Archive | February, 2014

Worksite Wellness Programs Today – Are We Experiencing Disconnects? (Inquiring Minds Want To Know)

Most worksite wellness programs are not making a difference. You do want your program to make a difference don’t you?

Possible Disconnect #1:

Most worksite wellness programs created today are being created by employers in an attempt to help them control or curb employee healthcare or health insurance costs. Compare this fact to the results obtained by WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) in a 2013 survey of worksite wellness professionals. The survey of 785 wellness professionals revealed that 504 or 64.2 % of them reported they entered the field of wellness to help others. This compared to 199 or 16.2% who reported they entered the field to help organizations move forward.

So, if the majority of wellness professionals responding to the survey entered the field to help others, but their program’s purpose is to move the organization forward by saving or reducing employee healthcare spend, what kind of disconnect might this create?

Possible Disconnect #2:

Which are we trying to address – health or wellness? Since the purpose of most wellness programs today is health related cost reduction or savings, the focus of most programs is employee health risk reduction. Note that while the focus is on physical health, we call what we do worksite wellness. Is there a difference between health and wellness?

Like other fields, we in the field of worksite wellness throw around a lot of terms or jargon, but how clearly do we define the words or terms we use? For example, consider health and wellness. Are we clear about what we mean when we use the terms health and wellness? Are these terms synonymous and therefore interchangeable? Does it make any difference?

A review of definitions would suggest that maybe the distinction between health and wellness is not particularly clear. Could this be an explanation for why this possible disconnect might exist?

A widely cited definition of health is the World Health Organization’s 1948 definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Unfortunately, the WHO does not define or elaborate on what a state of well-being is.

According to the National Wellness Institute, “there appears to be general agreement that:

  • Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential
  • Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being and the environment
  • Wellness is positive and affirming

The definition of wellness long used by the National Wellness Institute is consistent with these tenants. Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices towards a more successful existence.”

Based on these definitions alone, what is the difference between health and wellness? If we are not clear on definitions, what we are trying to accomplish and how we should best do it, might this not be a possible disconnect?

Possible Disconnect #3:

Are we trying to create customers or loyal followers? Another way to ask this question is: Are we seeking employees to participate or are we seeking employees to engage in wellness?

Some professionals in the field argue that the use of incentives needs to be a core component of a worksite wellness program. I found it very interesting that a recent Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey (2013/2014 Staying @ Work Survey) found that come 2015/2016 61% of the U.S. companies responding to the survey (892 employers in the U.S.) reported they will penalize workers for not completing required health management activities. The same survey found that 71% of the responding U.S. companies will reward or penalize employee tobacco use and 68% will reward or penalize employees for unhealthy biometric screening outcomes in 2015/2016.

So just what does the use of incentives get the employer? My understanding of the incentives research literature is that the research results are quite clear: incentives (extrinsic motivators) are great for getting customers and participants, but not so good for establishing followers or for employees engaged in maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors long-term.

Loyal followers or engagement is based on a strong emotional connection between the product or service and the target market. Connecting emotionally transforms the customer into a follower – someone who is emotionally connected to the brand. Emotional connection taps into intrinsic motivators, as opposed to extrinsic motivators.

So is your use of incentives creating a possible program disconnect for you?

Successful and sustainable worksite wellness and wellbeing programs are properly designed, properly implemented and adequately resourced.

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Don’t Let Issues Fester – Keep It Small and Timely

Here’s a riddle for you – what do Pope Francis and Dr. Phil have in common?

Answer: They’ve both been quoted recently talking about the importance of couples in relationships addressing and resolving problematic issues at the time that they arise. Both men encouraged couples to deal quickly with the problems and frictions that inevitably arise in relationships.

Pope Francis advises, “… never let a day go by without restoring peace to your home.” (from his 2014 Valentine’s Day speech to engaged couples)

Dr. Phil (Phil McGraw, Ph.D., in an article for USA Weekend, 2/9/14) says that he and his wife agreed, even while dating, that they would, “… handle things as they came up before they got big… We’ve never let problems build up and then had a big blow-up.”

People have many different reasons for not addressing things as they occur. Sometimes it’s a (misguided) belief that the incident is too small to be worth talking about. While it can be useful “not to sweat the small stuff”, lots of “small stuff” tends to accumulate and become big stuff. You don’t have to be mortally wounded by something your partner did or said, or failed to do or say, for it to be worthy of discussion. If you talk about it while it’s small, it can be addressed, resolved, and disposed of with a minimum of fuss and emotion. If it sits and festers, or if it accumulates with multiple repetitions, it becomes big and painful. Now the emotion will be high and the relationship impact greater. What started out as a paper cut has now become a deep laceration requiring a lot more repair work to be healed.

