David Green, Author and Business Owner of Improveon | The age of wellbeing
In this episode, Ian talk’s to a previous guest David Green – the author of “the Age of Wellbeing”. When David came on the podcast previously, he gave us a wellbeing 101 session and helped us understand some fundamentals, such as how do you define and measure wellbeing. If you haven’t listened to that podcast, we recommend you listen as it was one of our best; it is episode 3 of series 2.
However, we didn’t think a single 25-minute podcast was long enough to cover some of the globally significant subjects in David’s book, so we invited David back for a second episode to explore the content of his book in more detail.
In particular, we discuss a key theme of David’s book that leaders should adopt wellbeing as their business model, why David believes that and the implications for business.
David and Ian discuss:
- What is the definition of wellbeing
- How can we measure wellbeing
- What is the difference between wellbeing and happiness
- What is the relationship between wellbeing and success
What is Inspiring David?
How to get in touch with David
Other books and papers referenced in this podcast.
- Martin Seligman – Flourish
- Dale Carnegie – How to win friends and influence people
- Stephen Covey – 7 habits of highly effective people
- Myles-Jay Linton, Paul Dieppe & Antonieta Medina-Lara – 2016 Review of Wellbeing Measures
- BITC – Employee Wellbeing Measurement and metrics guide
- What Works Wellbeing – Question bank
- Jim Collins – Good to great
- Viktor Frankl – Man’s search for meaning
- Shawn Achor – The happiness advantage
Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.
The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastP.A.Y.E a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastP.A.Y.E is part of the WorkTech Group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.
ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.
Ian Hogg 0:57
Hi, and welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast. I’m Ian Hogg, Chairman of fastP.A.Y.E and I’m delighted to be joined by a previous guest David Green, the author of the Age of Wellbeing. When David came on the podcast previously, he gave us a wellbeing one on one session and helped us understand some fundamentals such as how do you define and measure wellbeing. If you haven’t listened to that podcast, I recommend you take a listen as it was one of our best—episode three of series two. However, having read David’s book, I don’t think a single 25-minute podcast was long enough to cover some of the globally significant subjects in the book. We barely touched on the book in the first podcast. So we’ve invited David back for a second episode so that we can explore the content of his book in more detail. In particular, we want to discuss a key thing of David’s book that leaders should adopt wellbeing as their business model. I’m keen to understand why they believe that and what the implications are for business. Hi, David, welcome back.
David Green 1:55
Ian, thanks very much for having me back.
Ian Hogg 1:57
Yeah, it’s four months now. I just checked since you were last on. But listen, I know you gave an introduction to the listeners on your last podcast, but the nature of podcasts is that not everybody listens to every episode. So I’m afraid you’re gonna have to go through that again for me. And yeah, just give the listeners a bit of brief intro and maybe focus on the things that have shaped your thoughts on the areas we’re covering today.
David Green 2:28
Yeah, no problem. Thanks, Ian. So I spent probably 12, 13 years in the corporate world working mainly in financial services. And then, in 2012, I took an opportunity to set up my own business called improve on, and I offer wellbeing, consulting, coaching and speaking to individuals, teams and organisations that thrive. So over the last ten years now, I’ve been really immersing myself in wellbeing topics. The more I’ve got into it, the more I’ve sort of believed in it if you like, and that culminated in me writing a book, which I published the last year 2021; as you mentioned already, the age of wellbeing is a new leadership model for a happier world. So that was the background. You also asked what shaped my thinking. So as I said over that ten years, will in fact, before the ten years, what I found, you know, I’d read books when I was working in the corporate world, things like Dale Carnegie, you know how to win friends and influence people. Steven Covey, with the seven habits you’re probably familiar with, all of these are, you know, well-known titles, Jim Collins, Good to Great. And Sir John Whitmore, coaching for performance. So lots, lots of books, Brian Tracy, I could go on and on and on. Lots of those sorts of books have and what I realised when I started looking into wellbeing is that actually, it’s almost an umbrella. For what a lot of these great people have already been saying. It almost builds up into wellbeing. So there are lots of leadership books are read. I’ve looked at Massive Online Open Courses, MOOCs, various different universities. I’ve studied the work of lots of different organisations and am a membership member of the network of wellbeing now, which are fantastic. Hey guys, if you’re listening, thanks for all your work and input. Also, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, but many other organisations like Blueprint for Better Business. There’s Gallup, Action for Happiness. There are so many different organisations now working in this area. So I’ve drawn from all of their work and synthesised that.
