Fitbit and use tools to help you discover your true sense of purpose. This is all well and good. But what has set us apart, what has led to the unprecedented levels of participation and chronic risk reduction we see, has been our ability to facilitate the art of helping employees realize that they are beneficiaries of a very significant investment their employer makes (the health plan). They are the only person who can really control their need for healthcare (and the corresponding cost), and they have a responsibility to do what is reasonably within their control to achieve their personal best and to help their company succeed.
One thing Coach Lou shared was that he never considered himself to be a disciplinarian. He put people into an environment where they could make good choices. If a person chose to miss a curfew, they had to sit out the next game. Lou didn’t consider that discipline. They made the choice. He didn’t make it for them. I believe an employer’s responsibility is similar. Don’t hold people accountable to unrealistic goals that you have never equipped them to achieve. Don’t reward them for losing weight, but put them in an environment that serves cake and donuts every day, and makes it nearly impossible to make healthy choices. But at the same time, if you’ve established a reasonable goal and created an environment conducive to winning, you have to follow through with enforcing the consequences.
A very clear memory I have is from when I was five years old in kindergarten. I was coloring a picture and I remember approaching my teacher, Ms. Morrow, with two halves of a broken brown crayon. I told her, “My crayon broke.” She looked me in the eye and said, “No it didn’t.” I was confused and getting upset. She then said, “Crayons don’t break Jimmy, people break crayons. Tell me that you broke your crayon and ask me for a new one and I’ll gladly get you one.” Forty years later, I’m still wired to not blame the crayon. Taking responsibility was always modeled by my parents and people I respected. I’m so grateful that I had these experiences and that I became a student of teachers like Norman Vincent Peele, John Maxwell, Dennis Waitley and other heroes that constantly reinforced the belief that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, and that self-talk is a key to success or failure.
Make no mistake. I’m not saying that every health issue a person faces is a result of their lack of self-control or a failure to take responsibility. That’s simply not the case. But we can all do our personal best. We can all establish a relationship with a primary care provider to help us on our personal journey, and we can all benefit from the impact that a collective focus on prevention would have on the health of our people and the health of our business. Lou Holtz reminded us to, “Always attack the performance, not the performer.” If someone missed a catch or a field goal, he’d summarize the performance and tell them he thought they could do better. Ask them what’s going on and what you can do to help them achieve their best. This works in football, parenting and even health coaching.
Like Lou Holtz, I’m a pretty simple man. The message of wellness need not be super complicated, and the programs and challenges are great, but they will fall short if we somehow remove the responsibility from the individual and treat them all as victims that we need to diagnose and fix. Stronger people and stronger companies require it. And as people learn to achieve their goals, it’s incredibly rewarding for everyone.