by: Stuart R. Levine, Chairman & CEO, Stuart Levine & Associates
The phrase “tone at the top” is commonly expressed when talking about the importance of effective organizations. Board functionality relating to strategy and succession planning are critical. Ethics and values are core to the tone at the top which is often a reflection of the culture in the credit union. Recognizing all these factors, I was struck by a recent conversation at a credit union board that I was participating in.
As the Chief Financial Officer reported on the finances of the institution, he noted an increase in health- care costs. A discussion regarding the wellness of employees and the impact those issues were having on the financial stability of the credit union came into play. As a regular participant in this credit union’s board meetings, I am always struck by the bountiful display of muffins and cookies provided for all of us. I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between food choices, health, productivity and medical expenses.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that U.S. medical costs associated with obesity were above $147 billion – an 80% increase over five years. A Duke University study indicates that the cost alone to employers on “presenteeism” or lost productivity among obese employees who work despite health problems costs over $12 billion per year – over twice as much as the medical costs for these employees and often six times as much as the costs attributed to smoking. Obesity is an epidemic in our country and solutions needs to be considered. On a positive note, experts advise that any eating habits/exercise changes in the right direction is likely to improve health outcomes for employees and hence productivity, and lower medical costs for employers.
I was soon to have this point made clear to me on a very personal level: On a not-for-profit health system board that I serve on, we had the same mix of sandwiches and bodacious desserts. A dear friend of mine, who was the Chief Medical Officer at the time, would sit next to me. One evening he whispered in my ear, “Those rainbow cookies are no good for you – you are gaining weight.” At first, I was taken back, but then I realized he cared for my health, and changed my ways at these meetings. In fact, I made a commitment to not have cookies at any board meetings, which tend to be very sedentary experiences. This also led me to think more about how I could make small changes to my lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise that would lead to healthier outcomes for myself and my family.
So tone at the top means, if we are serious about rising healthcare costs, let’s redefine tone at the top to include intelligent nutrition with plates of fruit and food that provides energy enhancement, rather than energy depletion. People are now discussing the concept of “energy management” in addition to time management. The discussion of these important issues has a major impact on both intellectual capacity and financial outcomes.
Stuart R. Levine is Chairman and CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates LLC, an international strategic planning and leadership development company with focus on adding shareholder value by strengthening corporate cultures. His background as CEO of a global corporation and extensive board experience has afforded him a unique perspective on strategy, implementation, global transformation and succession planning. www.stuartlevine.com