David Green 4:57
Then there are loads of research papers that I’ve read. I think I mentioned last time the work of Martin Seligman was particularly fundamental in my understanding of wellbeing and building that his book Flourished, which I think I mentioned in the last podcast. But then there’s Viktor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning. Sean Aker Happiness Advantage. Daniel Goleman, his work on emotional intelligence, goes on and on. In essence, it’s all of that work; I think it builds up to the theme of wellbeing and, lastly, what I would mention and the United Nations that stainable development goals. If you look at those goals, I think they’re great stepping stones taking us towards the age of wellbeing cycled out one too much.
Ian Hogg 5:48
No, no, no. Excellent, excellent intro, I think, you know, probably worth given a sort of 30-second review of the book, because, for those who haven’t read it, the age wellbeing is a very, very solid and well-researched book, you know, I was very impressed, because I’ve had quite a few authors on lots of great books. But this one was definitely, you know, well researched, very good. And, you know, actually a pretty long read, you know, it takes a bit of time to plough through it. Now, and I think what’s interesting, every year, we’re coming up towards the end of series two of the podcast now. So you know, coming up towards 50 episodes, and lots of the people I’ve had on very much, we’ve discussed tactics around wellbeing, you know, how do you reduce stress in the workplace? How do you get job descriptions, right, so that it improves wellbeing? You know, how do you solve, you know, individual financial wellbeing issues? Your book is very much, if I may say, so coming at it from a very strategic level, almost the ultimate strategic level, like the wellbeing of the planet, and then working down.
Ian Hogg 6:59
So, you know, I think that’s, that’s worth saying. And I definitely would recommend that the listeners get hold of a copy of that book and read it. And I think it is, is a very strategic review of wellbeing, not just for business, but wellbeing for the planet, and everybody on the planet. Would you agree with them with my review?
David Green 7:18
I think it does touch on some of those individual topics. So it does touch on personal wellbeing. But I guess, what if you think about it? What is a business? Well, a business is a collective of individuals. Now, it doesn’t quite work out that, you know, if you get individual wellbeing right, then the collective, but But I do think if you start with that lowest denomination of an individual and look at their wellbeing, then you can build up, you know, to our national, international wellbeing. And that actually, that’s one of the strengths I think of the model. And well, I hope it’s a strength of the model, is that actually alignment of language, the model that I develop the can be wellbeing model can be used at an individual or team and organisation or even a national level. And I think that’s a strength because I think it then aligns the language between all of those different groups. That’s what I try to achieve anyway.
Ian Hogg 8:15
Yeah, no. I think you do achieve it. So well done. Thanks. I think, let’s, let’s focus on business, though, because I think that’s the, I believe, target audience for this podcast. And that, you know, that’s, that’s the brief. So, if we, you know, if you look at some of the things and I know, businesses now are getting sort of net-zero targets and Net Zero plans and getting involved in wider than just profit and loss. But you know, from your point of view, you talk about the importance of wellbeing in companies, and you believe that leaders should adopt wellbeing for their business model. Okay, not making a profit for the business model, or selling more burgers or, or widgets, you know, wellbeing for the business model. Can you expand on that a bit for me, you know, what, what, what do you mean by that?
