_Seyi Wright, a Senior Associate Consultant, founder and chief executive officer of Leadership and Vision Limited, a foremost leadership development consulting firm who has conducted over 300 capacity building programmes and a Trustee of the Potters Hospitality Foundation is organising a conference on Executive Health next week. He speaks to BusinessDay’s Anthonia Obokohabout the benefits of the conference and what executives can do achieve a better work, life balance._
*What is Executive Health all about?*
The objective is to assist executives in improving their health, in various aspects, and enhance their well-being to have more fulfilments in various aspects of life.
The employers of such executives stand to benefit from this outcome because the health of the executive, as an employee, will ultimately lead to increased corporate productivity and profitability.
We believe in preventive measures by educating executives from a unique, multi-dimensional perspective -Personal effectiveness, management practices, lifestyle changes and medical support.
*Why is the Potters Foundation talking about executive health?*
We believe that improving the productivity of a nation, community and organisations starts with the people. When the physical, mental, emotional health of the people improve, productivity is enhanced, more profits generated, then employment can increase.
When we speak about executive health, we are not just referring to the seniors but also executives at various levels in the organisation, who make different types of contribution and also go through varied types of work pressure.
What are the main issues in executive health?
For most executives, a fundamental issue is stress which may manifest in various forms. Stress simply means the inability of the executive to cope effectively with the challenges faced which can also affect mental and emotional health.
Most organisations have a high pressure culture due to intense KPI orientation that is, Key Performance Indicators, highly confrontational MPRs (Monthly Performance Review), regular Shredding (personal abuse) and so on. There is a 24/7 demand on many executives. The high level pressure from the Board leads to an inevitable transfer of aggression. Most Boards aim to please shareholders who usually demand progressively higher ROI (Return on Investment) year on year. No stories, just more dividends. Coupled with increasing challenges in economy, executives find themselves in dire straits.
There may be consequent lowering of self-esteem, increased blood pressure, cardiac challenges, increased psychosomatic illnesses and so on. There have been many sad stories of executive health challenges, some being fatal.
Since the demands on the executives are unlikely to change in most organisations , the affected persons need to find a way to cope better. That is where the conference comes in. We can assist various levels of executives to be healthier while improving their productivity.
Are the issues avoidable?
Since corporate organisations are not set up for charity, the sustained pressure and stress is not avoidable, but the negative effect can be minimised. Besides, moderate stress (Eustress) is necessary for superior performance. The challenge is with excessive stress.
From a management practice perspective, there is better way to minimise the resultant health challenges experienced by the drivers. From the Board level, there can be stretch targets and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) but adequate resources can be provided and skills developed, assumptions properly reviewed to provide a reasonable premise for higher profit expectations.
Leaders can develop more emotional intelligence in driving people to perform. Leaders should be tough and firm. But the dignity of people should not be destroyed when driving or correcting them, since they are the ones expected to build customer loyalty apart from the unhealthy atmosphere created.
People can be led to work better in teams and avoid silo mentality. Customer service can be seen as people service with long term, perhaps lifelong relationships that will benefit the integrity – focused executive and the organisation.
Organisations can incorporate traditional lifestyle improvement initiatives from setting up a gym to enforced vacations, regular breaks and encouraging nutritional changes. Executives can learn more about work perception, prioritisation, time management, delegation, key account management and so on.
How important is work life family balance?
Work life family balance is very important. But I think it goes beyond that. I will actually call it Life balance because work is also life! The mind-set of seeing work as just plain work and not part of a personal life vision can limit passion and creativity while increasing weariness. Other aspects of life, spiritual, family, physical, mental and social, all assist in developing the whole individual who has a renewed mind daily to cope better with the demands of corporate life
Ignoring these aspects is tantamount to someone running a race with one leg or fighting with the hands tied. The person can’t be at his or her best and will be highly stressed.
*What have you done personally to avoid having executive health issues?*
I am still learning to minimise executive health issues from a holistic perspective. As a consultant, I have learnt to find more meaning in the work I do. My goals are broader. I have learnt to make more of a difference and seek to add value every day. I have better life balance, exercise in a wiser way, eat healthier and so on. More importantly, I continue to develop my intelligences – physical, mental, emotional and most importantly spiritual. I meditate more and have a better relationship with God. These improvements have helped me significantly to minimise health issues.
*As a top executive yourself and former managing director of a bank, do you think executives can control the pressures that eventually affect their health?*
Using banking as a reference, I believe executives can’t control the pressures, particularly with policy changes and economic upheavals, but they can control the way they respond to the pressures.
They can move from reacting, ‘shooting from the hip’, to devising strategies to respond to the anticipated events and eventualities.
I will also agree that certain strategic imperatives such as scenario building, business focus, building competencies and engaging more resources can assist in ‘controlling’ the pressure.
*As a CEO with so much on your table, how have you been able to manage work life, family balance?*
First I have my priorities. The sequence of priorities are – God, family and work. Although I have always enjoyed working, I have since realised the need to make more difference with my life. I see work, not as work but as a way of providing a service in different aspects of my life. Work is a means to an end not an end. While endeavouring to make a difference in my prioritised areas, I am invariably achieving a better life balance. I have created more time over the years for my spiritual, engagements, family involvement and work. My developments in other areas – physical, mental and emotional are tailored to assist in achieving my broader goals. To focus on these broader goals or my ‘big stones’, I have had to cut down on quite a number of ‘small stones’ and perhaps ‘sand’.
In summary, striking a balance is easier for me when all aspects of my life lead to one objective of making a difference and ultimately giving a good account to God every day.
Can you give us some insight into the coming event on executive health?
The event will hold in Ikoyi, Lagos from 23rd to 26th August. There are 3 sessions that the general public can attend. There are sessionson Thursday and Friday evenings starting from 5 to 8.30 pm.
There is another session on Saturday from 10am.
The good news is that organisations can still request for exclusive, in house sessions with the speakers during the period. For those interested, requests will need to be made quickly.
*So who are the main speakers at this event and what would they be talking about?*
The various speakers will be guided by this theme, SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED? They will cover issues relating to stress management, lifestyle changes, medical perspective in addressing executive health issues and also changes in management practices that can improve executive health.
The speakers include; Emily Oken MD, MPH who is a professor in the department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and in the department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Oken received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1996 and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine and paediatrics at the Harvard Combined Program. She completed her fellowship in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and obtained her Master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Also speaking is Chinweike Ukomadu who is a translational medicine expert and director at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also an attending physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Ukomadu graduated from the City University of New York summa cum laude in 1985, and proceeded to Yale School of Medicine where he graduated with combined MD and PhD degrees in 1993. He completed his internship and residency at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School followed by Sub specializations in Gastroenterology from the same institution and was selected as one of the two outstanding physicians in the class to serve as Chief Medical Resident for the Department of Medicine.
Then we also have David Addo who is Naturopath & Lifestyle Consultant as well as the CEO of the GoodLife Naturopathic Clinic. David specialises in lifestyle diseases, and works on the principle of prevention and or reversing lifestyle diseases.
Addo has been in practice since 1995. In 2002 he set up The GoodLife Wellness Centre in the UK. He is also a Lifestyle coach, an expert in Emergency Planning, Environmental Risk Management, Health and Safety, Leadership, Social Work and Cooking for Health.
*So is Potters Foundation planning to make the upcoming health conference an annual event? And who would be your typical audience?*
We will endeavour to have various conferences annually focusing on any of the following areas- Health, Family, Leadership and Stewardship