The Human View

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Messages, Lessons & Problems

September 05, 20236 min read

The Message-Lesson-Problem model developed by the late Thomas Leonard and Coach Steve Straus provides a broad framework for developing greater life awareness - and effectiveness. While many of us have been well-trained in becoming "Master Problem-Solvers," the twist here is that it is better to become a "Master Message-Reader."

Hear, get, and heed
There are plenty of sages, seers - and successful businesspeople - who come from a place of understanding that "life is
for us." Whether it's Shakespeare exhorting us to be true to ourselves, or Socrates simply directing us to know ourselves, the orientation is that successful living requires a high degree of awareness and, in particular, self-awareness.

It's in this context of increasing awareness that Life will periodically deliver to us important Messages. If we hear the Messages, get the Messages (understand and realize that they're about us), and heed the Messages (take action, do something), we continue to experience Life in positive ways.

But if we fail to hear, get, or heed a
Message, then Life will deliver to us a Lesson. And if we hear, get, and heed the Lesson, we return again to a positive state.

But if we fail to hear, get or heed the
Lesson, then Life will deliver to us a Problem. Fixing or solving Problems is the most time-consuming, most difficult, and most costly approach to living life.

A new state of consciousness
Consider this simple model with respect to the workplace, and employee engagement. For some decades now, Life has been delivering a series of Messages, Lessons and Problems regarding the state of individual and collective health, and the challenges of creating business environments that employees want to actively engage with.

In the benefits realm, literally
every program designed to mitigate costs is underutilized. And health plan costs have been - clearly - at the Problem state. So, let's start by hearing Einstein's famous Message: We "cannot solve the Problem in the same state of consciousness in which it was created."

Business systems are human systems
The living human system is a holistic experience of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The Life of the system comes from within the human, and it is in the process of living that the individual experiences health Problems. In many instances, these Problems have been preceded by explicit Lessons and Messages that have not been heard, gotten and heeded.


Similarly, the living company system is a holistic experience of operations, culture, value proposition and vision. The Life of the system comes from within the organization - from within the leadership and from within those being led. As companies' people have experienced health states for which they have gotten increasingly expensive and more frequent medical treatments, company health plans have experienced cost Problems. The cost Problems have existed in some form or another for years, and it's reasonable to ask what Lessons and Messages were not heard, gotten or heeded.

Learning the supply-side Lesson
The good news is that the market has begun to learn the Lesson that
supply side managed care approaches have not solved the Problem. And the Problem with the demand side is not that well-being, disease management, transparency and advocacy tools, and point solutions don't work - it's that not enough employees use them.

So, as we continue to be confronted with the Lessons and Problems of education-only Message models that fail to capture the attention and desire of employees to engage in them, the emerging good news is that there is - indeed - a better way to create and transmit the Messages.

Psychographics, values and evolving the capacity to "hear"
Psychographics taps behavioral science by recognizing that the words we use matter. Like the old adage, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it," if we really want employees to hear our messages, get our messages, and heed our messages, we have to connect with them at a deeper level.

BeneftPersonas, Values-Based Communications™ and Precision Engagement are more effective communication models precisely because when we know how an employee sees the world - what they believe, prefer, and desire - then we can frame the Messaging to connect to the "safety circuit" of the brain, and to calm the fight, flee or freeze instinct. By increasing someone's receptivity to the Message, we increase the probability that they'll indeed Hear it, and Get it. And that increases the probability that they'll Heed it.

The Message is that self-care, wellness, and personal responsibility are preferable to medical care, sickness, and company/societal/governmental responsibility. Even as some tend towards despair over the Problem and want government to "solve" it (highly unlikely!), others are practicing the art of Message-Reading.

"And in this corner..."
Master Message-Readers are evolving their consciousness and their sentience. They are taking the prospective, intuitive actions that they sense will grow the scale of engagement in cost mitigation solutions so that they can keep health plan costs at a more manageable, affordable, and sustainable level.

But the
Master Problem-Solvers are still hunkering down in their trenches, cutting benefits, raising payroll deductions just like they've always done, and crossing their fingers, hoping that the Problem will somehow go away, or simply waiting for next year's Problem to arrive so they can "solve" it.

Pretend you are living in Las Vegas, making book on companies pursuing either Message-Reading or Problem-Solving....

The last word
Companies that are Hearing, Getting and Heeding the collective Messages are helping their employees Hear, Get, and Heed their personal Messages. Companies turning a deaf ear are still poring over their LessonBooks.

Mark Head
© 2023. All Rights Reserved.

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

~ Walt Whitman


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Mark Head


With 4 decades of combined experience in employee benefits consulting, wellness and health management, Head brings a unique combination of dynamic perspectives into a clear vision of where the future of health care is moving - and it's moving towards deeper human connection, awareness, and engagement...

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