by David Cordani, president and CEO, Cigna, and Dick Traum, founder and president, Achilles International
Recently, Cigna, a global health service company, conducted a survey of more than 20,000 adults exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The results were startling, but none more so than the finding that the youngest people Cigna surveyed – the Gen Z and Millennial generations – reported feeling lonelier than any other age group. Additionally, the survey also found an inherent link between loneliness and the workplace – those who have better relationships with their coworkers are also less likely to be lonely.
These findings struck a chord with us because we recently coauthored a book called “The Courage to Go Forward: The Power of Micro Communities” about how passionate, tight-knit groups of people can empower others to confront their fears, set new goals and forge paths they may not have pursued alone. These groups are called micro communities and we believe they can also be an important conduit to reducing loneliness among both those in need of help and those lending their support.
For young entrepreneurs creating a new corporate culture from the ground up (as well as for already-established organizations), providing employees with opportunities to form micro communities outside of the workplace may help combat loneliness inside the office. We’ve done this ourselves through several private-non-profit partnerships, including our longstanding relationship between our two organizations, Cigna, which has more than 45,000 employees around the world, and Achilles International, a nonprofit enabling people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events and form deep bonds with others in the process.
“The Courage to Go Forward” tells the stories of micro communities formed by Cigna, Achilles and elsewhere to help a wide range of people, most of whom have overcome devastating physical and mental trauma. For example, we tell the story of Cedric King, who experienced major internal injuries, permanent loss to part of his right arm and hand, and the amputation of both legs in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device explosion tore through his body in 2012. In 2014, he competed in a half-Ironman competition in Augusta, Georgia, and has completed two Walt Disney World Marathons and the Boston Marathon, usingprosthetic blades. Today, he’s also a motivational speaker, sharing his story with companies and organizations around the country around the power of finding close-knit communities that helped him personally achieve what he never thought would be possible.
Their stories illustrate the power of micro communities. But we wanted to do more than merely inspire. So, we devised a step-by-step process that clearly shows people – including young entrepreneurs – how to create and follow through with micro communities of their own to help cultivate the strongest workplaces and employee talent.
1. Define the Vision.
The process for setting clear objectives and taking the steps to achieve them begins with establishing the vision: a true north point of direction that guides everyone on the journey.
2. Create a Strategy.
Having a clear strategy defines how we are going to achieve our vision. Built into the strategy is a plan of action — the hard work and sense of purpose to get there.
3. Attract the Right Resources.
We rely on our people, research and development teams, and other resources to help us build an infrastructure to get programs off the ground and sustain them over the long term.
4. Execute to Achieve the Plan.
Once we define our aspirations and create a strategy, the ultimate difference between success and failure is our ability to execute and achieve the plan.
5. Overcome Obstacles.
No matter how foolproof our recipe may be, we should always anticipate obstacles, setbacks, and a few stumbles along the way. Be prepared to adjust accordingly.
6. Expand and Grow.
Just as recipes evolve when they are passed down through generations or modified with healthier ingredients, our basic recipe allows us to make improvements and expand the vision with new opportunities across more micro communities.
Whether micro communities form at the workplace or among friends and family, they bring people together to set and achieve goals they never thought possible. As Cigna’s survey on loneliness also demonstrated, people who have more frequent meaningful human interactions are also less likely to be lonely.
So, whether you’re just starting your own enterprise or working for one, opportunities to form micro communities are one benefit that can pay long-term dividends to the whole team.
David Cordani is president and CEO of Cigna, a global health service company. He is an accomplished triathlete and running guide for disabled veterans.
Dick Traum is president and founder of Achilles International, a nonprofit enabling people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events. He was the first runner to complete a marathon with a prosthetic leg, when he crossed the finish line at the 1976 New York City Marathon.