Leaders Must Lead from The Front for A Fit and Healthy Organization


There is plenty of evidence that employees are more stressed out than ever; they are tired because they don’t sleep very well; they eat poorly and are not as active as they should be! So is it really a surprise that our health problems are getting worse, not better?


According to the Milken Institute, chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, hypertension, pulmonary conditions and mental illnesses has a total negative impact on the US economy of some $1.3 trillion per year. Of that, about $1.1 trillion represents lost productivity. Get your head around those numbers!

One of my favorite quotes from Dr Kenneth Cooper is “We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising” and there is no doubt that if you want to be fit and healthy you have to be physically active and that means moving throughout the day, not just fives times a week, for half an hour - the minimum recommended weekly activity. Most members of Sanctify understand this, however, physical activity is just one element of an effective employee well being program, albeit a very important one, mainly because what we have done so far has not been very successful. According to Gallop, 70% of employees in the USA are disengaged. At an average cost of more than $5,000 per employee, disengagement goes well beyond employee wellness or well being and everyone loses as a result.

F IS FOR FIRST: In my lifetime, nothing has really changed with regard to how the great organizations regard their employees. Employee well being has always been one of their highest priorities and with healthcare costs increasing everywhere, it presents a huge opportunity for organizations with designs on being great too. To succeed, F is for FIRST* which means employee well being must start at the top with the CEO and the C suite. They must walk the talk, practice what they preach, set the example and truly inspire their employees to be fit and healthy.

Of course, sustainable, long term effective employee well being also applies to leaders across the organization, from top to bottom. HR must also play a “champion” role as advocates, promoters, supporters and defenders. It needs to be or become an integral part of your organization culture and integrated into organization development, management training and development and performance management. Edgar Schein at the MIT Sloan School of Management said “the only thing of any importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture”. I’m not sure it’s the only thing but there is no doubt it should be a very high priority. Because a successful employee well being program will help create the right environment to maximize employee and organizational performance and thus profitability in the long term.

• F for FIRST is the first of six key ingredient of FITCEO, created from research and experience and required for effective organization and employee well being.

[Author: Jim Kirwan is the creator of Get America Moving, author of The eXercise Factor, creator of signature talk FITCEO and an organization and employee well being coach and consultant.]

Author: The eXercise Factor
Coach: email me at: Jimkirwan@getamericamoving.com