Ehstoday 3351 Wellness

Building a Successful Wellness Program Takes Guts, Grit and Compassion

Sept. 16, 2013
A new report describes the seven traits that make wellness-program leaders effective.

Getting a company wellness program off the ground is no easy task. In the face of skeptical senior executives and ever-tightening budgets, wellness-program leaders must be champions of their cause, leveraging opportunities as they come.

Midland, Mich.-based Health Enhancement Systems, which creates worksite wellness challenges for organizations, has identified seven traits that make wellness-program leaders effective. Those traits are:

  • Resilience – Some of the top wellness leaders have endured numerous restructurings and new reporting lines as well as endless exercises to justify their existence. "Through it all, they've maintained a sense of mission – an unfailing belief in their purpose," says a new reported titled "Seven Traits of Great Wellness Leaders." "Deep down they know what they do is right for the people they serve and the organization, even when others around them question it."
  • Assertiveness  – "Being in the helping profession, it seems to go against our grain to push for the things we need to do our jobs right," the report says. "As a result, wellness often becomes a second-class function. But the most successful internal programs and wellness service providers almost always have a leader who's an unflinching champion for the cause – pushing forward against heavy odds and building on each success."
  • Ego drive – Effective wellness-program leaders share a desire to persuade, whether it's in the form of helping a client change a behavior, mentoring a new wellness graduate or influencing a senior executive's decision about expanding a program to include families.
  • Risk-taking – To make a big breakthrough, it's often necessary to take a risk. Or two. Or a few dozen. "Not to be confused with gamblers, successful risk-takers look for calculated chances, based on their own experience/knowledge as well as that of other colleagues in wellness and other businesses," the report explains.
  • Innovation – Effective wellness-program leaders comb the health-management field for good ideas and build on them for even greater success. "Instead of thinking, "'That's the way we've always done it,'" they're asking "'How can this be different, better, more efficient and effective?'"
  • Urgency – Often, the difference between great leaders and good managers is the sense of urgency that leaders express and instill in their teams. "Outstanding wellness leaders know they may not launch the perfect service if they're squeezing more interventions into each quarter," the report says. "But they also are aware that sitting on the sidelines won't help anyone, and they need to be learning by doing."
  • Empathy – The first six traits could describe a great leader in almost any field. What distinguishes outstanding wellness professionals from top performers in other fields is their capacity for compassion, the report says. "Whether it's a client, staff member or boss, they care about people as people, not just challenges, tools or a means to an end."

"Traits aren't something you can acquire as readily as skills – they develop over time," the report explains. "But you can begin to build these great leadership characteristics by making a conscious decision to seek individuals with these qualities. Spend time with them, study their methods, emulate their strategies and learn from their successes."

To download "Seven Traits of Great Wellness Program Leaders," visit the Health Enhancement Systems website.

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