David Green 9:08
Yeah, of course. I think it’s worth saying that probably many particularly smaller businesses start in this place anyway. I don’t think many small businesses say, let’s start with profit and work from there. I think many smaller businesses start with well. How can I make the world better? So actually, that you know that when you get the bigger corporate businesses, I think that’s probably where things change an awful lot. But what I mean by that is that wellbeing should be at the heart of all business decisions. So people on the planet should be at the heart of all business decisions. And actually, I do think in this day and age. There’s also a priority order to that, which at the moment, we’ve probably got slightly out of kilter. So if you think about it, there’s no, there’s no business without people. So people come a bit can be, you know, before business. And if you think about it one step further, there are no people without a planet. We’d need a planet to live on. So actually, in terms of all business decisions, I’d say that really we should be prioritising the planet first, particularly with what we know about climate change, and what’s happening around the world at the moment, then people and then lastly, the profit. And obviously, I’m not saying that businesses don’t need to make a profit. And I think Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, explains that really well, profit is like the lifeblood of an organisation, you know, it’s the blood, it’s the water of the organisation, you must have those things. But it isn’t why you get up in the morning. And it’s not why you create a business. You create a business to make the world a better place. So I think it’s about really putting wellbeing at the heart of all business decisions.
Ian Hogg 10:59
I think we’ve had quite a few guests talk about purpose. And Simon Sinek, who I believe wrote to start with why and the endless game; I think the other one, you know, definitely talks about having a purpose, which is greater than just profit. And that comes up quite a lot with my guests. I suppose what you’re suggesting is that purpose should absolutely include wellbeing should include Wellbeing of the planet, the wellbeing of your customers, everything.
David Green 11:29
Well, let me give you an example there. So if you talk about purpose, actually a business that let’s let’s take cigarettes, as an example. What we know is that cigarettes create a great deal of damage. And actually, they’re not creating wellbeing for either individual, or for the planet as a whole, or for economies. Now that that business, Philip Morris, for example, they’ve got a sustainability officer. You can have a purposeful cigarette business, but actually, it’s not creating wellbeing. So there’s a big, there’s a subtle difference there between what a business that focuses on Wellbeing is and a purposeful business again, so you can have an arms business that is purposeful, but is it creating wellbeing? So that there’s a subtle shift, I think in, in that approach?
Ian Hogg 12:24
Okay. And do you think that you know, companies that focus on it, it, you know, companies have an obligation to their shareholders and stakeholders? And of course, you know, staff want reliable, sustainable income? Don’t they want to they want a profitable business to work for? Do you think there’s a link between the two? Do you believe that?
David Green 12:48
Yeah, I do. Within the book, I talk about the, we mentioned earlier, didn’t we the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Now? I think they’re fantastic. And I think they take us in the right direction. What I would argue is that I’m unsure about whether actually last year question, in what which would you rather, would you rather sustain? Or would you rather thrive?
Ian Hogg 13:13
I’d rather thrive.
David Green 13:15
Right. Okay. So So my argument within the book is that actually sustainable development whilst it’s taken us in the right direction. Actually, it’s a reaction to the place we find ourselves in. There’s an element of survival going on here now. But I wonder whether the reason people haven’t embraced or the UN Sustainable Development Goals having great gain traction, as much as they perhaps would have liked to, is because they’re focused on survival. What I’m saying is, let’s focus on thriving, let’s, let’s focus on something more inspirational and that we really want to go towards. And I think that’s what wellbeing gives us. And now I feel well being can build on sustainable development, but I wouldn’t say sustainable development is the right focus. I’d say let’s focus on thriving. Yeah. You also talk about uniting people as well. Don’t you see well being? I wonder if you could just, you know, just expand on what you meant by that in the book. Yeah. Well, I’ll take it from two different perspectives. I think the first perspective is that this builds on ancient wisdom. So I mentioned all the books and the research I’ve done, and it almost feels like it’s a culmination of all a gathering of all that knowledge. My work, if you read the book, lots, lots within it is not new news. It’s building on the work of the people that I’ve mentioned. But this ancient wisdom comes from both the East and the West. So if you look at Buddhism and you look at certain religions, and so forth, actually you can start to see, you know, the correlations there. So, wellbeing is a concept I think that can bring together the East and the West. So it just brings people together. And actually, if you also look at the work and again, you’ll be familiar with this of Maslow, people like Max Neef. If you look at the work of Martin Seligman, he’s done work on character strengths. There’s a lot of work that shows. We’re more similar as human beings across the planet than we are different. So I think if we work on those similarities, which wellbeing helps us to do, actually, wellbeing can unite us and we know with, you know, businesses becoming more diverse now because the worlds become smaller cultures and moving more closely together. And wellbeing is great, I think, a concept that everybody wants, it’s what we want, isn’t it? It’s like you said, you want to thrive? That’s what we want?
