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The Power of Storytelling: Share Your Wellness Story

Intro: As the millennial daughter of two entrepreneurs, Rachel Druckenmiller has seen firsthand how the workplace can impact the other aspects of one’s life. After winning Top Health Promotion Professional in 2015, she has committed her work to encouraging organizations and employees to share their personal story of wellness at work. The Power of Storytelling…

Intro:

As the millennial daughter of two entrepreneurs, Rachel Druckenmiller has seen firsthand how the workplace can impact the other aspects of one’s life. After winning Top Health Promotion Professional in 2015, she has committed her work to encouraging organizations and employees to share their personal story of wellness at work.

The Power of Storytelling
Share Your Wellness Story
An Expert Interview with Rachel Druckenmiller

What made you decide to go into the field?

Rachel Growing up, I’ve always been interested growing up in human behavior. I watched a lot of Oprah and read a lot of self-help and development books. I took a career assessment in high school and was told I could be a doctor, a nutritionist, a dancer, a writer, or a psychologist. In a roundabout way, I think I became a combination of those things today.

I was also fascinated about nutrition and thought I would study dietetics, but in 2001 the main thing dieticians were doing was working at hospitals and I knew I wanted to do something different. So I decided to study psychology. I began doing research and even had a couple of journals published with a professor my sophomore year. I was going to get my PhD, but ended up doing a lifestyle intervention program and started working at SIG.

The spring of 2007 I met a person who had her Master’s in Public Health and she told me about WELCOA. I joined that year and spent the next several years sitting in on every webinar I could get my hands on.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I am most proud of how I have taken things, whether it’s a challenge of my health or my marriage, and flipped them around to deliver in the form of a training in vulnerable and authentic way.

70% of my career has been in the wellness space so I always felt like I needed to be a “picture perfect wellness person”. I had issues with my weight and was malnourished, so I didn’t let anyone see the imperfect sides of me. When I was able to speak about it at the WELCOA Summit, I found out that those were the things that made me relatable. I took things that would have otherwise been discouraging and that could have shut me down and used them as ways to connect with people.

My parents are both entrepreneurs who told me to make up what you do and find someone to pay you for it. There wasn’t a wellness coordinator at SIG — so I decided I wanted to be that person and learn and grow. I just keep making up my job and reinventing myself. I went from creating health newsletters and leading lunch ‘n learns to speaking about the power of connection.

What is unique or special about the program you created?

I’ve moved from a programmatic approach to a mindset shift. Going from fixing people, i.e. “you need to be counting chemicals not calories” or “you need to put this program in place and make sure everyone is walking” to addressing the system itself. We have to change the very nature of work and how we impact people’s health and wellbeing. Not that other things don’t matter, but it has to happen at the top if its going to stick.

Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. If we know that is true and we’re not giving our managers the right resources and training — programs will have limited impact. You’re a good leader if you care about people, if you listen, if you are empathetic, if you are humble, if you ask questions, and if you apologize.

“It’s really hard to differentiate yourself in this industry as being fundamentally different than someone else. I try to redefine success through the confines of connection.”

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a leader in their field?

Many people come out of the gate because everyone else is doing it, but they haven’t done the work on their own life first. What I’ve found to be most effective, is talking about the experiences I’ve had. You’re not just going to be a speaker without experience or having something to talk about.

Get to know you.

Do some self-reflecting and think about the values that really drive your life. Get clear about what you bring to the table that is different and begin honing in on that. What are you skilled at doing? Do you have any insight or experience? What do you care about?

  • I care about human connection
  • I care about kindness because I practice it and it makes people feel noticed and seen.
  • I care about making people feel included because I didn’t for so long.

Collect stories.

Then get someone else’s stories. Spend time and have conversations with people. Ask questions of the leaders in the experience. What are some of the things that have surprised or shocked them or provided hope in their role? How can you take those stories and convert to something that you could guide someone else through your journey?

Do the work and gain experience.

Getting in reps — more influence, more ability, more decision making opportunities, you never know who you are in front of.

Just get started.

You have to show up! Don’t worry about going from zero to hero in six months. Take inventory of your wants, interests, and needs and then act on those things.

“I feel like I am bringing messages of love, kindness, and compassion which aligns with other aspects of my life. I shied away from ever communicating that and learned to be more confident, bold, and unapologetic about it — I can be honest about my core beliefs and my own motivations. I have been more impactful and people have said more compelling things when I am just myself.”

What advice have you been given from leaders in your field?

