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LoveSummit2017

Daily VIAL: WELCOA

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Daily VIAL: WELCOA

I’ve got to admit it, I was a fierce and vocal critic of WELCOA for many years.

I thought that they were trading in old ideas and that new thinking was required. After a while, I stopped even taking notice of their work, making an assumption that it was more of the same. Note to self, remember the danger of making assumptions!

When two good friends whom I trust, Sara Kidwell and Rachel Druckenmiller, both introduced me to Ryan Picarella, I suspected that maybe I was missing something.

Ryan and I spoke on the phone and, as they say, he “had me at hello”. An hour later, I knew I had to meet this guy. Only weeks later, we made it happen and I went to see what all the fuss was about at WELCOA these days. In reality, change has been afoot for the last four years since Ryan began to lead the organization and I wish I had been paying attention earlier.

WELCOA is now my vote for most likely to change the face of wellness in this country, and beyond (I remember checking them out when I lived in South Africa, so I know their reach is global).

I left that visit convinced that I wanted to work with this team and honestly, a little sad that I couldn't be a part of the speaker line-up for their annual summit (but I did agree to go, breaking my usual rule of only going to conferences where I’m speaking).

Three things happened since, one on that visit, and two at the summit.

I met Sara Rauch on my first visit to Omaha. She is wonderfully warm and, with the rest of the team at WELCOA, is responsible for putting on the best conference in wellness bar none. Thank you, Sara and the entire WELCOA team, for having a warm smile and a helping hand in every interaction we’ve had since.

The second thing that happened is that I got a call from Ryan a few weeks before the summit to say, “My opening speaker can't make it for a good reason, and how would you like to take his spot?” I pretended to be cool about it and thankfully Ryan couldn’t see my happy dance on the end of the line. It’s not pretty to see. He may have had to ask again to shake me out of it to then sputter something like, “Hell, yes!”

I’ve got to say, that was one of my favorite talks of the year. Part of the reason for this was being among an awesome line-up of speakers, such as Vic Strecher, John Perkins, MJ Shaar, Rachel Druckenmiller, Dr. Daniel Amen, Reggie Hammond, Mitch Martens, Jesse Gavin, Rosie Ward, Jon Robison, Barbara Zabawa, Dr. JoAnn Eickhoff-Shemek, Dr. Donald Hensrud, Andrew Horn, Laura Putnam, Paul Scialla, Laurel Mellin, Aaron Hunnel, Geno Church, Brett Powell and Brian Passon, to name a few.

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The third thing that happened is the other part of why I loved the summit, which was getting to meet a lot of very cool, new people (and of course reconnect with old friends like Sara and Rachel who were the reason I was there in the first place). Board members like John Kizer, Steve LaCagnin, Richard Ollis, Linda Andreae and Don Hensrud. Many fellow attendees whom I either had great conversations with or even agreed on new alliances: Mim Senft, Deb Smolensky, Rachel Knapp, Denise Normandin, Jeff Skelton, Jennifer Pitts, Samantha Thomas, Chetan Bagga, Amber Baker, Emily Elrod, Jessika Jake, Susan Benigas, Ed Buckley, Emma Maurer, Dana Janney, Bryan Noar, Rex Miller, Dee Eastman, Kathy Nellor, and Marisa Young.

Ryan, Sara and the WELCOA team, you have our absolute support, our loyal friendship and our deep gratitude for all that you do for the world of wellness. Thank you for trusting me to be a part of your summit. I can't wait to see what our partnership brings in the future.


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Daily VIAL: Steve van der Watt

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Daily VIAL: Steve van der Watt

Steve van der Watt and I competed fiercely against each other in South Africa. And I mean fiercely.  

So, when we finally met and sat together at South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory in 1995, neither of us expected to like each other.

Well Steve, 22 years later I consider you one of the most loyal and dear friends that I have. In all that time, even when I knew you were going through some tough times, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your huge trademark grin, big bear hug and readiness for any adventure. If there was a trophy for sucking the marrow out of life, you’d not only win it, but probably share a beer in celebration with everyone out of it!

Your ability to see the bright side of life is infectious, but my real admiration for you is as a perpetual student and (at the same time) an old master of the fine craft of salesmanship. Most people reach a level of competence and then satisfice, but you continue to think about, deconstruct and find new ways to help people see and enjoy the value of the solution you’re selling. Like so many of your businesses in the past, I expect that Medici will enjoy the same massive growth at your hands and under your leadership.

As someone who fancies himself as a bit of a salesman, I always know where to turn to hone my skills. When I need a good laugh, and want to meet the many interesting people that gather around you to expand my own friend network, I know where to run. Thanks for all the life and business lessons: past and those to come. As one of my anchors when I first moved to Chicago, you may never know how much easier you made it for me to settle in and build a life here. And yes, I know exactly the abuse I’m going to take from you for posting this message! Bring it. And thank you.


