“Like a Room Without a Roof!”

I hope you have had the opportunity to hear Pharrell Williams sing his Oscar-nominated song, Happy, from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. If you watch Mr. Williams’ music video, you will probably want to “bust-a-move” along with the Minions.  This song makes me happy – every time I hear it.  What an advantage when one can bring a smile to another!

“Because I’m happy – Clap along if you feel like a room without a roofClapping emoticon

Because I’m happy – Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy – Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy – Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”

My June 2012 article, “The Power of Positive”, speaks to the importance of positivity and optimism.  With so much negativity surrounding us, it is worthwhile to revisit this topic – with a happiness spin.  Let’s take this concept a bit further and examine the importance of such an emotion in the business world.  Should organizations encourage an environment of happiness?  Should leaders convey happiness?

My answer to these questions – a resounding YES!

Research conducted at the Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that happiness in the workplace results in increased productivity, development of a greater number of innovative products, and fewer sick days.  In addition, organizational happiness positively correlates with individual workplace success.

How do “happy” workplaces look and sound?  When you enter through the door of a company, do you hear a buzz or are you greeted with silence?  Is your first human contact with someone who speaks with a lilt or a grumble?  Do you receive eye contact or are you looking at the top of someone’s head?  How about laughter?  Hear it?

Yes, from the first person one sees the message of happiness (or not) communicated.  This initial encounter portends what will be seen throughout the business.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

–       Dalai Lama

I suggest three actions to encourage happiness both inside and outside of an organization.

1.  Smile.

How about conducting a “smile audit”?  Walk around the halls of your organization and count the number of smiles and the number of frowns.  (By the way, as you are doing this, gift each smiler and frowner with a smile of your own.  No better way to teach than by modeling the behavior.)

“A Smile costs nothing, but gives much.

It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give.

It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor, but that he can be made rich by it.

A Smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship.

It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone, until it is given away.

Some people are too tired to give you a smile;

Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”

–       Anonymous

The above poem, first published in The Joy of Words (Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1960), was displayed on the bulletin board in the kitchen of my childhood home.  Growing up, I had moments of moodiness.  At each of these moments, I was given the “punishment” of standing in front of the bulletin board and reading aloud “A Smile Costs Nothing”.  I can still “see” my parents sitting in the adjoining room listening (or at least acting as if they were listening).  I was allowed to stop this reading once I could leave the kitchen with a smile on my face.   At times this was an onerous task for I had to undergo multiple readings.

My mother was quite clever.  For this “punishment” has had a lasting effect on me.  I love to smile!  And I love for others to smile!

This brings me to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the United States women’s hockey team.  During Olympic years I become a fan of all sports.  I admire the athletes who train and work and sacrifice so they may participate on this world stage.  As I took a moment one afternoon to see what was happening in the Olympics, I witnessed the medal ceremony for women’s hockey.  (Canada received the gold medal; the US received silver; Switzerland received bronze.)

As I watched, I was dumbfounded to see the reaction of many of the American team players.  Downcast eyes, frowns, no thank yous, and no smiles.  Is this an appropriate demeanor for silver medal winners? This exhibition and lack of gratitude and grace reeked of poor sportsmanship.  Those that disagree with my reaction will say that this was a response to a hard-fought game.  I say to them,

“A smile costs nothing, but gives much.”

2.  Instill a sense of community.

I have worked in organizations where senior leaders would walk the halls, heads down, without seeing or greeting their colleagues.  When confronted about their perceived lack of interest in others, they would mumble that they had things on their mind and meant nothing negative.  What environment would have been created if each person they had run into was greeted with a smile?  Wouldn’t that have resulted in an increased sense of belonging?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 American Time Use Survey indicates that employees, ages 25 to 54 with children, spend an average of 8.8 hours on working and work-related activity each day.  That is over one-third of each day.  That is a lot of time to spend together.  Wouldn’t you want to spend it in an organization that instills community?  One where employees know each other, share each other’s triumphs and disasters, and establish a sense of camaraderie?

In First Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham wrote of twelve questions whose answers would be indicative of workplace engagement and the building of a great workplace.  I have worked with this set of 12 questions over the years and find that question 10 (Do I have a best friend at work?) is the most controversial.  The age-old defense, “this isn’t a social area; this is a workplace”, is continually voiced by the nay-sayers.  But the answer to question 10 directly speaks to a sense of community.

Is there someone in the organization with whom you can relate, confide, and share?  Do you look forward to seeing your “friends” at work each and every day?  That is a sense of community.  That suggests engagement.  A positive answer to the “best friend” question denotes “real” belonging.  It is through actions – not words – that community is instilled.

3.  Make sure everyone is engaged in meaningful work.

Happy organizations are places where employees are engaged in their work.  They believe they have purpose.  They are serving the greater good.  It is a “helping” environment.

Simon Sinek in his Ted talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action describes what he calls the “golden circle” – Why? How?  What?  “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

Case in point:  I buy TOMS shoes.  I could get a similar shoe for less money, but Blake Mycoskie’s mission speaks to me.

“One for one®. We’re in business to help change lives.”

I am also in the business to help change lives.  As I aid individuals in learning more about themselves, their colleagues, and how to better work together for positive results, I gain additional insight into my own thoughts, words, and deeds.  As others’ lives are changed, so is mine.

It is purpose that gets us through the day.  It is purpose that engages our mind.  Sharing your purpose with others brings meaning.

As Sinek states, “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe.”  This is engagement.  Connecting with purpose and passion; acting on our internal belief system; working in ways that are fulfilling and rewarding.  In essence, our sense of pride becomes part of something bigger than ourselves.

Happy HiRes

Chip Conley, in his book Emotional Equations, breaks it down into a simple statement of division:

“Happiness = Wanting What You Have divided by Having What You Want”

Conley writes “Happy people focus on the ‘good life’, not the ‘better life’.”  He suggests that we practice happiness as opposed to pursuing it.

So, let’s practice happiness through these three simple actions.

Part 1 – smiling.  Part 2 – community.  Part 3 – meaningful work.

The result: happy people and organizations.   The cost: 0 dollars.  The only currency needed is a willingness to stretch beyond oneself.

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness.  It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

–       Helen Keller

What would you add to this list?  Do you recommend other actions for us to practice happiness? 


Looking forward to your thoughts!

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