What Peyton Manning Can Teach Us About Wellness Programs

In less than 4 hours, the Broncos and Seahawks will square off in the 48th Super Bowl.  Regardless of the outcome, we can learn a great deal from Bronco MVP quarterback Peyton Manning in terms of developing an effective employee wellness program…

  1. Huddles are secondary – not primary.   The majority of wellness programs are developed, analyzed and monitored within a committee.  The committee is almost always a well-meaning group of people, often spending their own time on the project because they believe strongly in the value of wellness.  However, it can lack the connection to what’s really going on in the real world.  In his record-setting season, Manning didn’t eliminate huddles.  However, most of the work was done on the front lines. He’d quickly lay out the play and then the team would set at the line of scrimmage, where they’d then spend twice as much time as the huddle involved finalizing the details.  This allowed the Broncos to see how the defense was reacting to the plan and make further adjustments (or outright changes) as dictated by that real world.  There is nothing wrong with a huddle (committee meeting).  However, when designing a wellness program, making them secondary and focusing more time on what’s happening in the real world can enhance the outcome.
  2. Current risk factor status is just that – current.  When Peyton Manning joined the Broncos two years ago, there was no question that he would have been considered “high risk.”  In fact, had a survey been done on which quarterbacks were least likely to make it through a full season, Manning likely would have been toward the top of the list coming off of multiple neck surgeries.  However, while almost half of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks missed one or more games due to injury, Manning started every game, shattering a multitude of records in the process.  Many wellness programs build their focus around those employees they consider their “highest risk employees” or those who demonstrate current risk factors.  This strategy misses the mark on the fact that 98.8% of employees do not meet the 7 basic areas of health and wellness.  Those who happen to fall into the highest risk category does not mean they’re the only ones at risk.  To the contrary, a very large percentage of those who are your highest risk employees this year will not be in that category next year (and no – it’s probably not due to the steps taken). Since 98.8% of your employees are realistically “at risk” (missing the mark on the “big 7”), your list will naturally cycle through regularly.  Focus on a culture of wellness (or a culture of winning) and your outcomes will be enhanced greatly in the long run.
  3. Personal relationships create the core.  As the 2013 NFL season approached, something took place that set the scene for the record-setting year ahead.  While most players were enjoying the last of their non-football freedom, Peyton Manning invited his receivers to spend the week with him working on everything from routes to timing.  Obviously, the Broncos integrated all the standard bells and whistles around practice and preparation coming into the season.  However,  at the core, Manning and his receivers got to know each other at an even deeper football level during that time together.  It probably shouldn’t have been surprising that Manning proceeded to throw a record tying (and the first to do it since 1969) SEVEN touchdown passes in week one of the season – against the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.  Similarly, a wellness program that is built around anything other than personal relationships is likely missing out.  There are a multitude of complimentary aspects available for any wellness program, ranging from technology to testing.  But if the core is missing, the outcomes will suffer.

One final thought worth considering.  Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, Manning and his teammates will get back to work very soon.  They will analyze, adjust and do everything possible to improve further.  Every wellness program has the opportunity to do the same.  Whether the program far exceeded expectations or fell flat over the past year, there’s always room for improvement  – and that opportunity starts immediately.

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