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Daily VIAL: Douglas County School District

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Daily VIAL: Douglas County School District

In 2009, I met Steve Herzog, David Hart, Brian Ewert and Brenda Smith at Douglas County School District.

They’ve all gone on to do bigger and better things since then, as have we, but for two short years we kicked a dent in the universe together. This team had the courage to tackle becoming the healthiest school district in the US during what might have been the toughest time financially, and in other ways, in school district funding and administration. What started as a conversation about reducing sky-rocketing healthcare costs, became a story that I tell whenever and wherever I can today about how to start a movement.

As the Assistant, and then acting Superintendent, Steve, you taught me about courage. In this case, to stand in front of teachers day after day facing concerns, tears and questions about what was going to happen to the district and to them. In the middle of that, you took on leading a movement to transform the meaning and purpose that educators found in the work, restoring their joy and passion for the job.

David, you’re one of the only CFOs I’ve ever met that is prepared to take such a strong stand for the people in your organization, and in this case, while still being able to balance an extraordinary act of fiscal discipline. We’ve worked together a few times since and I always leave every meeting we have with a smile, some new knowledge and a story to share. I always look forward to our conversations and know we’ll be working together again in future, one way or the other! Thanks for being a great friend and a man I admire very much.

Brian, although people may not remember, you were the “energizer bunny” that just kept going and going at DCSD and that, in my opinion, single handedly brought more than 4,000 educators and employees into being change agents for the health of their students and their families. We can’t know all the stories of the people you touched as a result, but from the many I did hear I know that your energy saved the lives of many people, and put meaning and purpose back into the lives of thousands.

Brenda, as the leader of the union, you “should have” been the person putting up most resistance to the efforts of the district to change health benefits and to enroll people in a new wellness adventure, but you did the opposite. You still asked all the hard questions, and in every conversation you fought for the best interests of your members and over every detail, but you also took a big picture view of what would really serve people most in the end. In today’s world, there are few people that have the courage to do the right thing if the price is short term pain, criticism or challenge. I still smile with pride thinking about how you lead the charge for the changes that were made and got your team working so hard behind you. Too often union and business leaders work against each other, with a win/lose mindset. You taught me that attitude, warmth and a win-win mindset can lead to incredible results that build, rather than destroy trust.  

There were many other people that made the story of DCSD a success, from the team in benefits and HR, to principals, individual teachers, bus drivers, risk managers and more. But the gang of four mentioned above will always stand out for me in my career as the group that proved the power of Starting with Why (before Simon Sinek’s talk made that an obvious approach) and the value of giving people meaning and purpose in their work. If you didn’t know this already, your story is featured in our BRATLAB research vaults and is shared with many people around the world as an example of what’s possible when purpose and passion ignite.


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Daily VIAL: The Vistage Community

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Daily VIAL: The Vistage Community

Today I want to celebrate Vistage and the many people I’ve met, worked with and learned from by being a speaker for and now a member.

Phil Hauck invited me to speak to his group before I’d ever heard of Vistage (or The Executive Committee as it was called in Wisconsin in those days) and has been a mentor, friend and active supporter of our business every since. Thanks for always being generous and thoughtful with your feedback and advice.

Habits at Work Performance Office Space

More recently, I met my Vistage Chair, speaking coach, good friend and the powerhouse that is Mikki Williams. If you’ve never seen Mikki speak, make a point to do so. I spent years looking for the “best speakers in the world” to watch and to learn from. Little did I know that the top of the pile lived up the road from me in Chicago. I’ve learned more about professional speaking in the few months since we’ve met than I have in the last 20 years, which is both a joy to me and more than a little frustrating (where were you 20 years ago?!)

Chuck Andrews, Mike Lauesen and many chairs in Wisconsin and elsewhere have invited me to speak to their groups and I’m grateful for the faith you have in our message and the support you’ve given me as one of the new speakers in the Vistage family. Chuck, I loved having your group be the first to host their monthly meeting in our “performance office space”, and I hope many more Chicago Chairs take up our offer to do the same.

Last but certainly not least, Bette Schumacher has been kind, helpful and has made the process of learning the ins and outs of Vistage speaking easy and rewarding. Thanks for all the behind the scenes work that you do every day.

I’m looking forward to meeting many new chairs and growing my Vistage family of friends. I was just in Anchorage with Bobbie Sue and Rick Wolk (the only Vistage Chair in Alaska, I believe) and with their warmth and generosity they reminded me why Vistage is more than a professional network for CEOs, but is and I hope continues to be, a global family for people.


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Daily VIAL: Mimi Bosika

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Daily VIAL: Mimi Bosika

There are people in life who are natural connectors. As someone who has to work very hard at it, I’m especially impressed with the people who connect like masters, and make it look so easy. Mimi Bosika is one of them.

