David Contorno

Why I'm Excited to Be Part of Fusion 2.0

“I'm excited because Fusion 2.0 combines a holistic view of the workplace environment and recognizes that wellbeing requires constant attention and innovative thinking. In healthcare financing and delivery, this plays such an important role because it affects the health of every employee.”

3 Important Reasons to Really Listen

When your colleague (boss, client) shares a concern, what is your natural response? Do you jump into problem-solver mode? Do you reassure them, perhaps minimizing their issue? Do you tune out and think about how their concern affects you? Or, do you pay close attention and listen carefully to what they say?

When time-starved, it’s natural to want to move things along, get to the point, be efficient. Yes, one way to save minutes is to simply limit how long we allow people to speak to us. We’re all guilty. But, even if—by some miracle—we accomplish an interruption politely, what opportunities do we miss by cutting people off?

Actually, there are several reasons to pay attention and let someone else talk.

  1. The first thing someone says is rarely what matters most.

    Their initial statement is usually an automatic one. It takes a little unpacking to make room for someone’s best thinking. By pausing and listening (and not interrupting), we get progressively better information. This gets us to the real issue more directly and prevents misinterpretations and rework.

  2. In a tense situation, talking moves a person from emotional to rational.

    Brain studies using functional MRI show that when a person verbally labels and expresses their emotion, the fight-or-flight region of the brain becomes less active and higher-level reasoning becomes more active.(1) So, when a coworker experiences frustration, disappointment, anger or some other emotion, listening will help them move beyond reaction to rational more quickly.

  3. In disagreements, being heard leads to a more favorable impression of those with an opposing viewpoint.

    For example, in areas of cultural conflict (such as between racial and religious groups), the ability to share a personal perspective with the other group (‘being heard”) resulted in a more positive impression of members of the other group. Interestingly, others who wrote about their perspective, but were not heard, did not experience the same change. (2)

The value of listening in each of these instances reflects the power of being present to another person’s discovery. It has value for us—getting better information, shifting toward problem solving, or having them feel more positively about our perspective—as well as us for theirs.

Just last week, a colleague said: “When I heard myself say it out loud, I realized what I needed to do.”

Simply by having someone listen attentively as she described a stressful situation, she discovered her own solutions. A week later she reported being less stressed, more hopeful, and feeling in control. For her, being listened-to was a powerful quality-of- life intervention.

The next time you are tempted to cut off a conversation, jump in, or interrupt, consider what you might be missing if you do. If you can spare a few minutes, just listen. You’ll be amazed what you (and they) learn.

This blog and more tools for powerful conversations are from www.Get2whatmatters.com.

1. Leiberman MD et al. Putting feelings into words; affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological Science. 2007; 18(5): 421-428.

2. Bruneau EG, Saxe HR. The power of being heard: The benefits of ‘perspective-giving’ in the context of intergroup conflict. J Experimental Soc Psychology. 2012 48; 855-866.


A Fresh and Healthy Way to Look at Investing

Your employees are dynamic. Your company is most likely comprised of a multi-cultural, multi-generational workforce and this can present a challenge when discussing personal finances in the workplace. In order for your financial well-being programs to be effective, they need to combine a generalized learning experience that appeals to the needs of your dynamic population with a personalized approach that addresses each individuals vision of financial success.

It is my experience that this challenge presents an incredible opportunity to think outside the box for unique ways to engage employees about the benefits of good money management. By creating an environment that inspires conversation around key financial topics, you can use the power of your diverse population to share fresh perspectives and create new ways of thinking about financial hurdles standing in your way of success.

For example, I use the following points to stimulate conversation with employees around the topic of investing. These ideas offer both universal appeal as well as building blocks that address employees with different levels of investing experience.

When it comes to investing, I find that people typically fall into one of two camps. Either you get excited about the prospect of putting your money to work for you or your eyes glaze over and your brain goes into a deep hibernation. For those of you that are quickly overwhelmed with the idea of investing, it is important to know that you may be missing an opportunity to improve not only your financial fitness but your overall health and wellbeing, too.

At Workplace Money Coach, we define investing as putting time, energy and/or money into something with the hope of receiving a greater return on your input in exchange. For example:

  • Walking for 30-minutes each morning can exponentially improve your health over time.
  • Organizing a time for family meetings on a weekly basis will help improve family communication for a lifetime.
  • Setting aside $50 each paycheck into an emergency savings fund will provide financial protection for your family and mitigate stress in your life.

