When one plus one adds to more than two


By Amy Heydlauff, CEO of the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation

When I was a director of a small department at Chelsea Community Hospital my boss, Maggie Morehouse, taught me one of the best things I ever learned about leadership and life.

She said some people lead with an attitude of abundance. Working together, there is enough for everyone. Others lead with an attitude of scarcity. These leaders are concerned about getting their fair share. Their attitude leads to greed and stingy behavior.

That sense of abundance as a result of working together is the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation’s (5HF) Board of Director’s (BOD) approach to grant distribution. The board decided to allow the communities – not individual organizations – the opportunity to decide how each community’s share of the funds would be used. They are working together.

Even before the 5HF BOD made this decision, the Village of Manchester understood the concept. In 2010 the organizational leadership in Manchester came together and said to each other “If we compete against each other for 5 Healthy Towns Foundation funds we won’t be efficient – no one wins. But if we come together and prioritize our needs, applying for funds together, we will be able to do more with less.”

What Morehouse and Manchester understand is the quirk of nature that allows one plus one to equal more than two in certain circumstances. It can’t be explained, really. It’s a feeling and it’s contagious. And it’s fun.

How do I know it’s contagious? Because I’ve seen it in action many times. As an example, in 2011 Stockbridge’s new Wellness Coalition decided they needed a wellness center in their community. Commercial wellness centers could not be sustained in a community their size. Their enthusiasm spread and soon the coalition pulled together volunteers who identified space, demolished existing walls, floors and other existing structure, hired a contractor and turned the space into the community’s very own Wellness Center. The Coalition, landlord, 5HF, volunteer labor and others came together to do something none of them could do alone. Everyone involved is proud of the outcome. One plus one is more than two.

The same thing happens with individual health. Most of us plug away, all alone, trying to exercise and eat veggies. Yet research shows we have more fun and are most successful in a class or with a partner. This research is the basis of training classes like pre-diabetes group education (often offered for free in 5HF’s Wellness Centers). In addition, individuals are more likely to complete a weight-loss program as part of a group than on their own, by an order of magnitude.

People are more likely to show up and leave more determined and enthusiastic if they are exercising or learning as part of a group, and if they are accountable to someone – both the instructor and their classmates. Group workouts tend to push participants further than they would go on their own. Group exercise leads to a greater high because endorphins are released from the workout and also from the positive interactions with classmates.

So for most of us, wherever two or more are gathered, we each benefit to a greater degree. And it’s contagious so pass it on.


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