How to embed wellbeing in your organisation

Co-Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited, Leanne Spencer, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai, about embedding wellbeing in organisations and making it a core competency of leadership.

Leanne Spencer
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The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #Leading together

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

Co-Founder of Bodyshot Performance, Leanne Spencer, as she discusses her 'a-ha' moment, in which she transitioned from a highly-paid corporate job to owning her own business, focussing on the value of wellbeing in organisations. Leanne's story is about taking a leap of faith and following your passion. She believes people should rely more on cadence to be able to predict, prepare, deliver and recover in certain moments of their professional and personal lives. To highlight the importance of cadence she has created a methodology called ‘The Agile Business Athlete’. Here are some of the topics covered in her podcast that will help you to view wellbeing as more than just a 'nice to have', and to reconsider the correlation between health-span and lifespan:

  • Taking a leap of faith: Transitioning from a highly-paid job to owning your business
  • The Agile Business Athlete methodology: Predict, prepare, deliver and recover
  • Wellbeing: A vital focus for leaders in their organisations 
  • Final thoughts on the correlation between health-span and lifespan.


Embedding wellbeing in organisations with Leanne Spence

Transitioning from a highly-paid job to owning your own business

"Like many of these things, it happened very, very slowly, and then very quickly. I had 17 hour days in the city working as an account director for various different market data companies. And to start with, I loved the prestige, the excitement of it, the salary, and all that kind of stuff. But over a number of years, I've just become quite disenfranchised of what I was doing.  

I realised that I'm spending a lot of my time looking at the clock in the bottom right hand corner of my PC wishing days away, weeks away, months away. Life is short and precious, and I mean that in a very positive sense. I felt like I was wasting it. [...] The afternoon of Friday, 23rd of March in 2012, I was expecting a big deal to be confirmed. I walk into the meeting and take off my coat. I'm drinking my little vending machine coffee and that squishy brown cup and I look at the client, Gustav. And he says to me, Leanne, I'm really sorry, but there's no deal. My clients pulled out. Therefore, my data was not required for a system that wasn't going to be built. 

And I knew then that, you know what? Enough's enough. I'm two, three stone overweight, chronically abusing alcohol, drinking a bottle and half of wine every single night for 10 years. Sometimes double that. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at lunch, always in the evening, and I'm burnt out. I'm burnt out because I'm doing something that doesn't meet any of my values. That is not representative of who I am. I'm bored. I'm unfulfilled. So I took the train home. Thought about it, so you could say the idea was sloshing around in my mind, for the weekend, I resigned on Sunday. It was accepted rather quickly on Monday morning. By Friday that was it.

I knew I needed to do something completely different , something that was predicated around health and wellbeing, something that enabled me to to get some treatment for alcohol abuse and then give that up. And I'm celebrating coming up on a decade of sobriety next April [...] I'm also now doing something that I'm incredibly interested in that allows me to live the type of life and lifestyle that I want to be living, which is the intersection of business and wellbeing."


How to win your 'Wimbeldons': the 'Agile Business Athlete' methodology

"Cadence is having some ebb and flow [...] it's looking at athletes like Serena Williams, not Wimbledon fit all year round. She'll know when her Wimbledons and other big tournaments and personal events, like her daughter, the birth of her daughter and her daughter's significant events. There will be her Wimbledons special prediction when they are prepared for those by really doubling down on key elements of her wellbeing, delivering on that event and then taking some time out to recover. And that is cadence that's to predict, prepare, perform and then recover.

If a leader sits down and thinks in the next three months, what are the big events that I need to be ready for now? That could be a house move. In a professional life that could be an IPO. It could be a product launch. It could be a team. Perhaps that would be a Wimbledon for some of that level. So, are they prepared for that? Have they given a bit of space before that big event? [...] Golfing day, spa day, whatever it is that just enables them to relax mentally and physically a little bit before they give up for this big event because what I think many, many leaders are doing now is expecting themselves to be Wimbledon fit all year round. So there's no cadence. It's a flat line, it's a high line. It's a top line of high levels of performance with no opportunity to recover.

The cadence that I introduce in the ' Agile Business Athlete ' that gives them permission in some respects. But also, I'm not talking about it when I say recovery, which I think is the key aspect of that methodology. I don't need to teach anyone how to perform, certainly not at a leadership level. But the recovery piece is key, but I'm not talking about even an hour of a massage. I'm talking about slivers of recovery that they can have throughout the day, 60 seconds of breath work [...] it's a little slivers of recovery, planning a trip, looking at some photos on the wall of a holiday you're looking forward to as well as the deeper stuff, the massage, the holidays, the finishing early on a Friday, and making sure you're not overscheduled at the weekend."

Game changing companies will lead with wellbeing. It'll underpin all the major decisions they make.

The culture of wellbeing and the correlation between healthspan and lifespan

"The big thing is culture [...] every company has its own culture and you can put resources in place. You can have speakers come in and talk about this stuff with the culture needed to support wellbeing. I think game changing companies will lead with wellbeing. It'll underpin all the major decisions they make. But in terms of influencing a company, assuming there is that cultural wellbeing, the leaders of the place that I would start, the leaders need to embody a culture of well. Whether they're particularly sporty or they just have a few little things, they do keep them well. I think it needs to be role modelled by leaders. 

In large part, it does come back to introducing cadence to the way we do things. I think we're going to need to recognise there's a lot of scar tissue [...] Scar tissue from people coming back when they're having to leave dependents, you know, not wanting to come back into an office environment, it suited a lot of people. Equally, it hasn't suited a lot of people. So we're going to have a lot of scar tissue.

I think being aware of that, being mindful of that, letting people work in their own way again, having resources and training to be able to spot who's not doing so well, particularly in a remote world, but just changing the cadence at which it comes back to that one word really, cadence. Changing the cadence in which we do business. It doesn't mean slowing down, selling less. It just means having more cadence so that we don't expect people to be at their very best. [...]

If you make a small incremental shift in that behaviour and that behaviour and that behaviour brought together, it has a much greater impact. So we're only talking about small little changes, perhaps put, in other words, the minimal effective dose. What's the smallest thing that you could bring into your day that has a positive impact, particularly when it's aggregated over time?

Consider two notions: the idea of healthspan, not lifespan. So going as hard as you can for as long as you can is not going to give you that longevity of health span, but also that word again, cadence. It's small changes that you could subtly weave into your lifestyle that would give you greater longevity, give you more energy so you can have a beat and have more fun.[...]

And in doing that, you will be role modelling that to the rest of the company, and the company itself will have more longevity as well. That's how you grow. So you'll thrive, particularly coming out of the pandemic."

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Leanne Spencer
About the author
Leanne is an award-winning entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. She is the author of the bestselling books ‘Remove the Guesswork’ and ‘Rise and Shine’, and hosted a podcast called ’Remove the Guesswork‘. Leanne’s expertise is around personalised health, fitness and wellbeing using the latest science and technology.