Ian Hogg 15:55
No, I agree. I think what is interesting is you talk about a sort of ancient wisdom. When we started this podcast, you know, we wanted to understand more about wellbeing because we had a product that was beginning to sell into that space. And we felt this was a good podcast was an excellent way to speak to people help us meet potential partners meet potential contributors to our development as a company supplying wellbeing what I’ve learned over getting on for 50 Odd episodes is that you know, you know, just running a business properly, okay, to some old fashioned, high-quality standards, gives everybody good well being. And actually, what you’re talking about, you know, I would suggest a lot of those sort of ancient sort of wisdom, where we’re actually doing things the right way, treating everybody else, you know, be friends to your neighbours, you know, do no evil, all of those basic things. There, there is almost no, like you say, it’s not new news if you just do things properly to high standards, to relatively liberal sort of approach to things, funnily enough, wellbeing improves. I would you agree with that, or?
David Green 17:09
Yeah, I think so. Generally speaking, I think that, yeah, I think what we’re getting now though, which helps us, which helps us, if you like, improve, because we’re always trying to improve that we’re, we’re trying to get better. I argue what, what is better, what’s better best? I believe that it’s focused on well being, but over the last 10 20 years, you know, we’ve got more knowledge comes to the fore in the previous 10 to 20 years than throughout all of our existence. And a lot of that knowledge is actually wellbeing knowledge. It’s about how do we, how do we better live our lives? So I think there’s more knowledge and evidence-based scientific research that we can build on now as businesses and organisations and communities and nations to say, Well, look, this is a better life, this is a better way of living. And all of that builds on the work of people like Aristotle, you know, yeah. Stoics. And, you know, it all comes from that, that that’s where it all originates.
Ian Hogg 18:11
Yeah, no, listen, good point. I definitely, definitely learned throughout the podcast, speaking to all the guests, that actually, there is no new news. It’s, you know, it’s about, you know, sitting and thinking through well being and as you’ve done from sort of core principles, and, and piecing together the important necessary sort of ideas that that that helped us come up with a wellbeing strategy. What do you know, one of the things I noticed you put you believe that wellbeing can sort of fuel success. Yeah. Do you believe that within our company, so if we’ve got well being within a company, do you think that company, it will be self-fulfilling, it’ll continue to improve both the well being and the success of the company?
David Green 18:59
Yeah, most definitely. So there’s a really good business reason to focus on wellbeing as well. It’s not just a fluffy thing. This, you know, will help people improve performance. So if I mentioned Shawn Akers book The Happiness Advantage earlier, and he’s got lots of evidence that shows that focusing on well being can help improve productivity. Growth Mindset is a concept, you know, flexible thinking, thinking, Yes, we can rather than No, we can’t, you know, all of this optimism, those sorts of concepts, help us perform better. But wellbeing is also about creativity. So I think, you know, we take mental well being as a topic. I think a lot of the focus in business at the moment. Is is is if you like on the suffering end of well being so things like stress and anxiety and depression those areas. And that’s quite right. Of course, we need to support people in that type of position. But what we should also remember is that actually, mental wellbeing is also about creativity. It’s about imagination, which is perhaps at the thriving end of wellbeing. So by focusing on, you know, that thriving and that imagination and creativity, then yeah, we can improve performance. So and be more resilient as well.