One of the most important things, and it sounds cheesy, is to be authentic. You can smell inauthenticity from a mile away. Don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not. I thought I was going to go out on my own and be a health coach, but after a year of banging my head against a wall, I realized I don’t like doing 1:1 stuff, I like doing group stuff. If you’re not naturally super funny, don’t try to make jokes just to get people to like you. Don’t suppress the things that make you, you.

There is a big difference between being a bulldozer and being passionate. I always wanted to get approval from my peers and would hear people all the time say, “Rachel you are just too passionate.” I would bring a folder with case studies printed out, ready to bulldoze the conversation. I was insecure, I was young, and was trying to communicate these large concepts. It took me over 7 years of overcompensating with information overload to realize that I had stories to tell. Once I started telling my story, honestly and simply, my stories started to connect me to others. Tell more stories and show less data. Stories are super powerful. You know enough, you just have to know how to ask good enough questions to get them to come to their own realizations. Practice humility and be willing to listen and ask a lot of questions.

What motivates you to do the work that you do?

I’ve struggled with my health since I was 19 years old. I suffered chronic ENT issues, went through a half a dozen surgeries, was on and off acid reflux medication, and was terrified to eat because of it. I went through an experience of paying attention to what I was eating through elimination. I found out I could get rid of my ear infections, my bronchitis, my sinus infections, and I started to feel better. I fired all my doctors and started seeing all integrated and functional medicine doctors. I started to realize how powerful it was to start tapping into the wisdom of their body. I knew what it was like to be sick and medicated and I found another way. That was the first impetus for me.

What resources do you use to be successful?

Conferences

I started asking to go to conferences when I was 23 years old. I go to conferences to connect with people; like the WELCOA Summit every year and A People Movement: Wellness Underground. I’ve always been a lifelong learner and I needed events like that to feel recharged, reinspired and reignited. I also knew nothing about the space.

WELCOA Resources

I’ve downloaded, printed, and highlighted just about every WELCOA whitepaper and expert interview. Every Wednesday at 11:00am EST I sat on a WELCOA webinar. It was the highlight of my day and it was way more intriguing then other resources I was consuming.

Research and Industry Experts

I read Harvard Business Review a lot. There’s a lot of awesome content on there. I read a lot, so anything new that comes out like Gallup data, I get a lot of information from the Clifton StrengthsFinder and their website. Read books, articles online, HBR, Forbes, Ink, ThriveGlobal, etc. Jen Arnold’s podcast, she interviews a lot of people in the space.

LinkedIn

I joined LinkedIn in 2006 and started connecting with people and posting stuff in groups. I found people who were saying different things online. I got asked to be on a few webinars and Rosie Ward from Salveo Partners, who worked for a benefits consulting firm, who was talking about culture and intrinsic motivation aligned with how I felt about ROI. Troy Adams at Wellsteps demonstrated human kindness that inspired and shaped me, and of course Brene Brown.

What are three things you do every day to achieve your goals?

I write every single day.

Journal. Write an article. Write a blog post. Or some combo every single day. I always assume I haven’t arrived.

I get really good sleep.

I don’t mess with my sleep. When I burned out the thing I was sacrificing was my sleep. Even when I am traveling I get a solid 8 hours. Prioritizing sleep is a non-negotiable. Invest in cool-lock pillows, memory foam pillow toppers, and high thread count sheets. Keep your house at 60 degrees.

I connect with people.

If I am out of town, I call them, I talk to them. And I surround myself with honest people who know me, people who call me out, and I regularly interact with them.

What inspires you to persevere?

When I burned out and I got mono and I realized my relationship sucked. I had to do a lot of damage control and had to apologize to a bunch of people for how I had been showing up. I had to own that I had been arrogant, evasive, unavailable and unapproachable. That is not an awesome conversation to have with people but it was true. I was always very defensive before and I had to receive. When you hit “rock bottom” you get a little bit of humility because you realize that the way you were doing things was not working.

What has been your biggest career achievement?

Winning the Top Health Promotion Professional was probably the biggest achievement for me but also presented a tremendous burden for me because I wasn’t connected enough to the things that matter most. I kept thinking, “when this thing happens I will have made it and I will be happy.” You are sorely mistaken if you think that’s how it works. You cannot rely on things outside of yourself to define who you are and whether or not you’re worthy. There were so many other people that could’ve gotten that award, but I spoke candidly and boldly and someone saw the passion and the vision for what I had to say. I worked for a 60 person company in Baltimore. I applied the LAST day it was due.