Sometimes people hold off bringing up an issue because it feels TOO important. There may be a fear that you and your partner can’t come to a satisfactory resolution of something you consider really important. A partner can be so anxious that this could happen and that it could destabilize the relationship that it feels safer not to talk about it. The problem here of course is that problems of this importance won’t just go away and never return. Not talking about it is a short term way of avoiding a long term issue that is bound to show up again. Talking about it while it’s here and now can keep it from becoming a bigger issue later, when emotions may run much higher because of the delay. Trust your partner to join you in working to find a resolution that serves both of you and the relationship.

Sometimes people refrain from addressing things in the hope that the partner will mystically intuit the need for something to be talked about or fixed. This is a way to effectively double your disappointment. First was the disappointment of the problematic issue that occurred. And now you’ve added on the disappointment of your partner failing to be a mind-reader. It’s disrespectful of your partner and of your relationship to play with this kind of fantasy. Act like a responsible adult and be the one to initiate the necessary conversation. Wouldn’t you want to be treated with the same kind of respect?

Sometimes people don’t address things in a timely way because they’re afraid that they’ll look like complainers, fault-finders, or whiners. So they just keep sucking up the offense, anxiety, wound, or outrage. At the outset they may look easygoing and chill. As time goes by things tend to evolve in one of two ways – either the silent person eventually erupts in rage fueled by many accumulated events or that person eventually grows cold and hard toward the partner and the relationship. Neither outcome is a winner. Don’t believe that the only way to address an issue is negatively. The best and most effective way to address a problematic issue is to use “I statements” that express YOUR feeling or need without the accusatory attitude of a “you statement”. For example, a good “I statement” would be something like, “I get worried when I don’t hear from you and you’re much later than usual getting home.” This is in contrast to an accusatory “you statement” like, “You are so inconsiderate. Why can’t you call?!”

So, follow Dr. Phil’s and Pope Francis’s advice – bring peace to your home by dealing with things right away while they’re small and manageable. Let each day come to a peaceful close after open and meaningful communication that has shown respect, trust, and affection.

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La Tules – Monte Queen of Santa Fe

Born around 1800, Maria Gertrudis Barceló’s childhood years are still being debated among historical scholars but her subsequent marriage to Don Manuel Antonio Sisneros on June 23, 1823, is recorded in the registers at Tomé, a small village about 30 miles south of Albuquerque. Though married to Sisneros, a member of a prominent family, she maintained her maiden name. She preferred the attribution of Doña Barceló. As she gained popularity as a gambler, the locals began calling her “La Tules” a nickname that translates into “the reed,” referring to her diminutive thin frame.

After moving to Santa Fe, she lost two sons in infancy and adopted a daughter in 1826. During this time, La Tules decided to turn her gift for dealing cards and reading men into a career as a courtesan, Monte dealer, madam, and an expert mule trader. She knew exactly how to capitalize on the insatiable gambling habits of the traders who traveled from Missouri on the newly opened Santa Fe Trail. Working in a public gambling hall, she used her charm and beauty to separate the traders from their money. As many as 100 Monte tables operated in Santa Fe during this time, with stakes as high as $50,000. By 1838, town officials realized there was more money gained by granting gambling licenses than collecting fines, and sanctioned the formerly illegal activity.

In a few years, she had enough capital to purchase a “Sala,” or gambling house and saloon, in which she entertained her guests with dances, drinks, lavish dinners, and gambling. Over time, she amassed a fortune as Santa Fe’s most renowned Monte dealer and confidante to some of New Mexico’s most powerful political, military and religious leaders. This menagerie included Manuel Armijo, the Governor of New Mexico, with whom she carried on an illicit affair that eventually led to his downfall.

The sala of La Tules was situated on San Francisco Street at the southeast corner of Palace Avenue and Burro Alley where it extended the width of the entire block. It was a long, low adobe building that eventually sported finely carved furniture from Spain resting on exquisite Turkish carpets. The main bar wound around a gigantic room. Two additional mahogany bars connected to form a quadrangle. Large glistening mirrors adorned the walls behind the bars, but omitted from the gambling casino itself. Elaborate crystal chandeliers with rings of candles provided ample light. As a finishing touch, private card rooms stretched the length of today’s Burro Alley from San Francisco Street to Palace Avenue along the Plaza. The private card rooms were strictly for professional gamblers, important visitors, and the affluent. La Tules staffed the operation with a small army of bartenders, waiters, dealers, and female “hosts.”

