By Graham Wilson, Author of Leadership Laid Bare!
It’s a lovely sunny day and life is great. I was up early for a meditative run around the beautiful hills where I live. A chance to think and energise my body at the same time, a chance to watch the sun rise and take stock of the important things in my life. At 53 and running a leadership development company, I strongly believe that maintaining a good level of health and vitality is essential for every element of life.
After a healthy breakfast and a short drive to the Head Office of a global brand, I’m sitting in front of their CEO and the Exec Team. I’m asked about how I will work with them to create a high performance ‘top team’. I look around the Boardroom and all I can see are exhausted ‘grey’ executives! Tired, stressed, unfit, grumpy and not very healthy - no signs of vitality at all! I wonder how much vitality is in the rest of the organisation and how this is impacting on overall performance?..
I ask about the organisation’s vision and strategy and learn that like most businesses today, they have gone through masses of change with more to come. They are planning for growth, competition is strong and they need to satisfy shareholder demands, now and in the future. They have a strategy in place but results aren’t coming in quick enough. They have realised they need an agile organisation with a different type of leadership to achieve their aspirations. I’ve been asked to help them develop a coherent high performance team to lead the business to success.
Many leaders will say to me that they want to create a high performance top team to lead the organisation in the next stage of their growth strategy. But how many of us see health and vitality as a key strategic tool? If you were leading or coaching an elite sports team I’m sure you would. So why have many CEO’s and Executives not made that link yet? How many organisations set fitness and health targets as part of their performance management system and put education programmes in place with support?
So why should Vitality be important for CEO’s today? I believe the role of a leader is to create a high performance environment where success is inevitable. They awaken possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results. They operate with boldness, simplicity and speed.
In a Global study of organisational performance carried out by the World Economic Forum, when health and well-being are actively promoted:
• Organisations are seen as 2.5 times more likely to be a best performer.
• Organisations are seen as 3 times more likely to be productive.
• Employees are 8 times more likely to be engaged.
• Organisations are seen as 3.5 times more likely to encourage creativity and innovation.
• Organisations are seen as 4 times less likely to lose talent within the next year.
Having worked for 22 years with many of the leading organisations in the World I have also experienced a direct link to organisational success and vitality. And there is good reason for this.
In my experience there are three vital areas that need to be explored to help Executives realise the importance of wellbeing. My first career was in the Military so I experienced the importance of excellent health and fitness to be able to operate at an elite level. My life and those I was leading depended on it.
We live in a world where the pace of change is so fast the rules are being rewritten. There is a lot more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, what we refered to in the military as a VUCA world. Everyone is talking about it these days, because it is true. Living in this context puts massive pressure on our people. The need to cope with increased workloads and change requires mental toughness, high levels of energy, ability to cope with stress and vitality. This all comes from how fit and healthy our team is.
The second area is that pace of change and ambiguity requires people to think and solve tricky puzzles in the workplace – not just execute like they did in the old world. If they are unhealthy and stressed their blood pressure will increase, and with every increase in blood pressure there is a consequential decrease in cognitive functions. So put simply, if you haven’t taken into account that health and vitality is important, you are creating a ‘no brainer’ organisation. You are paying staff to come to work with their brains switched off! Why would you do that?
The third area is the ethical aspects. We are responsible and have a duty of care for our staff. It is vital that we support them to be able to thrive in today’s world. A global survey by Gallop indicated that for every happy person there are two that are unhappy. That can’t be right from an ethical and performance point of view.
I believe that the true potential of your organisation can only be realised when wellness is embedded within your organisation’s core business strategy. Improved wellness drives individual behaviours essential to improving the effectiveness of the entire organisation.
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