Several months ago I was on the phone with two fairly powerful professionals in my industry.
They had been given my name because someone thought I might be a good speaker for the networking groups they lead. As we got our conversation started they preemptively told me that their groups did not like “fringe” wellness.
I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but figured I must have some reputation for it, which I also felt totally okay with. Fast forward to today. A prospective client asked me to bring my references to her office so she could speak with them in person. First of all, let me say that it was so lovely to be in a car with some of my most favorite people in the whole world. One was Cheri, my very first coaching client after starting my business. Her journey taught me more than she will ever realize. The other was Julie, the HR Director who schemes with me on an almost daily basis to make her company better and who I have watched develop into such an incredible and fierce leader.
Another was Lyndsay, my first employee, the one who was bold enough to be my first follower. The person who has proudly worked alongside me and dreamed of what it would look like if we could live into the vision we had for workplace wellness, while holding steady while we worried we might lose clients and during all the times we got so close to securing an account only to have it fall through. The other person was Beth who we are bringing on board as we grow and I can’t even begin to imagine the way she will holistically shape people’s lives.
I sat there while these women shared their experiences of working with me. While it was incredibly humbling and lovely to hear these things, I was in awe of the service. Service was the only word that kept coming to mind. This is my service to the world. I care deeply about the people who come to work every day and the challenges they face. I don’t care if that feels “fringe.”
In August, Realize Wellbeing will have been in existence for four years. This is my service. I have endured a lot of well-meaning advice about how I need to create a scalable model to be competitive, or be better at talking about the business case and the financial returns, or any number of ways my business is not in line with a successful model.
But here’s the thing… This past month I had the opportunity to pitch to a prospective client and I told them about our work. I told them about the science I use to make thoughtful decisions for people and companies alike. I told them why conversations about ROI in relation to human beings is detrimental to the very goals a wellness program seeks to achieve (not that you can’t get there, that just can’t be the conversation or motivation with your people). And when they asked me “what would it look like if we nailed it?” I told them if they nailed it they wouldn’t need a wellness program at all because their employees would attain higher levels of wellbeing through the work they were already doing in their job.
Put that pitch up against any other and it is a solid case for an unsuccessful business. Well, this company called me back. They called me back and said, “out of desperation we were looking for magic pixie dust and all of the other consultants said the same things and then we talked to you and you have magic pixie dust.”
Magic Pixie Dust sounds a lot like fringe wellness, but in my fierce determination to bring to life the kind of wellness I believed respected the dignity of every person and their messy, beautiful selves, Lyndsay and I have helped hundreds of people know their worth and take better care of themselves.
At the end of the day, beware of people who sell you a wellness model that is scalable, but leaves no room for imperfection. Be curious about people who won’t stray from the margins in an industry that has not in recent history been doing a great job of delivering on its promises, because the fringe stuff might, in fact, be a better investment. At Realize Wellbeing, we show up in the trenches with your employees. As Lyndsay said today, “I tell people that if they are struggling with something that is impacting their wellbeing, then it’s okay to bring it up with me.” My heart exploded.
We show up when your employee’s spouse relapsed in their drug addiction. We show up when they recovered from cancer and want to know how to live “normally” again. We show up when they are on the verge of tears because their boss just blew up in their face. We show up for the things they can’t tell you for good reasons. Then we advocate for them and we advocate for your business.
We show up when leaders say, “I feel like I don’t know what else to do because I have invested so much in this wellness thing and it’s not working and my employees still need so much.”
We won’t hand you or your organization a scalable model, but we will listen carefully and lean into our scientifically based expertise, and our decades of experience trying to get this right. Then we will step forward with you and your employees and try again. Here is the truth. If someone had the scalable algorithm to human health and wellness, we would have paid for it by now. It’s time to ask better questions. It’s time to ask, “what would it look like if we nailed it?” or “what’s the thing we don’t know we don’t know?”
It’s time for some vulnerability on the part of business leaders in the wellness industry and those leading businesses. We are dealing with human beings. Just like you and me and Cheri and Lyndsay and Beth and Julie, we don’t need someone to try to fix us, we need someone to say, “Yes, this is hard. You are not alone. How can I help you? I am here for you.” We need someone with a little Pixie Dust to help us fly.