Ian Hogg 20:27
Yeah, I think, what you talk about there, he’s always like, focusing on the symptoms. And I think businesses are, traditionally we’ve always sort of had a problem statement, and then tried to solve the problem, which is often at the symptom level, isn’t it? You know, you’ve got stressed in the call centre, or you’ve got some financial wellbeing issues in your in your team? So, and, and I think there are, you know, there are, there are plenty of people out there looking to solve those problems, which is, which I think is encouraging. But what you’re, what you’re saying is, if I hear you, right, David is that we solve the, you know, solve the problem from the higher level, and then the symptoms and starts to disappear anyway.
David Green 21:11
I think so. Yeah, definitely.
Ian Hogg 21:14
Okay. And you also talk about, you know, there’s, you talk about, there’s lots of change coming, and obviously, we’re, you know, the implications of, you know, sort of the recent cop 26 and sort of Net Zero is, we’ve all got quite a lot of change to, to adapt to. You talk about wellbeing help us helping us adapt to change. Again, can you, you know, talk the listeners to how you see that?
David Green 21:42
Well, I think we’ve sort of touched on it already. But it you know, for if businesses were to put the planet first, you know we’ve got climate change and problems with biodiversity, so all of those sorts of areas that you that that need addressing. So if businesses see the planet tree well being as part of their remit, that can help with climate change. But also, other if you take that, that back down to an individual level, actually, in developed nations like ours, one of the big drivers, I think, of climate change is our consumption, the way we consume things, and, we could probably consume differently, and our well being improve. So to give you a personal example, I probably eat too much. Particularly, you know, just having had Christmas. Now, I’m not saying this as easy, but I could probably slightly less and improve my wellbeing now in eating slightly less or changing. So actually, one of the positive things I’ve tried to do is eat slightly less meat and move to a more plant-based diet. Now I’m not saying I have to become a vegan. I love my heart, and you know, enjoy it. But I think we can change our consumption patterns by eating slightly less B. That can help save the planet. But it also improves our wellbeing, so it’s a win-win. It’s not a win-lose weight. I think I could sit. We’ve got slightly distracted. We’ve got slightly I don’t know more more more in terms of our consumption, rather than looking at quality and, and so forth. So yeah, so win-win.
Ian Hogg 23:41
Okay, yeah, that’s I get it. So really, what you’re saying is if a million businesses all take, you know, well being, including planetary wellbeing, seriously and start to put plans in place and make a change, then the whole world will change because a million businesses have got behind it. That’s, Is, Is that fair? Fair comment?
David Green 24:01
I think I wouldn’t just put the onus on businesses. Yeah, most definitely. I think, within the book, I talk about, we need change at all levels. So we need change, you know, individuals need to change businesses, communities, we need to look at education, but also, you know, governments. So an example would be I don’t know whether you’ve seen this recently, but the French government have just introduced a ban on single-use plastics, particularly around vegetables. And so that’s a good signal, and it helps businesses understand the direction of travel. I do think we need to know that that intervention signposting from the government so that businesses can follow, and we all need to work together. So it’s a wee thing this it’s not a point the finger it’s you, I mean, we all need to change.
Ian Hogg 24:51
And I suppose what would be interesting in hearing as we sort of move towards the end of this episode is, is where do you think we are? You are both in the UK. We’re both in the UK. So, where do you think we are in the UK? You know, how much progress have we made? And where do you think we are global with this? And in particular, I read an article fairly recently where somebody was making the point around cop 26. That, actually, you know, lots of countries have now got in place plans, you know, to have electric cars to put in more, you know, renewable energy. And, the world had already set down this path. And it was only a question of not if, but when we got to sort of, you know, to a much more sustainable lifestyle. So the momentum was already there. The journey had started and was, was remarkable. Would you agree with that? Where do you think we are both in the UK and globally?
