by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

If you’re a political junkie like me you may be tiring of the rhetoric running through the Presidential campaign, with both candidates saying whatever they think will tip swing voters in their direction — regardless of whether they believe it’s good for the country. That was underscored following Mitt Romney’s primary win in Illinois, when his campaign manager made the Etch A Sketch™ remark — essentially saying that if you win the nomination you get to erase what you said in the primaries and start over in the general election.

It reminds me of well-meaning wellness practitioners who do or say whatever they think will hook participants. Some common pandering:

  • “Make money by participating.” This is possibly the most shortsighted policy in corporate wellness today — paying people to do something we want them to want to do for themselves. It’s a practice that can only result in bankrupting your wellness program and/or alienating participants once escalating rewards are no longer effective and penalties are needed to have the same effect.
  • “Little changes here and there add up.” Not true. Taking the stairs or parking 100 yards farther from the entrance isn’t going to reduce the risk of diabetes or heart disease for someone 30 pounds overweight.
  • “Small changes are easier than big changes.” False. Psychologically, they’re exactly the same. The only difference is small changes produce small (or no) results, so you’re more likely to slip into old habits because there’s no reinforcement.
  • “There’s an app for that.” Not really. Suggesting to your participants they’ll be successful “managing” their health through your whiz-bang health portal with tailored messaging and built-in rewards engine is a digital fairy tale. Those are tools… nothing more.

Real wellness continues to happen in participants’ neighborhoods, at the kitchen table, and one-on-one with colleagues, friends, and family.

In politics, there are very few negative consequences for pandering and the rewards (if you’re good at it) can be huge. But in wellness, if you suck people in under false pretenses and they fail, your credibility is lost. People will automatically be suspicious the next time you come around.

Tell the Truth, Always…

Here are examples:

  • Behavior change is hard — really hard.
  • It’s up to you.
  • Here are some tools to help, but it’s still going to be hard.
  • We’re going to do what we can to make the workplace a healthy place, but ultimately, it’s still up to you.
  • We’re not going to pay you to do something that’s good for you.
  • Although it’s hard, the rewards are incredible: personal satisfaction, greater confidence, more energy, reduced stress, enhanced resilience, decreased risk of disease.

Keep your credibility by not pandering. Instead, build the foundation for a wellness program that’s effective and sustainable.

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