‘Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change it is the realisation that we can’ – Shawn Achor
Achieving true happiness and success in both our personal and professional lives requires us to see it firstly as a possibility. It is only when we believe that it can be a reality that we can set about the business of making it one.
One of the great things about holidays is the chance to relax and catch up on some of those good reads that we have earmarked and invariably put aside for ‘later’. For me, one of those reads was Shawn Achor’s book – The Happiness Advantage. In his book, Achor suggests that our most commonly held formula for success is broken: work hard and you will become successful and THEN you will become happy. How many of us have spent years chasing happiness as some sort of end goal only to be disappointed or left with a feeling of “is this it?’ Or how many of us have recently made New Years resolutions believing that it will bring the answer to our happiness? If I can just lose those 5kgs; find that great job; win that next promotion; save another $10k, then I will be happy.
Whilst I am not suggesting that some of these things are not great goals, I do believe that if we make them the central source of our happiness we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. The danger then is that when we don’t achieve them or when we do and they don’t satisfy us, we no longer believe that we are successful or that true happiness is possible. AND if we don’t believe it for ourselves, how can we believe it is possible for the teams and businesses that we lead?
Rather than viewing happiness and success as the outcome we need to harness it as the driver for engagement, motivation and productivity. By becoming more positive ‘during the journey’ and not just at the end, we train our brains to become more successful. As Achor suggests, we work faster, more productively and more intelligently. The statistics for harnessing this outlook are compelling. Below is a snapshot of the impact that employee happiness has on a typical business: (source: RED: Recognise Every Day)
- Low level employee engagement results in 33% decreased revenue and 11% decrease in earnings growth
- Companies with high employee engagement levels have 19% higher revenue and 28% increased in earnings growth
- Unhappy employees take 15 more sick days each year than their engaged colleagues
- $11B is lost each year due to employee turnover that comes from poor company culture
- Companies that regularly ask for employee feedback have turnover rates that are 15% lower
- Lack of productivity costs Australian businesses $42b p.a.
There is no doubt that most of us are creatures of habit. We create basic routines, habits and mindsets that guide our day-to-day lives and levels of engagement and productivity. As leaders we need to ensure that these daily habits are setting us – and the businesses we lead – up for success, rather than hijacking it.
So what are some of the key elements for creating success and happiness in our workplaces?
- Vision: An ability to not only articulate the overall vision but demonstrate the value of each individual’s contribution to it.
- Optimism: Encouraging a ‘what is possible’ outlook is essential to harnessing potential and creating the frameworks to successfully execute.
- Empowerment: Knowing how to listen, guide and motivate employees in their role rather than control will not only empower individuals to achieve higher levels of success but also adopt greater degrees of career ownership.
- Values: Living them not writing them! Building trust and integrity in what you do, how you do it and acknowledge success is a critical element in any happy workplace.
- Voice: Providing a safe, constructive and positive forum for employees to voice their observations, views and feedback will not only support further success but also drive innovation and problem solving strategy.
- Social Support: Learning how to invest in the talents, strengths and support of those around us not only promotes greater productivity and success but also increases individual capacity and strength.
- Challenge vs Threat: The ability to see stress and problems as challenges rather than threats not only creates a psychologically safer operating environment but encourages a more open, collaborative workplace.
- Resilience: Coping with and recovering from failure and ongoing challenges not only helps us to overcome, but also learn from situations.
Whilst we can’t make people happy we can create environments that support happy healthy mindsets, habits and ambitions. To harness individual and business potential we need to ensure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time and that those individuals want to be there! Combined with a stronger reality of what defines success and happiness we are well positioned for longer-term productivity and fulfillment.