I have found it helpful to break down investing into building blocks and believe that investing should be done in stages. I wanted to share those stages with you in the hopes that it will help you to see investing from a different perspective.

Stage One – Invest in Yourself

Investing starts with taking some time and money to make sure you are healthy and happy. There are many ways to invest in yourself including putting healthy food in your body, exercising regularly, educating yourself, focusing on career advancement and taking care of any mental health needs.

Make sure you include money in your monthly budget that can be used to invest in your health and personal growth.

Stage Two – Invest in Your Family

Before you concern yourself with retirement and building wealth, you need to make sure that your family is safe, healthy and happy, too. Some examples of ways you can invest in your family include purchasing or renting a home or apartment in a safe environment, purchasing term life insurance, setting aside money for future educational expenses, planning vacations to create great family memories.

Another very important way to “Invest in Your Family” is to build an emergency fund to protect you from unexpected expenditures that can wreak havoc on your budget and make it difficult to pay your bills. This can double as an investment in mitigating stress in your life.

Stage Three – Invest in Your Belongings

An often-overlooked way to invest is for preventative maintenance on the things you own. By investing money to clean and maintain your property and belongings regularly, you can prolong their life and save tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

Make room in your budget to get regular oil changes, tire rotations, brake inspections and fluid flushes for your automobiles. Have your air-conditioning, pool pumps, and appliances serviced regularly. Make sure you have adequate homeowners and car insurance and keep up-to-date with pet check-ups, vaccinations and medication to prevent larger, more costly treatments or surgeries down the road.

Stage Four – Invest for Retirement

Now that you have invested time, energy and money so you and your family are safe and happy and your belongings are clean and well-maintained, it is time to focus on investing for a time later in life when you would like to stop working or may be unable to continue working.

The company you work for most likely offers an easy way to invest for your retirement through a 401K or 403B. Setting aside money from your paycheck into a 401K plan through your employer often comes with the added benefit of matching funds offering an instant return on investment and a tremendous boost to your retirement savings.

Take some time to schedule an appointment with a financial advisor to make sure you are taking enough money out of each paycheck to invest so that you can live the life in retirement that you envision.

Stage Five – Invest to Create Passive Income and Build Wealth

Now it is time to put your money to work for you. Passive income allows you to make money without having to actively go to work to earn it. Many individuals that have built real wealth do so through creating multiple passive income streams. Some popular ways to build wealth through passive income include investing in taxable mutual funds that pay dividends, purchasing rental real estate, buying an equity stake in a small business, lending money to others at a specific interest rate, collecting royalties on a book, song or game you create and even creating a product that you license to a company to produce and sell for you.

Some of these investments require a lot of money up front and others do not. There are a ton of books, blogs, trade magazines and podcasts you can check out to learn more about a specific passive income investment to make sure it is right for you.


Cargo Ship Loading Dock

No “Comedy of Errors” Here

We all know the expression “a comedy of errors,” a situation that involves a combination of variables happening together, just at the right moment, which result in a humorous outcome. We all have experienced these situations and can have notable—or embarrassing—memories of them. On the other hand, combinations and interactions of errors—and particularly errors in human judgment—can create a tragedy of errors. Safety experts use the phrase “normalization of variance” to describe a situation in which small matters that might not matter all that much by themselves, in combination with other factors, create great harm and devastation.

On September 30, 2015, the SS El Faro, a gigantic 790-foot long cargo ship set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico. There were rough seas predicted ahead, but the ship was led by a group of Master Mariners who had highest certifications from their studies at the prestigious Maine Maritime Academy plus many, many years of experience. On October 1, the vessel encountered Hurricane Joaquin that was raging off of the Bahamas, and sunk in 15,000 of water, taking all 33 crew members to their death.

The United States Coast Guard has studied the tragedy for two years, taking 280 hours of testimony from 79 witnesses. Their work now constitutes one of the most thorough after-event analyses ever conducted in the history of shipping tragedies. All fault and blame is now clearly directed at four areas, all having a great deal to do with bad judgment:

  • The ship’s captain misread the strength of the hurricane
  • The ship’s captain did not clearly make himself aware of how much stress his ship was capable of withstanding
  • The ship’s crew paid inadequate attention to standard precautions that would be enacted in any type of heavy weather situation
  • The ship’s crew were inadequately trained on how to restart a main engine if it failed—which it did in the storm
  • The ship’s owners knew that the crew was not well rested, and crew fatigue was determined to be a major causative factor in their decisions and lack of preparation—fatigue, loss of decision-making energy, is almost always a deciding factor in negative judgments
  • The ship’s owners made last-minute repairs that they were required by law to report to the Coast Guard but did not
  • The ship’s owners knew that repairs on a main loading door—which ultimately collapsed allowing water to flood the ship—had not been completed to the most perfect standards
  • The American Board of Shipping (ABS) who was subcontracted by the Coast Guard to inspect the ship before departure had seen no reason to do so
  • Even, the Coast Guard accepted their own fault in not closely monitoring the activities of the subcontractor

At the conclusion of the Coast Guard’s report, the following statement was made:

“There was not one, singular cause. Instead, there were several factors, sometimes seemingly small, that caused the tragedy.”

