Winning friends and influencing people as a wellbeing lead

As I mentioned in my last post, the role of wellbeing lead requires a trailblazing mindset, and a big part of this means gaining support from other people and overcoming resistance.

The wellbeing leads I interviewed shared fascinating stories describing how they went about winning over colleagues, senior leaders and other stakeholders to create a positive ripple effect of change in their organisation.

Examples of influencing as a wellbeing lead

Daniela* told me about the difference it made when she attended wellbeing initiatives, such as health checks, in person and encouraged colleagues to take part. Being positive, supportive and upbeat was paramount.

Aida* mentioned the power of the large mental health first aid programme she’d put in place. The initiative was a huge success and been pivotal in creating a groundswell of awareness and conversations about mental health.

Other wellbeing leads talked about the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and role modelling the behaviours they advocate. If colleagues were to take wellbeing messaging seriously, it was important for the wellbeing lead to act consistently with the communications they put out. Of course this didn’t mean they had to be perfect, but the message had to come from a genuine place.

When gentler influencing failed, wellbeing leads mentioned times when they had taken a more assertive approach. In particular when pushing back on unrealistic expectations, for example when management set them ambitious objectives but failed to back it up with an appropriate budget commitment.

As organisational behaviour researcher Kevin Daniels (2023) highlighted, there are a number of political factors involved in the implementation of wellbeing initiatives. Many of us roll our eyes at organisational ‘politics’ but they exist, whether we like it or not, and they are mainly about influencing others. So how can we embrace them for a positive purpose?

Key takeaways on influencing as a wellbeing lead

  • The role of wellbeing lead is frequently isolated within organisations (a topic for a future post!). It’s important for wellbeing leads to build a strong network both for moral and practical support in and outside of the organisation.
  • Focus on recruiting other stakeholders at various levels to support your drive for change. Psychologist Paul Baltes used the term ‘proxy agency’ to describe the process of leveraging others’ influence to drive change. Wellbeing champions provide crucial peer influencing power, whilst buy-in from senior leaders signals the commitment required in order to gain employees’ trust in the wellbeing agenda.
  • Strong cross-collaborations with adjacent functions such as HR or Health and Safety are paramount. One reason being the access this provides to useful sources of data to justify investment in wellbeing interventions for example.
  • Key ‘soft’ skills to cultivate in a wellbeing lead role include assertiveness and influencing ability, in particular practices such as “nudging” and role modelling (Kurtines et al, 2014).
  • It is worth reading some of the fascinating research devoted to the science of persuasion and influencing. Albert Bandura (2014) touched on techniques such as ‘nudging’ and role modelling. Robert Cialdini’s (1984) book ‘Influence, The Science of Persuasion’ is a classic on the topic, filled with evidence-based practical tools and insights. Cialdini describes six universal skills of influence including reciprocation, social proof and scarcity. All great food for thought when it comes to persuading colleagues, peers and senior leaders to support your drive for wellbeing change.

*Participant names have been changed

As part of the work we’re doing at SuperWellness we are building a training course and community of peers that will be truly practical and relevant for wellbeing leads. If this is something you would be interested in, please add your details to our waitlist and we’ll keep you updated on upcoming joining dates.


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