There is considerable debate as to her beauty. Some accounts depict her as a stunning beauty with olive skin, radiant dark hair that poured down a slender neck, and sultry black eyes that flashed in the glitter of chandeliers. They described her as charming, beautiful, fashionable, shrewd, witty, and brilliant. One writer described her as: “… sylph-like in movement with a slender figure, finely featured face, smooth and dark of Spanish decent, thin-lined, arched eyebrows, flowing dark hair, thin lips, a beautiful woman, with steady, proud head and the demeanor of a wild cat.” On the other hand others depicted her in less glowing terms describing her garments as “Eve-like and scanty, low-cut chemises and short petticoats,” the negligé style. Another wrote, “When I saw her, she was richly, but tastelessly dressed, her fingers being literally covered with rings, while her neck was adorned with three heavy chains of gold, to the longest of which was attached a massive crucifix of the same precious metal.”

If you looked at the drawing of La Tules that appeared in the April 1854 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine you might side with her detractors. She appears as a dour, cigarette-smoking hag that surely could not warrant a description of an enticing beauty. In thinking it over you could postulate that the image depicted in the magazine was La Tules in her latter years where the wear and tear of the long hours of dealing monte had taken its toll on her looks. In all probability, she was originally a very striking young woman capable of being a superb seductress.

There is definitely no debate that La Tules was unmatched in dealing Monte in her sala. Matt Field met her in 1839 and was amazed at her genius in handling cards. He wrote: “A female was dealing and had you looked in her countenance for any symptom by which to discover how the game stood, you would have turned away unsatisfied; for calm seriousness was alone discernible and the cards fell from her fingers as steadily as though she was handling only a knitting needle.” In her book, Doña Tules, Santa Fe’s Courtesan and Gambler, Mary J. Straw Cook wrote about La Tulles. She wrote that, “She dealt night after night, often until dawn, with ‘skillful precision’ as the cards ‘slipped from her long fingers as steadily as though she were handling only a knitting needle… With feminine bravado, Tules’s deft and beringed fingers swept away piles of gold, the result of perpetual practice, as she won time and time again.”

Matt Field, while in Santa Fe one night, watched while La Tules dealt Monte to a Kentuckian whose declared goal was to break her bank. He later wrote that the drunken man was:

“… swearing that he would make or break before left his seat… and drinking to health of the Spanish lady in the again refilled glass which was at that moment handed to him… When the daylight was peeping through the door cracks, (La Tules) once more swept the table, and the reckless trader was left without a dollar.

The Senora then curtsied and disappeared though a side door with the dignity of an Empress and the same skillfully modeled smile, followed by her attendant with heavy bags of gold and Mexican dollars.”

One of the legendary tales associated with the gambling queen revolved around those bags of gold and Mexican currency. Because there were no banks in Santa Fe or Taos, La Tules periodically shipped some of her large winnings to banks in the United States. As the tale goes, she sent a 10-mule team loaded with 20 buckskin bags of gold to the U.S. with a contingent of armed guards. Somewhere in the desert, bandits attacked the mule train. Before being killed, the guards buried the cache of gold and would not divulge the location. No one ever found the gold and the legend began about the “Lost La Tules Treasure.”

La Tules was quite politically influential and though her relationship with Armijo, the last Mexican governor of New Mexico, she gained insight to the practices of the Politicos. They lived lavishly on graft and heavy taxation of the poor Mexican people and the American traders. As the conditions for war with the United States loomed she conceded that U.S. occupancy meant survival for her people. As Mexico’s power diminished and the United States took acquisition of New Mexico in 1846, Doña Tules secured her position with a loan to United States General Kearny for the purpose of paying his troops, on the condition that she have military escort to the Victory Ball at La Fonda. It was a lavish event attended by the upper echelon of Santa Fe Society.

She was also credited with alerting U.S. authorities of the Mexican-Indian conspiracy of December 1846. La Tules had plenty of opportunity to hear Mexican plotting and skullduggery in her gambling rooms. As a result, she is recognized as possibly preventing a blood bath in Santa Fe.

Doña Tules remained colorful and controversial figure in Santa Fe history up to her elaborately planned and executed funeral, presided over by the newly appointed Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. Records at the Catholic Church say she was laid to rest in Santa Fe, January 17, 1852. Various reports by her biographers have described her funeral as lavish – some say $1600 for spiritual services, another $1000 paid to the candles alone. La Tules’s lifelong gifts to charity had granted her access to the highest social circles of Santa Fe and in writing her will; she stipulated a final gift to the church to amend for her questionable past. She was one of the last people buried within the adobe walls of La Parroquia, the old parish church on the Plaza that was later replaced by the St. Francis Cathedral. What became of her remains during the construction and possibly where her treasure was buried in the desert is only part of the mystery that continues to intrigue historical researchers about this fascinating “The Monte Queen of Santa Fe.”


Historical note: The popular gambling game of Monte (1800’s) is often confused with the sleight of hand swindle called “three-card Monte.” There is absolutely no connection between the two; one being a game of chance while the latter is a “sure thing” winner for the dealer.

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