All causative factors involved human judgment, but different aspects of human judgment. Sometimes it was not noticing subtle elements enough. Sometimes it was not following directions. Sometimes it might even have been being too highly motivated and moving too quickly to accomplish their assigned and contracted obligations. Sometimes it was the impact of fatigue and loss of decision-making energy. Sometimes it was lack of focus for people distracted by every kind of demand imaginable. Here was the “perfect storm” in which variables were normalized and overlooked in ways that made disaster almost inevitable.

In dissecting the after-event report, there is not one, single contributing factor that does not have a Judgment Index indicator that applies in some specific way. We can tell if decision-making energy is at a low ebb. We can tell if paying attention, staying focused, and noticing small tipping points is being compromised. We can tell if people are placing adequate value on directions, rules, protocols.

My guess: had the captain and his crew, the owner-operators, and the person’s responsible for reporting and inspection paradigms being met had the chance of being looked at through the lens of the Judgment Index, the El Faro might never have left port until the storm was well passed and they were out of potential harm’s way. My guess: there were very well trained and highly skilled persons, and likely persons of basic decency and humane behavior, who become “Lost At Sea” because of inadequate attention to issues of human judgment that are almost always the ultimate difference makers.

So now, the lawyers and insurance companies will take over, yet there will be no substitute for the loss of human lives. The insurance companies might even now wonder what they might have done, preventatively, to look at the judgment factors that would guide the decisions of the people that they will insure. It’s an interesting thought—my company is going to insure a shipping firm for millions and millions of dollars, and I will be expected to pay all kinds of compensation for loss if there is an accident, and yet it did not occur to me to look at what factors of judgment are present in the people who will make the work happen.

Within the context of the individual indicators of the Judgment Index, it is possible to look at a wide range of variables in human judgment that can contribute to a decision being made in positive or negative ways. For example, the Judgment Index can provide data-based analytics relating to the following areas:

  • The overall work-related strength of a person’s judgment relative to a person’s ability to do work with high efficiency and high effectiveness
  • The overall work-related strength of a person’s judgment relative to noticing small nuances and subtle elements that can become larger “tipping points”
  • The overall work-related strength of a person’s judgment relative to seeing implications, consequences, and longer-range outcomes of immediate, circumstantial dynamics
  • The overall self-related strength of a person to support work with a strong, personal base. Many accidents occur because of good work judgment being distracted and negatively impacted by personal dynamics rising from an individual’s life
  • The overall factor of stress as a “de-railer” to good judgment. The Judgment Index looks specifically at four types and intensities of stress that can inhibit strong decision-making
  • The capacity of a person to see innovative, creative, out-of-the-box solutions and options that others will likely miss
  • The capacity of a person to want to be engaged in doing a good job, working in a way that contributes and makes a difference, and actually caring about positive and productive outcomes.

In addition to this kind of specific, detailed information, the Judgment Index will also allow you to see the capacity that a person has for leadership in difficult situations. When there is a safety crisis, it is vital to have people who will set up and take “command” of a situation. The Judgment Index is not only good at recognizing these kinds of individuals who can be depended upon in the most difficult situations, but also at showing ways that individuals can be developed for higher capacities of leadership. Once again, this is vital information that can be gained about individuals and groups.

A differential equation is a way of making measurements that takes into account variables that may impact a situation. A differential equation would be very helpful, for example, if an artillery unit was plotting shot coordinates. In fact, a series of more refining, differential equations could be used to take into consideration flight path of an artillery shell being impacted by wind, atmospheric pressure, temperature, elevation, etc.

A more serious situation might arise if you were trying to bring a space capsule back through the small re-entry portal in the earth’s atmosphere, like the situation focused on in the movie Hidden Figures. Great golfers use differential equations—often lodged in their brains because of endless hours of practice—to calculate shot angles, club selections, club head speed, and spin that they give to a ball. Great golfers will also take into consideration variables of wind, temperature, and perhaps even their own degree of tiredness. Great cooks are aware of elevation variable in the length of time they will leave a cake in the oven to cook.

