I have worked for nearly 25 years educating and coaching chief executives from the world of business to recognise the key elements of wellbeing and how to improve them from a health perspective. And yet, it took me some time to realise that, in many cases, I was working with only half of the equation. I was missing the vital link that is the CEO's partner.
Recently, on a wellness lecture tour for leading CEOs throughout Australia and New Zealand, the penny well and truly dropped. I was invited to speak at no fewer than six retreats, all of which focused on the CEO and their partner, and was overwhelmed with the response from those partners. They treasured their involvement in the events, as they felt more included in that part of the CEO’s life, and were
thankful to be able to actively share their journey towards success in business and life.
More recently, upon my return from Australasia, I helped to launch a 'Couples Weekend', where we brought together eight couples from the world of business and football to focus on the importance of working as a couple towards health and wellbeing. As well as getting to enjoy the luxury of the hotel, deep in the Dorset countryside, the response was equally overwhelming.
The couples experience
What is apparent is that the responsibility for the social and community wellbeing of a couple often lies firmly on the shoulders of the partner. For many CEOs and football managers, the safe haven of family togetherness provides a cushion for the stresses and strains of the day. But the partner also has a vital role in everything from ensuring the family gets the right nutrition to organising vacations and supporting career moves. Being together as a couple can provide real strength.
During that same tour of Australia and New Zealand, I surveyed over 200 CEOs, working with Shawn Acor’s 'five elements of happiness' (Harvard Business Review Jan/Feb 2012), featured in a previous edition of The Manager. When these executives were asked to share the three most important gratitudes that influenced their lives, the support, friendship and love of their partners and families came top.
What, then, makes for the most beneficial relationship in terms of wellbeing? When they explored the 'Science of a Great Relationship', Dr Christian Carter and Stanford lifestyle coach Professor Dr Fred Luskin cited certain habits as leading to successful partnerships.
• Be one another’s biggest fan
• Respond positively to bids for attention
• Prioritise time for affection
• Make time for one another
• Cultivate forgiveness
• Be there for each other and
help one another grow
It is common for couples in their 20s and 30s, even their 40s, to place some focus on their personal fitness. This is especially true of former
managers, many of whom will have been professional players. But in most cases solitary fitness tends to be the main priority.
As the years progress, however, more couples and families are sharing the enjoyment of working out together and engaging in recreational physical activity. Whether it be going to the gym or completing their first 5km or 10km run, couples in adult life are increasingly realising that the shared goals of exercising together bring real improvements to fitness, as well as strengthening relationships.
Dr Dorian Dugmore, Perform’s Director of Corporate Wellbeing and Founder of the League Manager Health Screening Programme