by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

In 20+ years in wellness, we’ve never met a single practitioner who claims to get everything they want to run their program. In most instances, they feel they’re under-staffed and under-budgeted for the monumental task of changing behaviors and bending the healthcare cost curve. It’s hard to argue — most organizations spend over 10 times more on sick care than they do on keeping healthy people healthy.

Since the economics of workplace health aren’t likely to change anytime soon, it’s vital that you learn where to fight and where to back off — so the stuff that matters gets done and you spend as little energy as possible on the things that don’t. Here’s how:

  • Know how much authority you have. If you pick a battle that’s well above your pay grade, you have no chance. So don’t try to lead the charge — don’t go into a fight with a revolver when a cannon is needed.
  • Have a solution, not a problem. Pointing out the flaws in a policy or practice is the easiest thing in the world to do. So if you’ve got 30 seconds or 30 minutes to make your case, spend 5 on the problem and 25 on the solution.
  • Ask yourself how important any issue is to the people you’re trying to persuade. If the answer is “not very,” you’ll have to reframe it in a way that does resonate. Here’s a secret you can use to your advantage: Most executives need data to justify expenditures or changing strategies, but they’re persuaded with real life stories of success and triumph. So have your bar charts ready, but practice your storytelling until there’s not a dry eye in the house.
  • Test a little, refine a lot. Use a handful of trusted colleagues to test out your arguments. These should be critically thinking advisers who will help you make a stronger case, not just cheer you on to your last stand.
  • Get the support you need before you ask for approval. This is one of the easiest yet underutilized techniques in business. Go to each stakeholder individually and unearth any potential objections. But then ask how they would suggest you proceed. Be strategic, moving from persons most likely to support to those most difficult to influence. Do this until you’re confident you’ve at least gained their understanding, if not outright endorsement. Then when you move on to the ultimate decision makers, you can rightfully say you’ve vetted the approach with so-and-so, and she thinks…

The larger the organization, the more competing interests you’re likely up against, making it even more important to know what to fight for and what you can let go.

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