It is possible to use the Judgment Index as a series of differential equations that take into consideration numerous variables of decision-making, some of which will make for a better decision and others which may inhibit or defeat better decisions. By examining a wide range of these judgment variables, both with any individual and also within a group, it is possible to gain additional data—not hopeful guesswork—on the likelihood of a good or bad decision being propensity to be safe or unsafe. With this specific anticipation, appropriate interventions and preventative actions can be taken.

One of my most interesting clients is a Canadian shipyard in Victoria, British Columbia. The shipyard is vast, with the largest dry dock facilities on the entire western coast of North and South America. It is amazingly interesting to see the size and kinds of vessels that are being repaired and upgraded. The equipment is as large and intricate as the ships. You are immediately aware that there are lots of opportunities for people to get hurt in this environment.

Walking through the facility, it is impossible not to notice the organization’s dominant symbol: a three-bladed ship propeller. On one blade is written the word efficiency. Obviously, that makes sense. The company is in business to be efficient, repair ships and make money. A second blade carries the work care, and this relates to wanting workers who are engaged with what they are doing and who want to do a great job. To keep running ships in and out of these dry docks on very tight and demanding schedules takes the highest of productivity borne of people caring about what they are doing that is possible.

But, the top blade of the propeller has written on it in bold script the word SAFETY.

In the run-up to our first meeting, we heard a company executive talk to a group of new employees. He explained the company’s “values,” but the highest “value” was placed on safety. The executive stated that the most important consideration of the company was to make sure that all of its employees got back home safety at the end of their shifts—and—with all of their body parts. People laughed a bit in response to the latter part of this statement, but there was no question that safety was their highest concern. We have done wonderful work with this company because we can help them place data around issues of safety, data that allows them to hire, promote, and place in teams individuals who will make safer judgments. When the variables of good judgment are better understood and become vital drivers in workplace production, having to study and debrief the variable involved in accidents, disasters, and tragedies can become much less commonplace.

Rethinking Capitalism

We are living in a time of great searching in the world. It is becoming clear that many traditional ways of doing things are ineffective at best and often harmful and counterproductive. This is certainly true in the world of business. The old narrative of business and capitalism is increasingly being recognized as inadequate and uninspiring, even toxic.

The notions that businesses exist only to make a profit, that their primary concern is the creation of wealth for their owners, and that they have no responsibility other than to stay within the law are shocking in their naïveté and their willingness to treat the well-being of human beings as a means to their ends.

British author and economist John Kay has described this approach as selfish, instrumental and narrow: selfish because it only seeks the material well-being of the owners of the business; instrumental because it treats human beings as objects to be utilized as needed for the success of the business; and narrow because it fails to take into account the myriad impacts that businesses have on the lives of human beings and on the planet.

In light of these observations: How can we make capitalism work? Implicit in that question are further questions: Work for whom? Over what time frame? At what costs? How do we define what it means to “make capitalism work”?

In the broadest sense, the following ideas describe a capitalism that might truly work.

Capitalism has to be about creating wealth for all who are participants in the system

Be they be owners, investors, employees, customers, suppliers, community members or others who are impacted by the business enterprise. It cannot just be about generating profits and wealth for owners, treating all other participants in the systems as means to that one end.

The wealth that capitalism creates cannot just be financial wealth

It is a cliché to say that we humans don’t live by money alone. Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus has a better way to express this idea: “We act in business as though money is the only game in town. But there are other games in town.” The most meaningful thing we humans can do is to have a positive impact on the lives of others. The reality is that businesses create but can also destroy at least eight kinds of wealth or well-being: financial, intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, cultural, physical and ecological. Most businesses focus purely on creating financial wealth – and often don’t do a very good job at that. Everything else that happens as a consequence of how the company conducts its business is seen as a “side effect” – and of course, side effects, by universal consensus, are generally understood to be negative. The reality is that there is no such thing as a “side effect;” we do things and there are effects. All the effects matter; just because we put some of them in fine print or say them very fast doesn’t make them less significant. We must evolve to doing business in a way that generates a spectrum of positive effects.

Do it for the long term.

