United Benefit Advisors Insight and Analysis Blog

Health Care Reform and the Balloonist

By Mick Constantinou, Employee Benefits Advisor at HUB International
  Aug 23, 2013 12:04:00 PM

Hot Air BalloonBy Mick Constantinou, Advisor, Employee Benefits
Connelly, Carlisle, Fields, & Nichols, A UBA Partner Firm

In preparation for a recent keynote addresse at the Benefits Mania Conference on Health Care Reform and New Paradigms in the Benefits Renewal Process, the most challenging piece was deciding on how to open the presentation.

Public Speaking 101 indicates that speakers should open with a joke, but was joking about the ACA appropriate or professionally safe?

After searching the web for humorous stories and jokes related to “change management” – which is essentially what employers, individuals and our industry must embrace – multiple hits came up on a similar allegory about a man (or woman) in a hot air balloon.  There were a variety of versions of the allegory making it impossible to credit the original author of the story – so thank you to whomever was the originator of the allegory.

Regardless of the knowledge or beliefs - religious, political, social and economic - that have established a person’s or group’s paradigm, the balloonist allegory was not only appropriate but hauntingly familiar.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised I’d be somewhere, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in management." "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.  You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

Also read The Tomato Paradox of Health Care Reform and The Tomato Paradox Part 2: What’s Left on the Vine.

Topics: UBA, employee benefits, health care reform, change management, leadership