We first met in the back row while taking a course we were both very skeptical about. Soon after, we became close friends and business allies. Mimi runs Delos Therapy, and they’ve not only helped thousands in Chicago manage pain, but remain my go-to respite whenever something in my body seems to be falling apart (aging, damn you!).

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Mimi also runs a Women in Wellness group, through which I’ve met many amazing and inspiring ladies who are changing the face of wellness in Chicago and around the country. There are not many people I know that Mimi doesn’t already know, but if you’re one them, you should meet her right away. I guarantee she will make an immediate impact on your life and your professional career.

Mimi, thanks for being a generous business partner, a loyal friend and a more than patient ear to listen to my whining and complaining during moments of frustration and when I'm feeling sorry for myself. It’s not a job anyone should endure, but you do so with charm and grace, and always leave me cheered up. Your business partner Erik and your team at Delos are lucky to have you, and so are we! Even though your “official” role is simply advisor and friend, the impact you have goes far beyond.

If you live in Chicago and your body or muscles are ever in pain, find Delos!


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VIAL 5 Challenge

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VIAL 5 Challenge

HELP ME INTENTIONALLY SPREAD HABITS OF (PROFESSIONAL) LOVE IN THE WORKPLACE!

We sometimes squirm when we talk about Love & Business, as if the two shouldn’t mix.

Perhaps that’s because we’re confusing the feeling of being in love, or the ideas of romantic love, with the habits of love and compassion.

We believe, as the Dream Change's team curating the Love Summit believes, love is not only something that should be a part of work, but that it is the fuel of high performance, trust, competitive advantage and sustainability.

Love at work is a set of professional acts, or habits, that people practice each day. It is being kind to someone during their first day on the job and showing them the ropes. It is giving positive feedback to someone that reports to you, instead of focusing on the negative. It is asking what customers really need, not whether or not we can sell them what we have.

With just a little thought, we can all see the hundreds of ways in which the habits of caring, compassion and kindness make a world of difference to the people we serve. It's not just about leaders bringing love to their business, it's about any person that has made a difference for us along the pathway of our career. So, here is a challenge for you.

  1. Think of someone that went above and beyond for you - A mentor, friend, business colleague or client that made an impact on you, or that inspires you. Think about what action they took or what habit they practice that makes them so special to you.

  2. Post a VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF LOVE, that explains who they are for you, what they did to impact your life AT WORK so positively, and express a little gratitude for that love. I know they’ll feel like a million bucks, but you might be surprised by how good it makes you feel. Tag them in your post and tell the world what amazing people they are!

  3. Finally, when they call, text or message you to say thank you (and they will), be gracious in acceptance and ask them to pay it forward. My dream is that we acknowledge the Habits of (Professional) Love to grow a business community that thrives, not by using people up, but by filling them up.

(And if you’re an overachiever, check out Rachel’s suggestions in Because Nice Matters: The Gift of Gratitude). 


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Daily VIAL: Premera and Vivacity

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Daily VIAL: Premera and Vivacity

There are many people in Premera Alaska and Seattle and in Vivacity that have made a difference to us, to our company and to me personally.

Lynn, you define the word panache for me and I love to watch you work (a room and a plan). You are the reason that I finally got off my butt and started to write the Habits at Work book. Admittedly, some days I curse you for that, too! Thank you for nudging me for years to write the book, and for your faith in us to help you build the, now very successful, Alaska Wellness Academy. It’s been an awesome three-year ride and I am confident that your efforts have left so many employers in Alaska empowered and inspired to do great things in their wellbeing programs and efforts. I’ve met so many committed and inspiring people through this work and it fills me up every time I’m in Alaska.

Maureen, I know without your tireless work no-one would have ever shown up to the Alaska Wellness Academy events. I know a lot of people are involved in each one, but I believe that you have always been the linchpin in the success of the Academy. I have counted on you to make sure everything is ready and working and to give me the space and understanding to pace the halls before each session starts. Thanks for being kind, thoughtful and sharing a big smile whenever I see you. I’m very happy you’re moving back to Alaska and hope that means we get to see each other on every visit again.

Nicole, you have become more than a trusted partner. You are a deeply valued friend and an invaluable sounding board. You inspire me in your role as a mom, and in how you combine that with your ability to juggle all the balls in the air at Vivacity. We’ve had a fun and rewarding time working with you and your team, and I expect we’ll be friends for years to come, whether we’re working together or not. I look forward to the times we talk, and missed you terribly while you were away on maternity leave. I am very glad you’re back! You have been the glue and connector for our two teams and it’s through you that we’ve gotten to know and work with Kristina, Aimee, Kristen, Andrea, Scott, Julie and many others. I know the team is bigger than that, and I’ve not mentioned everyone, but each person on the team that I’ve worked with has been open, willing and an advocate for the health of the people we serve together and alone.