Five or even ten years is a far cry from the quarterly rhythm of most public companies. However, decisions must be taken with an eye to their consequences over decades, generations, even centuries. Most businesses operate as though there is no future beyond the immediate planning horizon of the company’s incumbent leaders – usually just a few years. In just the last hundred years, we have permanently eliminated more than half the species on the planet, and decimated the numbers of many that remain 2 by up to 95%. By any reasonable accounting, such conduct would be considered grossly irresponsible, even criminally negligent. In some native American tribes, tribal chiefs were expected to consider the consequences of their decisions on the next seven generations – approximately two hundred years. How many business leaders even look seven years out? How can we defend such extreme myopia, such wanton disregard for the world that our own children and their children will inherit? Interface Carpet founder and CEO Ray Andersen used to address his fellow CEOs by starting with the phrase “My fellow plunderers.” He would go on to suggest that if there was real justice in the world, he and his fellow business leaders would be imprisoned for what they had knowingly done to our fragile ecosystem.

Do it without causing any harm anywhere to anybody or anything.

Profit is a social good. We need profits to create a healthy society that works for all. Without profits, there are no taxes, and without taxes, there is no infrastructure, no social safety net, no social mobility, no national security and so on. It is socially irresponsible not to be profitable; the capital such businesses use could be better invested elsewhere to generate a reasonable return. However, it matters a great deal how we make the money. If a business does so by squeezing employees, suppliers, customers, communities, the environment, or future generations, then it is not truly a business. Real businesses create new and incremental value. A business that generates profits for investors by squeezing other stakeholders is not a business, it is a parasite; it is worth less than nothing. Such businesses do not deserve to exist. They make the world a worse place; their absence would enrich us.

Don’t settle for being sustainable; seek to heal and restore all the systems you are part of.

Too much in our world is broken, eroding, melting away, becoming less vibrant and generative over time. Our soil, our air, our oceans, our ground, our fellow life forms – all are suffering grievous harm. If we settle for being “sustainable,” all we are aiming for is the ability to keep doing what we are doing indefinitely. That is not enough. We can and must reverse the declines that are all around. The highest and noblest calling is to heal all that we touch, to truly leave everything better for us having been here. This is no utopian ideal. There are numerous examples of companies and NGOs that have done this. People cannot flourish if the systems they are embedded in are not also flourishing. All forms of life and all physical systems must be healthy and flourishing for human beings to be truly flourishing.

Define leadership as stewardship.

Most “leaders” today are primarily motivated by the accumulation of personal power and wealth. They use other people to achieve their personal goals of accumulating wealth and power. Such individuals are not in fact leaders at all; that is the very definition of a tyrant! To become more powerful and wealthy, they make the people they lead less powerful and wealthy (in all the dimensions of that word, as 3 discussed above). True leaders are those who seek to take people to a better place. They accept the awesome responsibility of leadership: to craft a compelling and inspiring vision of where we can collectively go, and devise a strategy for getting there by harnessing everyone’s capacities in the most effective way. They lead through service to the shared purpose of the enterprise and to the people whose lives they touch. These are the kinds of leaders we must have in the world, in every sphere of life.

Always remember (as Herb Kelleher said): “The business of business is people.”

It is not about anything else. Everything else should be considered a means to that end: the flourishing and holistic well-being of people. Calvin Coolidge said “The business of America is business.” This would be fine except that the common interpretation of that phrase is “making as much money as possible.”

Never sacrifice a higher value for a lower value.

Just as there is a “hierarchy of needs” (Maslow) for humans, there also needs to be a “hierarchy of values” that society agrees to and operates under. I would suggest that the highest value is to promote flourishing and alleviate suffering, starting with humans but including all forms of life. Under a traditional interpretation of capitalism, profit is the highest value; the well-being of human beings is somewhere well down the list, and the well-being of other species is so far down as to be an irrelevancy. Hence we have terrible and unsafe working conditions for many employees, and unconscionably cruel treatment of animals within the gruesome factory farming system. There is a price tag on everything; why not on suffering?Recognize that human beings are not just about self-interest. We have an equally powerful, if not more powerful need to care, and we are increasingly driven by a sense of purpose. Viktor Frankl’s landmark work Man’s Search for Meaning articulated this powerfully. He wrote that happiness cannot be pursued; it ensues. It is the outcome of living a life of meaning and purpose. That comes from three things:

  • doing work that matters
  • loving without condition, and
  • finding meaning in our suffering.

You could change the title of Frankl’s book to The Corporation’s Search for Meaning. The lessons are exactly the same. Companies pursue profits the way humans pursue happiness. Yet, like happiness, profits cannot be pursued; they ensue. They are the outcome of operating a business with a higher purpose, something that truly matters; of building the business on love and care, not fear and stress; and growing from adversity.

