The NationSwell Council is made up of social impact-oriented leaders and changemakers. In Nationswell’s latest series, “Five Minutes With…,” we sit down with members of our community whose exemplary leadership deserves a deeper dive. Here’s what Meredith Davis, Government Account Partner at BetterUp, had to share with us:
NationSwell: What does an equitable, human-centered future of work look like?
Meredith Davis: It could incorporate many factors, and one of the most important is whole person performance grounded in well-being. We will still face change and uncertainty, but a workplace that creates agency and connection to a larger purpose will enable people to perform. My focus is on the Government workplace, where I work to bring the mindsets and behaviors that enhance personal flourishing to everyone, from frontline employees to senior executives.
NationSwell: How does the work you’re driving today help to build that future?
Meredith Davis: I think it’s important to eat your own cookie dough. At BetterUp, personal well-being and company citizenship are reinforced through policy and leadership practice. As a fun example, we’re frequently reminded to take breaks to rest and recharge. We’re encouraged to decline meetings we won’t add unique value to, prioritizing instead “deep work” like writing a learning memo to contribute a unique observation. We iteratively and intentionally improve our culture with a twice-yearly internal Canvass, Caucus, and leadership Commits process. And in case we need the reminder that our well-being and life experience matter, all of our all-hands meetings start with a mindful minute, meditation, or presence practice. As workplace guru Dr. Adam Grant recently referenced, exit interviews are too late to find out why people are leaving.
NationSwell: What inspires or motivates you — personally and professionally — to do this work?
Meredith Davis: I’m motivated by the idea that accomplishing government agency missions doesn’t conflict with the well-being of their employees — in fact, employee well-being is crucial to mission success. The choice isn’t me or the mission. I’m seeing the shift to an “and” mentality – that when we focus on our own well-being and the well-being of our staff, we end up accomplishing higher quality, more sustainable work.
In a macro sense, as humans, we are finding our unique value based on our judgment and creativity in the world of AI-augmented and robotic-assisted work, something that the speed of technological advancement demands. Futuristic thinking inspires me – no one knows the upward bound of human potential.
Many people might relate to my personal journey to valuing well-being. In my short time in the military, I burnt myself out completely. I developed mechanical habits that created an unnecessary sense of over-urgency for every task — I was “always on.” For example, I developed a self-critical inner monologue, intentionally de-identified with clear pain or injury, and cut off sleep. I saw pressure biofeedback loops as “discipline.” There are times when we need those gears, especially in a job of service to a mission greater than any one person. I’m grateful to know I have them in case I need to “break glass in case of emergency.” However, through working with my coach and reading research on human performance, I now practice skills of self-compassion to create helpful inner monologue, sensory connectedness to reduce stress levels, and intentional rest and recovery to improve mental agility, creativity and sharp decision-making. These habits produce a more useful default mode and have made me a more valuable, more productive (and happier!) employee and leader.
Getting to see these mindset and behavior shifts in others who are serving such important missions in government motivates me. It’s also inspiring to know that there’s always more to learn.
NationSwell: What are some promising signs from the impact you’re driving?
NationSwell: The BetterUp platform delivers a unique capability to measure human flourishing. Quantitative outcomes in our government work have shown 15% improvement in well-being, 7% increase in leading indicators of retention, 14% increase in wartime readiness, and 15% increase in resilience. But I live for qualitative data – the human stories. I’m paraphrasing but, “This experience is priceless… I learned skills I will take with me for the rest of my life” or “I always avoided conflict, and now I have the tools to face it with confidence” are evidence of better workplace performance and a more satisfying life experience for real people.
NationSwell: What are some of the challenges you’re facing? How can NationSwell’s social impact community of practice help you with those challenges?
Meredith Davis: Although the pandemic shifted the work world dramatically toward more flexible work, we still need dialogues about the need for whole person performance and well-being. I would love to see research like Dr. Martin Seligman’s recent findings on well-being as a top predictor of job performance integrated into workplace policy and practice. I’d ask this community to elevate and expand how we conceive of well-being as foundational to the future of work among leaders in government and its private and non-profit sector ecosystem.
NationSwell: What’s your call to action to anyone who reads this Q+A?
Meredith Davis: In our own daily workplace behavior, we can all set the example of prioritizing deep and meaningful work, reinforcing well-being boundaries, and supporting our teams to do the same. For practical ideas, check the well-being articles on the BetterUp blog. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic and seeing what change we can drive together!