Why Happiness at Work Matters More Than You Think
Switched On Leadership, Christele Canard
August 2015

What would you say are the top concerns facing leaders today?

Profitable growth? Organizational agility? Economic uncertainty? Disruptive technology? Talent acquisition? Or perhaps cybersecurity?

What about employee happiness?

Employee happiness doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of a leader’s top concerns, yet the level of happiness amongst employees at work matters more than you might think.

The Link between Happiness and Success
Research from the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience are making a clear connection between happiness and success.  It turns out that when our brain is in a positive state, it is actually primed for higher levels of success and performance.

To find out more I caught up with Michelle Gielan, Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and an expert in the science of positive communication. Michelle is the author of the recently released book,Broadcasting Happiness and works with Fortune 500 companies helping raise employee engagement, productivity and happiness at work.

According to Michelle, “positivity is the most underutilized and naturally occurring resource available to fuel success.” She backs this up with research studies that show significant improvements in the workplace including up to 31% higher productivity, 25% greater performance ratings, 37% higher sales, and 23% lower levels of stress.

As an example, Michelle cites a major insurance company in the US that was able to triple their revenue from $350 million to over $1 billion in two years. The head of the organisation is adamant that this success was due to the initiatives introduced by Michelle and her team.

So how did they do it? Michelle worked to change the prevailing narrative within the company to a more positive one. The established narrative, which was not too different from what we find in many organisations today, went something like this: if you are having fun or enjoying your work, you must not be working hard enough. And if you’re not working hard enough, how are you going to hit your sales number?

As leaders we have tremendous power to influence the performance of our team by simply being aware of the messages we broadcast and changing our communication to be more positive, optimistic and inspiring. And it’s easier than you think.

One of my favourite strategies Michelle recommends is called the Power Lead. As Michelle explains,“the way we begin all communication can influence the level of success that follows.” Therefore Michelle advises to start with a Power Lead…something positive.

Consider the way you start a conversation, a presentation, an email, a report and even a meeting.

Here’s an example Michelle shared with me. Every morning the manager of a tech support team would receive a report listing all the issues and problems that needed to be fixed. The first thing he would do each morning was go to his team and discuss all the challenges they needed to overcome. Michelle encouraged the manager to introduce a Power Lead. They devised a plan where he would start every meeting with one thing he was grateful for about life in general, one thing he was grateful for about the team and one thing he was grateful for about someone specific on the team.

This simple change not only improved team cohesiveness but also increased productivity. It took the team less time to get through the issues and problems that needed to be fixed.

Leading the Happiness Movement
Many forward thinking leaders and organisations recognize the benefits to be gained from encouraging happiness within the workplace.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness at Work, has long been an advocate of building a strong, positive work culture.

Vishen Lakhiani, Founder and CEO of Mindvalley, is another leader known for his focus on happiness in the workplace. Vishen successfully grew Mindvalley from a $700 start-up to over $20 million in revenue without any loans, VC assistance or grants, and attributes his success to building an exceptional workplace and culture.

In his speech, Why Happiness is the New Productivity, Vishen outlines several initiatives he introduced within his company that focus on encouraging positivity and happiness at work. For example there’s the Sweet Sugar Love Machine, a software program that allows employees to appreciate and praise their co-workers. Every week instead of a regular company meeting, the entire team gets together to celebrate success. For that meeting they prepare the Awesomeness Report: a collection of wins, successes and even cool stories of things people did whether inside or outside of work. Vishen claims that within one year of introducing the Awesomeness Report, revenue rose by 400%.

The evidence seems to suggest that happiness is not just a good idea, it’s an extremely powerful tool for business. So if you are looking for ways to improve your company’s results, consider increasing your team’s level of happiness. You might just be surprised with the results.

Let me know in the comments below, your thoughts on how to improve employee happiness at work.