Use business as a way to surface and amplify our divine capacities for love and care. As Jane Dutton has said, organizations can suppress or amplify the human capacity for caring. Our largely Darwinian organizations are places of constant strife and empty striving. They are rife with political intrigue and petty power plays. They leave us depleted and demoralized. They use fear and stress as primary motivational tools – the proverbial “carrots and sticks.” 4 According to Gallup, 87% of us worldwide are disengaged at work. Heart attacks are 20% higher on Monday mornings. Most of us live for our time outside of work, hence the popular phrase and now restaurant chain TGIF.

Searching for a Better Way

We need a new narrative about capitalism and business. Business people hurt themselves and limit the potential of their businesses when they insist that the sole purpose of the business is to make profits for shareholders. This breeds resentment and envy, and does nothing to inspire employees to do more than the bare minimum. Business needs to awaken to itself and become conscious, to recognize its incredible power and thus great responsibility. By becoming conscious, it can create more flourishing, more community, more mutuality, more peace and paradoxically, more profit.

Business is not a money making machine; it is a complex living adaptive system. Any part of it that is unhealthy can bring down the whole system; much as if one part of your body gets an infection, the whole body can die. When you start to think about business that way, you recognize the inherent interdependence and interconnection of stakeholders.

In the long run—and it must always be about the long run—investors cannot profit unless customers are truly happy and satisfied. Customers cannot be truly happy and satisfied unless employees are fulfilled and have a sense of meaning in what they’re doing. You cannot do any of that unless you have high-quality inputs, which is where the suppliers come in. Taking a broader viewpoint, no business can flourish as an island of prosperity amidst a sea of despair; so the community’s health and well-being is also essential.

Thus, Conscious Capitalism was born. This comprehensive alternative philosophy of doing business seeks to address all of the drawbacks of the “selfish, instrumental and narrow” approach that has long been the norm.

Read more about Raj's thoughts on Conscious Capitalism here.

Rethinking Weight at the Workplace

Weight in the Workplace: What You Should Know

A growing body of evidence supports what most have already discovered: weight loss
interventions are ineffective for creating sustainable changes in weight or health. What is less well-known is that the weight-focused approach to health can actually be harmful to wellbeing and is ultimately counterproductive to individual and organizational goals of health, productivity and authentic engagement.

Despite these facts, weight management programs are still a favorite in workplace wellness initiatives and BMI continues to be used as an “indicator of health,” which it most definitely is not. Although more and more professionals are beginning to question the efficacy of this weight-centric approach, many are still trying the same tactics, and some are simply uncertain what to do instead.

Here’s a synopsis of what you need to know about why not to focus on weight – and what to do instead. We’ll be exploring these ideas in greater depth in my session at the Fusion 2.0 Conference titled Shifting the Focus from Weight to Wellbeing.

Why Not Weight Loss?

Weight loss programs are ineffective. The fact that weight loss programs do not create lasting changes in weight or health has been proven time and time again. There is a mountain of evidence supporting this, but I’ll just cite three relatively recent pieces:

  • A comprehensive review published in the Journal of Obesity concluded that no weight loss initiatives to date have generated long-term results for the majority of participants.
  • Results from a 2013 RAND study show that participation in a one year weight control program in the workplace would be associated with a body weight reduction of approximately one pound for an average adult at the end of the first year. By the fourth year, this would be reduced to one-quarter of one pound.
  • A 2015 article published in American Journal of Public Health found that, over a nine year follow up, the likelihood of attaining “normal” body weight for a person with a BMI of 30 – 35 was less than 1% for men and less than .5% (yes, that’s less than half of one percent) for women. The likelihood of attaining normal body weight reduces significantly from there as BMI increases.

Clearly, these are not the results individuals and organizations hoped for.

The focus on weight loss can be harmful.

While no organization would intentionally implement a program or service that was harmful to their employees, we need to be aware that this is potentially what is happening with weight loss programming. The Journal of Obesity review cited above summarizes numerous studies on the three most documented negative effects of the weight loss focus: weight cycling, disordered eating, and weight stigma. The conclusions of that review and other research are:

  • Weight Cycling: The most common outcome of weight-loss programs is not sustained weight loss, but weight cycling (the repeated gain and loss of weight, often referred to as yo-yo dieting). Weight cycling has been definitively linked with adverse physical health, including loss of muscle tissue, hypertension, chronic inflammation, more weight gain over time, less physically active lifestyles, some forms of cancer and, most notably, higher mortality. Weight cycling is also associated with diminished psychological well-being, such as greater emotional distress and lower self-esteem.
  • Disordered Eating: The pursuit of weight loss can lead to disordered eating behavior. The review finds “there is growing evidence that individuals who try to achieve and maintain a weight-suppressed state are at risk for binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.” Another recent study on a mindfulness based intuitive eating intervention extends this concern beyond diagnosed eating disorders to “problematic eating behavior” such as chronic overeating and loss of control over eating, which are surprisingly prevalent in American women.
  • Weight Stigma: The focus on weight and weight loss results in weight stigma. The prizing of thinness, weight loss and “healthy” weight as determined by the BMI creates the opportunity for weight stigma, or negative attitudes and beliefs about people who do not fit a certain weight category. Weight stigma is associated with diminished health and well-being including: increased caloric consumption, diminished exercise, binge eating behaviors, low self-esteem, depression, and a decrease in self-rated health.
What Should We Do Instead?

A decade ago, this might have been a more difficult question to answer as less was widely known about alternatives to the weight loss approach. But, thankfully, times have changed. More professionals now support the shift away from the weight-centric approach to wellbeing, as does the science. Although I often use the term weight-neutral, you may know this philosophy as “weight-inclusive” or Health at Every Size.™

The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement is a broad one dedicated to helping advance social justice, creating inclusive and respectful communities and supporting people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves. Although HAES principles have been integrated into the work of more wellbeing and other helping professionals in recent years, many are unaware of HAES or unsure how to apply it. We’ll dive deeper into the practical application of HAES at the Fusion 2.0 Conference, but here’s a start. With regard to weight and health, working from the HAES perspective means that you:

  • Honor the natural diversity of body shapes and sizes and recognize that a person’s health status, risk level, or quality of life cannot be assumed based solely on a number on a scale.
  • Openly acknowledge the truth that body weight is determined by a complex set of genetic, metabolic, physiological, cultural, social, and behavioral determinants, not all of which individuals can control.
  • Work to create the conditions in which people of all sizes can develop the confidence and skills necessary to take charge of the factors they can control, such as: addressing ineffective thinking, finding ways to move pleasurably and sustainably, resolving challenges with food and eating, enhancing social connectedness and more – all of which ultimately lead to improved well-being, regardless of size.
Sounds Good … But Does It Really Help?

Every time I’ve had the good fortune to speak with a group of professionals on this topic, most in the room agree that the weight-centric approach to health has been ineffective and that HAES seems, at the very least, kinder and more compassionate. But some also wonder whether it really helps.

If, by helps, we’re talking about improving wellbeing holistically without iatrogenic effects, the answer is Yes! The research on weight neutral interventions has been ongoing for more than a decade and the results are promising. When tested against standard weight-focused approaches, the HAES approach results in significant improvements in physiological measures (e.g., blood pressure), health practices (e.g., physical activity), and psychological measures (e.g., self-esteem and disordered eating) when compared to standard weight-focused programs. And it does so with lower dropout rates with none of the adverse outcomes that were found in the
weight-focused programs.

Additionally, if the data isn’t enough, workplace decision makers may be compelled to offer HAES-based interventions for other reasons: to help avoid negative unintended consequences of weight-focused programs, including potential legal ramifications and the exclusion of employees who may not be classified as overweight but could benefit from engagement in the intervention.

If you’re interested in shifting the paradigm from weight to wellbeing in your organization – or looking for more clarity on alternative approaches – join me Friday, November 9 at 9:45 am for an engaging conversation where we’ll dig deeper.


What Is Conscious Capitalism?

Conscious Capitalism is a comprehensive alternative philosophy of doing business that seeks to address all of the drawbacks of the “selfish, instrumental and narrow” approach that has long been the norm. It seeks to amplify all of the myriad benefits of free market capitalism while greatly reducing or even eliminating and often reversing many of its negative consequences.

Conscious Capitalism has four tenets or pillars of belief:

  1. Higher Purpose: Every business should have a higher purpose that transcends making money. It is the difference the company is trying to make in the world. By focusing on its higher purpose, a business inspires, engages and energizes all its stakeholders.
  2. Stakeholder Orientation: Recognizing the interdependent nature of life and the human foundations of business, a business needs to create value with and for all of its various stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, investors, communities, etc.).
  3. Conscious Leadership: Conscious leaders understand and embrace the higher purpose of the business and focus on creating value for and harmonizing the interests of all the stakeholders of the business. They are missionary rather than mercenary or military-style leaders.
  4. Caring Culture: Conscious business create cultures rooted in qualities such as trust, authenticity, caring, transparency, integrity, learning and empowerment. Most conventional business cultures are rife with fear and stress.