David Green 25:50
Well, from what I read, I think we’re behind schedule. So I’m pessimistic from that perspective. But I’m also very optimistic because we are very creative. We overcome challenges. I think what this brings us to really is the heart of perhaps the conversation that we’re having. And then you have to ask the question, well, what is leadership, and which tackle within the book, and not only what is leadership, but what is good leadership because we can have badly this taken us in the wrong direction. For me, good leader, leadership is about taking people to a better place. So I think we have to ask a question, well, what’s that better place? My belief is that actually, it’s best described in terms of wellbeing. And leaders at the moment, I think, again, be slightly critical of the United Nations in some respects that, you know, the sustainable development for me isn’t visionary. It’s, it’s a survival thing. It’s a, but it doesn’t prevent, present us with a vision. So I think we need leaders with the idea to take us to this better place. But we also need leaders with courage because, at the end of the day, this is about helping people understand that we need to change our consumption patterns.
So given that, you know, the French leaders have been courageous in reducing the or, you know, banning the plastic. Another example, New Zealand, I believe, just looking at banning smoking and phasing smoking out totally, we need that type of courageous leadership, which isn’t going to be popular. You know, it’s going to cause lots of angst amongst people. But it is that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. So, you know, we need leaders to step up, I think,
Ian Hogg 27:46
Yeah, no, I agree. And I think, you know, one of the points you sort of make he’s the demonstrate sort of surviving and thriving is, you know, sometimes I think some of these sorts of agendas have been sold, you know, almost like a hair shirt type approach, as opposed to there’s a positive to moving, you know, to moving down the right direction. And, you know, I think there are positives to be had here. And I think sometimes leaders could, could be trying to sell that more. And, you know, in a bit more colour and a bit less stick on some of these changes. Well, is, is where I’m going.
David Green 28:23
Yeah, no, I think you’d absolutely and that, you know, I’m doing a lot of reading about growth at the moment. And there are those that argue for de-growth and post-growth? And actually, can we keep growing? And I’d I don’t know what the answer is. And I’m trying to investigate that at the moment. And But there seem to be two schools of thought here about, you know, yeah, we can keep growing and, and all, we can’t. I think there’s some probably somewhere in the middle. Still, what building on the point you’ve just mentioned, I think we can grow; we need to develop differently because we can’t keep consuming what we’re consuming. So we can consume more experiences, for example, than stuff. And that can improve our wellbeing, but we can also save the planet at the same time. So that I think there is a message there that none of us has tapped into yet that Yeah, look, we can have it all we can, we can have a better life, we can save the planet, and we’ll all be thriving rather than just surviving or suffering. If we get it right,
Ian Hogg 29:28
no, I agree. And I think that you know, coming back to the business. We’ll probably start to wind up here but is, you know, businesses can move their model down that will anticipate that change, and like say, still get gross by being. I get that from retailers, and many people are moving away from just selling stuff to selling experiences and a bit of things. So listen, excellent. We, you know, really great to have you back on David. And, you know, as you’ll learn from last time. I always try and get a book recommendation or, you know, get people to tell me what book or media is given the most influence at the moment. And we got a second one. I think you gave us to flourish by Martin Seligman. Last time, we got a second one to recommend, or you dried up.
David Green 30:17
No, no, no, no, I haven’t tried that. And again, it’s not just a book. It’s read a lot of research as well. So I mean, the thing the book that I’m reading at the moment is economic growth, post-Brexit by a guy called John mills. It’s not a recommendation. I’m, you know, partway through it. I like to say that I’m trying to understand this whole growth issue. Where do we go from here? I hope we keep growing, and we get, you know, we can thrive. But yeah, that’s the book. I’m sort of reading at the moment.
Ian Hogg 30:48
It sounds pretty heavy going to, to be honest. But I will.
David Green 30:57
Yeah, I need to. I need to lighten up a bit. You need to know you need to speak to my wife. She keeps telling me to lighten up a bit, but Yeah, probably.
Ian Hogg 31:06
Fine, we will put those and what I’ll do is I’ll capture some of those other books that you mentioned at the top of the programme and get those in the programme notes as well. David, listen, great to have you back on. You know, this was even better than the last one, which I thought was pretty good the first time around. So you know, thanks so much. Good luck with the book sales continue to go well, and good luck with all the work you’re trying to do in everything you’re trying to achieve.
Ian Hogg 31:34
Thanks, Ian. It’s a pleasure to be here. And yeah, thank you.