Dave, you’ve put your money where your mouth is and have trusted us with a lot of big projects over the years. I know you’ve fought for us (and our budget) and that took a lot, but it’s the conversations we have over a beer and the plans we’ve hatched together that make the biggest difference. The ideas you came up with for the Academy just last week reminded me of the old saying, "Two heads are better than one." Thanks for our partnership over the years.

Scott, you’re the only guy I know that has read more of what’s in our BRATLAB vaults than even some of our own team. You inspire me with your voracious appetite for learning and growth and your humble and charming approach to people. When we spend time together, you remind me of the value of being nice, without being a pushover; of being warm, while telling clients not what they want to hear but what they need to hear. I expect great things for your career and will always be watching to see which career mountains you choose to conquer next.

Neal, I call you “the most connected man in wellness”. You have opened doors for me and for our business that would have taken us years to do on our own. I hope we continue to speak together at conferences for years to come. We do a lot of walking meetings in our company, but when we meet for a walk and talk, I feel like I’m attending a university course. Thanks for everything you’ve taught me, both about the business and science of wellbeing and engagement, but also about the worlds of pottery and about life. Some of the funniest nights I’ve spent have been with you sharing stories about our misspent (or well spent) youths! Long may that continue.

There are many other people in Premera Alaska and Seattle and in Vivacity that have made a difference to us, to our company and to me personally. Kristina, Andrea, Kristen, Amie, Denise, Julie and others at Vivacity. Brad, Julia, Nadia and the team at Premera Alaska and the many people in Premera Seattle. Majd, David, Susan and the whole team at Lifewise of Oregon, although that business is no longer operating, were patient participants in our Wellness Expert Training Course. We had a ball over the two years that we worked together. Thank you all for trusting us as partners, for being patient with us as we learn to understand your needs and for being forgiving of us when we're difficult to work with or don’t quite “nail” a project on the first go. Your partnership and friendship is very dear to me. It has made the last seven years of working with Premera and Vivacity so invaluable to the Habits at Work team.

Of course, all of that was possible because of the generosity of Brian Melanson, who first gave us a shot at that work. Thank you Brian, not only for that, but for all your efforts over the years to help us and our business. I watch what you’re doing at M4 Innovation today, especially your 4mul8 conference and wonder how you pull it all off. If you’re a leader in any health business and you’re reading this, this is a conference not to miss. We met in Dallas so many years ago and you were the only person from any of the insurers who took the time to invest in a new business being set up by some guy from Africa. That kindness will never be forgotten and it
makes it so clear to me why you have such an enormous network of supporters and friends.


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Daily VIAL: Ken Sloan

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Daily VIAL: Ken Sloan

Ken Sloan, you were brave enough (or dumb enough as we used to joke) to join me in founding Health at Work 2.0 in Chicago in 2007.

With not much runway and no products to speak of, we took our knowledge and BRATLAB research and we hit the streets….and then they hit us back!

Ken, your persistence, endlessly good nature and loving kindness to me and my family kept us going through some pretty rough early days. I still tell the story of the work that we did together at Douglas County School District, which remains one of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with in the last decade. What I don’t always acknowledge is that it was you that made that possible. With no income and no business yet landed, you courageously moved your family to Denver to seek a new life and, along the way, found us one of our first big clients. Today, Colorado remains one of our most active markets thanks to your pioneering efforts. Even though we’ve not worked together for some years, it still makes my day when I hear from you and on the all-too-rare occasions that we hang out with Eileen and your amazing daughters and laugh all night doing our foreign accents. As is so often the case with good friends, you’ve also introduced me to others that have become advisors and friends. Thank you.


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Daily VIAL: Greg Solomon

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Daily VIAL: Greg Solomon

Greg Solomon, I met you when we were both teenagers with silly haircuts that we thought were “too cool for school”.

We became friends the day we started our degree in actuarial science and have been great friends ever since. You are one of the brightest men I’ve ever met; you inspired me to work harder and longer at Uni, and despite the competitive environment, you were always generous with your knowledge, inside insights and novel ways of seeing the world of mathematics and life. You were also my connection to Swiss Re and to the team that became my partners in NMG C&A South Africa, and so in a very profound way you changed the course of my career and life. I admire you being for what I call a “real actuary”, something I think I never came close to being. More so, I admire you for being a life adventurer, bio-hacker extraordinaire, accomplished professional speaker and now as the kind of dad that your girls will treasure, learn from and have a lot of fun growing up with. I still feel dumb when I’m around you. I learn more in our occasional 30-minute chats than in most months of self-study, and I am grateful that you always remember birthdays and special occasions, especially knowing that I often don’t. I know many people hold you in similar high-esteem. Hong Kong and Willis Re are lucky to have you, my friend. Thanks for nearly 30 years of friendship, and here’s to at least another 30 if you figure out how to hack our longevity.


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