Anything of significance in my life has happened not because I forced it to, but because I was open to it. I created and I accepted the invitation when it came. WELCOA called to speak at Summit because my approach was non-prescriptive, non-judgmental, and refreshing and they knew that’s what people wanted to hear.

What piece of advice would you give to this year’s applicants of the Top Health Promotion Professional contest?

What compelled people the most, was about my vision for the future. Everyone’s going to submit data and numbers of all the impressive stuff they’ve done. Don’t look at what everyone else is saying. Use your words! Use your own words about why you care.

Why would you wake up everyday for the next 20 years and do the work you do?
What do you think is true about the potential for humans at work?
What do you do that is fundamentally different from everyone else?

Think about what makes you different and what makes the work you do compelling. If you can’t think of what that is, start doing something different!

Ask your employees. In what ways have what you’ve done made a difference in their lives? Get people to tell you about the impact of your done. IT’S NOT BRAGGING to talk about ourselves and what we do well. You have to advocate for yourself more than anyone else does. Through promotions, money, responsibility, and impact — it’s not arrogance. If you don’t tell anyone they are not going to know. Get a bank together of things you can use to really shape and share your story.

What questions could applicants ask their employees?

We make assumptions about what people do or why they do it and we get it wrong. One thing I posed in a recent LinkedIn post was to ask this question, “Will this be an experience worth remembering? Will it give us a story to tell or just another box to check?”

I was at A People Movement and met Alaina Valentine. She has a company called Skill Scout, and she challenged us to ask our employees these questions:

  • Tell me about an event that has profoundly shaped you as a person.
  • Tell me about an event that has profoundly shaped your perspective on health.
  • What do you wish people at work knew about you?
  • What do people get wrong about you?
  • Tell me about a meaningful experience you’ve had at work.
  • Tell me about an experience that made you change the way you think about your body or why you’re here.

What is your vision for the future of the health promotion industry?

I believe that everyone desires to feel. The importance of human connection and of creating opportunities for people to experience an awakening. A lot of people are walking through their days on autopilot. It’s one of the reasons people are not well in every aspect. They are letting their life happen to them, instead of owning their future.

Systemic conversations will continue.

How do we rework work and create a culture that makes people want to go to work? Why are people so unwell? Because we’ve not made people feel appreciated at work. We don’t appreciate people. We don’t express the value they bring. We don’t let them see how they connect to making a difference. We haven’t made work a community that people want to be a part of.

It will expand in how we continue to define wellness.

At Summit 2015, it was the first time I used the phrase, “We need to stop dehumanizing the workplace and we need to rehumanize wellness.” I still believe that. We need to get away from being prescriptive by being curious and inquisitive and leaving our assumptions at the door. By expanding our definitions of wellness beyond the physical body, I see more spiritual components entering the picture. These definitions are speaking to a greater sense of purpose. Especially among Millennials and Gen Z-ers. They want to work for organizations that stand for something beyond shareholder value.

It will combine individual coaching, mentorship, team building and group work.

If we’re going to create well workplaces, we have to focus on building leaders who lead well and train people in how to experience our shared humanity, our desire to connect and belong and feel like we matter. Focus less on being the wellness superstar or the fixer. We have to move as far away from that as possible. How can I mentor someone? How can I allow someone else to coach me? Organizations of all sizes will need to talk about it more globally than the silos wellness has been living under.

What do you hope to see from the wellness industry in the next 10 years?

I never saw my parents come home defeated by work. I never saw them hate their jobs. I saw them living lives they wanted. They are both in their 60s and don’t have any intent on retiring. I hope to see people feeling like:

  • It is possible to love what you do.
  • It is possible to make a healthy living.
  • It is possible to be in live and love each other more as you age.
  • It is possible to take time to rest.

“You can love what you do. And do what you love. Stay connected and share your story.”


Rachel Druckenmiller

Rachel Druckenmiller, MS

Director of Wellbeing, Alera Group rachel@silbs.com  |  LinkedIn

About Rachel

After winning WELCOA’s Top Health Promotion Professional in 2015, Rachel Druckenmiller has been called to release what was inside of her and the doors have opened.

Rachel is a thriving workplace culture coach and a catalyst who releases possibilities in people and in organizations. As a nationally recognized influencer, writer and speaker with over a decade of experience in the health and wellness field, Rachel is on a mission to transform and rehumanize the workplace. Connect with Rachel on social media: @rachelsnourishingkitchen

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