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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.

WELCOA Speakers pic.jpg

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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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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