Why Leaders Must Broadcast Happiness
Fox Business, Dr. Michael Woody
September 2015

As our work and personal lives continue to blend together so too has our understanding of happiness. Creating a happier life isn’t just about reading self-help books and reconciling with family. The fact is we spend most of our waking hours working, which means we spend most of our day interacting with colleagues and coworkers.  In order to build a happy and successful life we must ensure these interactions are positive.

To better understand the art and science of creating happiness I spoke with former CBS anchor turned happiness researcher Michelle Gielan about her newly released best-selling book Broadcasting Happiness. Gielan blends her own experiences as a journalist struggling to combat the negativity of broadcast news with the rapidly growing body of academic research that supports the incredible power of happiness, particularly at work.

If the idea of broadcasting happiness isn’t appealing enough consider some of the research Gielan shares in her book:

Just three minutes of negative news in the morning can increase your chances of a negative experience over the course of the next six to eight hours of your day.

  • Rationally optimistic salespeople from Metlife outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 37%.
  • People primed with positive labels and traits outperform those primed with negative labels and traits on tests of general knowledge.

In other words, mindset matters! And mindset is a choice. As Gielan points out being positive isn’t always easy, but going into any activity with a negative mindset is sure to handicap your potential for success. Thus, it’s imperative that managers focus on broadcasting their own positive mindset so as to begin creating a positive team culture of happiness.

Building a Happier More Productive Team

Managing a team is tough enough as it is, so keeping your crew happy can sound daunting. However, happiness isn’t a tough sell when you understand the basics. Gielan offered a few simple techniques for helping any manager make a difference every single day:

Write Your Script: Your mindset is critical to your success. The way in which we scan our environment is based on our mindset. If we are in a negative mood we are more likely to look for and notice problems. If we are in a positive mood we are more likely to scan for the good around us. Research from Harvard professor Dr. Ellen Langer has demonstrated that mindset can even reverse the effects of aging! In one study the stories her subjects told themselves determined how old or young observers rated them to appear. To have success you need to go into your day with a positive mindset. Before you begin sketch out a positive social script for how you want the day to go and stick to it. If you want it to be a good day you need to start out believing it’s going to be a good day.   

Launch with a Power Lead: Gielan recommends opening your meetings with what she refers to as a power lead. She describes a power lead as “a positive, optimistic, and inspiring beginning to a conversation or other communication that sets the tone for the ensuing social script.” When it comes to your team it’s about noticing and highlighting something positive and meaningful to the team. A power lead could be as simple as recounting a positive experience you had on your way into work to opening your meeting with praise for a genuinely positive act by a specific team member that helped the team. The idea is to take ownership of your day by writing a positive social script designed to determine your trajectory.  Bad news is inevitable and sharing it can be important. The idea here is that regardless of the news be sure you closeout by instilling confidence. You want your team walking away from the meeting inspired about what they can do and not demoralized by what they cannot control.

Circle the Wagons: Research has shown having a strong positive social support network is not only one of the greatest paths to happiness but also one of the best buffers of stress. We are social creatures by nature and thus require the support of others in order to thrive. Gielan recommends we all have a strong network of go-to people to rely on when things are tough. Remember, it’s important these folks have the capacity and desire to lift you up no matter what the circumstances. Be cautious of those Debbie Downers who enable those negative spirals that can be easy to fall into.

Remember, it’s up to all of us to find our happiness, but also our responsibility to broadcast it to those around us.

If you want to see where you stand on the happiness meter check out this free assessment: The Success Scale.