I set up JOMC, Tribe Culture Change’s predecessor, with the simple aim of helping organisations protect their workforces, by preventing harm by accident or ill health in the workplace.
In the 22 years since, I’ve never lost interest in what we need to do to stay happy, safe and healthy. And now, age 71 and a non-executive director, I still run a marathon every year and recently finished my twelfth in Manchester. I’ve had injuries and health breakdown along the way but finished every single marathon I ever started.
Stubborn as I am.
Yet my experience has forced me to question what it is to stay fit and well. And I wonder whether the popular notion of ‘no pain, no gain’ has any validity when it comes to long-term, sustainable well-being. Whether that’s into old age as a lifestyle choice, or keeping your colleagues safe and well at work.
The parallels are strikingly similar, when you think about it
When most companies embark on a programme of change, they often do so with tremendous speed and enthusiasm. This jeopardises the longevity of the programme, appetite for change, as well as both metaphorical (and literal?) injury and exhaustion for everyone involved, who struggle to match the pace set by leaders from above.
A gentler, more sustainable approach is what’s required
There’s increasing evidence to prove that current advice on exercise might give us fitness, but without safety, strength and long-term health. The outcomes surely everyone really needs?
I’ve become quite a big fan of Dr. Phil Maffetone of late, whose research (and results with international sports stars) challenges conventions around well-being.
For example, he advocates that we should limit all cardiovascular training so that your heart rate never exceeds 180 bpm minus your age (in years) range. This is a very gentle way of training, which will no doubt provoke snorts of disgust from advocates of ‘go hard or go home’ style high intensity training.
Dr Maffetone explains that if we keep our training in a strictly aerobic range, the chances of injury are greatly reduced. As is the slow breakdown of health which can follow training at too high an intensity. Just have a look at the injury rate for those training to run a marathon. It’s truly gruesome.
You will get fitter in the short-term, using intense methods, but in the long-term this new evidence suggests that eventually you will pay the price in ill-health and injuries.
Again, the parallels with overzealous organisational culture change are quite striking.
I suspect the real reason why people choose such aggressive approaches to achieving results is because of that ingrained cultural value: that if you don’t train hard, you won’t get fitter.
This attitude can be seen in most corporate environments. When your organisation faces a problem, do you attack with speed and try to overwhelm it as soon as possible, and burn through all your resources in the process?
Or, do you pause to consider the best way forward from your options, and plan for a more sustainable, long-term approach. One that involves a more measured, sensible and steady use of your resources?
It’s an approach that’s worked extremely well for this health and safety veteran, not just personally, but for JOMC too (and now Tribe Culture Change). We’ve not only weathered countless economic storms, but come out the other side with many long-standing clients like National Grid, who benefit our principle of ‘being in it for the long-run’. Because that’s how you gain results that last.
Perhaps, like fitness, it’s time to seek an alternative approach to bringing about improvements to health and well-being in the workplace. One that sees your organisation mature into a ripe old age.