Pretty much forever, psychology focused on what was wrong with people, the aim being to identify phobias, disorders and mental ill-health, with a view to fixing people.
That’s important and useful, but I always felt there was something missing?
A few years ago I realised what it was – psychologists had never studied well people, so I set out to do just that. Fifteen years later, here’s what I’ve found about employee engagement and flourishing workplaces.
You can probably count them on the fingers of one hand, the people in your life who, when they walk into the room, make you feel brilliant. They probably haven’t even spoken, they’re just there. Or the cheery souls who know the exact level of enthusiasm that will raise the level of their work colleagues. A word of warning at the outset, too much happiness (bounding into the office on Monday with a hearty whoop of, “WooHoo, don’t those weekends drag…”) will just annoy people.
I call the genuine uplifting minority, the 2%ers, the folk who carry a feel-good factor with them. I describe being a 2%er as a ‘portable benefit’, as in Bob the Builder’s attitude – it tends to reside in the person rather than in the job.
Science has a habit of proving what we already intuitively know. For example:
- Happy people get sick less often (and when they do get ill, they recover faster)
- Happy people have more energy
- Happy people are more optimistic
- Happy people are more motivated
- Happy people work better with others
- Happy people are more creative
- Happy people learn faster
- Happy people make better decisions
Therefore ‘happiness’ is not just ‘a little bit important’, it’s an essential ingredient in your business success.
- Less ‘to-dos’ and more ‘to-das’. Beyond obvious, but I’ll say it anyway; catch people doing things well and tell them. Celebrate successes.
- Encourage staff to go way beyond SMART objectives. The well-trodden mantra is way past its sell-by date and, besides, achievable and realistic goals are eye-wateringly dull! I encourage HUGGs (huge unbelievably great goals), exciting things that are on the edges of achievability. Giant leaps. Goals that are worth getting out of bed for.
- Become a strengths spotter: uncovering people’s strengths and then finding ways for them to use their strengths every day. Simple? Are more organisations doing it? Nope.
- Positive communication ratio of 6:1. If I was a fly on the wall in your office and could hear 6 positives for every whinge, I’d be fairly sure that your team is rocking and rolling. If it dips below 2:1, the energy will be leaking. If your communication dips the other way (ie, there are more negs than positives) I’d be worried.
- Purpose is key. If people have a clear and compelling reason to come to work, they will arrive with a spring in their step. Find (or remind them of) their ‘why?’ A point worth noting, you cannot command happiness or purpose. It’s about creating insight, so they can realise it for themselves.
- Values are to be lived, not laminated. How many times have I seen values statements on posters [‘we will exceed expectations’] but, scratch the surface, and nobody’s living them. This starts with leadership. Your leaders are the most influential people in the organisation, and the most emotionally contagious. Positive leaders are not nice to have, they’re must have! Your leadership team have to be role modelling positive attitudes, language and behaviours.
- Four-minute rule. Emotions are contagious. If you can commit to being your best self for four minutes [bright, smiling, optimistic, enthusiastic…] other people will have almost no choice but to feel good in your presence. If you ask yourself ‘how would the best mum/dad go through the door?’ you’ll find the four minute rule also works at home.
- Start with yourself. Yes, there’s a sting in the tail! All the above only work if you decide to take charge of your own happiness and positivity. If you’re waiting for everyone else to be happy, you’ll die waiting. It has to start with you.
About the author
Dr Andy Cope is a positive psychologist, happiness expert, and author of LEADERSHIP – THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT available on Amazon £12.99.
Find out more at artofbrilliance.co.uk