Are you participating in Steptember? Or do you follow already how many steps you take each day? There's definitely a growing awareness around the benefits of 10,000. It seems to be becoming a valuable reminder of the importance of movement within busy and sometimes sedentary 21st Century lives. But when it comes to wellbeing initiatives within our spheres of influence, what's driving the action?
“It’s not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?” — Henry David Thoreau, in a letter to H.G.O. Blake
What got me thinking about this recently was two workplace initiatives I was told about. Both were crafted with the seemingly same intention, but appeared to elicit very different feelings as each initiative went on. Leaders are always striving to notice and then act on opportunities to engage, challenge and inspire those around them. But sometimes a seemingly well intentioned driver doesn't align with the intended ripples that were being sought out through the individual or group action that follows.
"Leadership is intentional influence." - Michael McKinney
One example left me feeling so inspired. It also really inspired the person who was sharing the story with me. It comes from within an organisation that has leadership teams that are geographically dispersed. In an effort to encourage positive wellbeing and movement over the course of a month, an initiative was developed for these leaders that focussed around the theme of collective achievement. As each leader contributed their daily steps reading, it was then being collated into a group reading and celebrated through mapping how far around Australia they were walking.
"A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm." - Henrik Johan Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, Billing, Act I
What we (I and the person telling me about the initiative) found most inspiring was what happened next. Not only were there health benefits being created as some leaders became more active, increased communication and connection was also being experienced. Certain leaders began sharing facts, stories and quotes within the group channels to encourage and build on what was starting to ripple. Leaders began learning more about each other as they chose to be vulnerable within their wellbeing journeys. And really importantly it brought the leaders closer together as success was linked to what they could achieve by working collectively.
“Cooperation is always more powerful than competition.” - Bob Proctor
Now let's contrast this with the other example that was shared with me. Same idea, encourage positive wellbeing and movement over the course of a month, but very different ripples created. This organisation chose to break participants up into four teams, who would compete against each other to see which team achieved the most steps over that time. Each participant paid to join the challenge, with the winning team being given all the money collected as the prize. Team captains were responsible for chasing up and recording the team's daily reading, with screenshots required as proof of steps taken each day so there was no cheating.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African Proverb
You can probably guess some of the things that happened next. As I was being told all about them my heart sank as to the potential missed opportunities for these participants. There was tension around who was grouped with who. There was judgement around who had or hadn't pulled their weight for their team. There was a sense of resignation early in the initiative for some as they believed they were too far behind and couldn't win. There was frustration created as participants were being chased for their entry fee well after it had all finished. Success seemed to be linked to being the winner, not a loser.
"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved." - Mattie Stepanek
What's driving the action really matters. It's how we engage, challenge and inspire those who we share our journeys with. If we want change, growth and development to be lasting, particular feelings need to accompany ongoing practices if they're to be integrated after the initiative as well. No initiative is perfect, or will appeal in the same way to every member of a group participating. But as leaders we're courageous enough to keep trying. So what do you want to get rippling within your spheres of influence? And what will you use to drive the action towards that goal?
"We're all working together; that's the secret." - Sam Walton