Conscious businesses spend money where it makes a positive difference, paying their employees and suppliers well and investing in customer care. They don't waste money on unnecessary advertising, gimmicky promotions, and the revolving door of high employee and supplier turnover. They empower people and engage their best contribution in service of a higher sense of purpose. They make a net positive impact on the world.

Our research has found that conscious companies significantly outperform the market financially; in the first edition of Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, we found a nearly 9-to-1 ratio of outperformance over a ten-year period. In the second edition (2014), the ratio was 14-to-1 over a 15-year period.

Our challenges have never been greater, but so is our consciousness of those challenges. Our collective determination to address those challenges and our ability to do so have also never been greater. We have at our disposal all the tools and technologies we need to solve virtually every one of our challenges, and we have the capacity and creativity to invent anything that we need but do not yet have.

If we can marshal the latent energy that is in each of us and channel it through creative organizational forms, we can and will eradicate poverty in this century, live on a more peaceful planet, restore and replenish our environment and threatened species, eliminate most major diseases, and enable the vast majority of humans to lead long, healthy, vibrant, productive, and meaningful lives. Our children and grandchildren and generations far beyond will collectively flourish in ways we cannot even imagine today.

This is the power, promise, and beauty of Conscious Capitalism. Why would you choose to operate any other way? How can you ethically justify doing so?


Imagine a New Model for Employee Success and Performance

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we live in a society where our success, on an individual and collective level, is determined by the amount of money, power and status we amass. Because of this, the models for success within our organizations are the people who sacrifice themselves, their time, their relationships, their health and their happiness in service to their company.

This “company man” is the shining symbol of success within our Capitalist society – the person that arrives first and leaves last, the person chained to their desk, the person running from meeting to meeting unable to catch a breath, the person who never takes their vacation. Our inherited, outdated expectations and biases no longer serve us or the companies we work for. As we move away from Industrial Age work and ways of organizing, we must also move away from an Industrial Age mindset of what work is and what it means to be a successful employee.

For the last century, two factors have largely been responsible for generating individual success (money, status and power):

  • Productivity: make as many widgets as possible within a period of time. Simply work hard, put your nose to the grindstone, buckle down, bootstrap, make it work and get shit done. Do more with fewer resources in zero time.
  • Talent: using your God-given gifts to get ahead in life. According to this worldview, you were either born with a skill or ability or you weren’t. Fundamentally, one’s talent or ability to do something cannot be grown or changed.

Productivity and talent. Are these factors still the largest drivers of an individual’s success in a knowledge economy? Sure, they play a role, but are they still the primary force for success? I don’t think so.

Knowledge-based work requires that we have the time and space to be calm. To think critically. To collaborate. To experiment. To be mindful. To be creative. To focus. To ponder. To be aware of ourselves. To continuously learn and grow.

If this is the case, then how do we measure productivity when we no longer make physical widgets, and thinking becomes our product? And, with a society that changes at a breakneck pace, demanding that individuals constantly learn and grow their minds and abilities to stay afloat, how can we measure talent? If productivity and talent take a back seat for creating employee success, then which factors are in the driver’s seat?

Haunted by the corporate heroes of the Industrial Age, we have sacrificed our most basic human needs to be productive workers. When asked what we most desire in life, for ourselves and our children, people’s answers overwhelmingly fall into three categories:

  1. To be well
  2. To be fulfilled
  3. To be safe

Without health, happiness and security, how can we be expected to grow as individuals and make our highest contribution to our companies and the world? Can we replace our current model of success (money, status and power) with a new model that prioritizes health, happiness and security?

The simple answer is yes. The execution is much more complex. And yet, companies have an enormous opportunity to shape the minds and lives of their people.

My challenge to you comes in the form of this question:

How might we redesign the conditions of our organization to create a new definition around success for our people rooted in health, happiness, and security?

A big challenge, but one I believe you are capable of undertaking. If you don’t know where to begin, look to each of the Four Contexts:

  • Systems – implicit and explicit rules, policies, procedures, processes, platforms, organizational norms
  • Spaces – design of the physical environment and how communication is used within this environment
  • Social – networks and groups, teams, support systems, mentors and coaches, friends and family, and social norms
  • Self – meaning and stories about the world, confidence and capability, autonomy and control, level of awareness and self-actualization

Reimagine your organization and culture through these Four Contexts while continuously asking, "will this generate health, happiness and security for our people?"

Originally published on Habits at Work.