Starting in 2000, the Secret Society of Happy People expanded their annual Admit You’re Happy day to an entire month. With that in mind, this month, I will be focusing a bit more on happiness as it relates to leadership.
First, I feel like it is important to discuss why happiness matters. We live in a very results-oriented world and sometimes, we find the demands on those results tend to drive our decisions. However, sometimes, those decisions can come at the cost of the happiness of those that we lead. At the same time, we know happy employees/followers produce better results. How can you manage for happiness?
Many leaders think they know how to try to force happiness upon their teams. Buy them lunch every once in a while, have fun dress up days, heck, even have an occasional nerf gun battle (assuming HR doesn’t shoot that down)… all things to try to force happiness upon your team. So long as the work gets done, what is the harm in a few rounds of nerf darts whizzing by her head?
Nothing. But there should be an important distinction made- you cannot force happiness. To truly manage for happiness, you have to create an environment and a system that promote happiness.
So how do you create a system for happiness? This is the hardest question to answer and is one that doesn’t have the same answer for anybody. Your team is a different team than any other team and what will make them happy is different than what will make someone else happy. Nerf gun fights might work wonderfully well for some teams where other teams may find them childish, dangerous, or entirely distracting. Having regular bonuses may work well for your team or they might be demotivating if there are unmet expectations. What works for you might not work for someone else and vice-versa.
What should you do? Anything, everything… experiment until you find what works for your team. Know that what works today might not work as your team changes so be willing to continue to experiment.
Jurgen Appelo is one of the top 50 leadership experts in the world according to Inc.com. Here is his TedTalk where he goes into much better detail that I could in a blog post about what you must do to manage for happiness:
As you see from above, there are seven silver bullets. He introduces them in the following order:
- Build for Meaning
- Innovative Management
- Accelerate Learning
- Run Experiments
- Embrace Playfulness
- Nurture Happiness
- Manage The System
The way I see these silver bullets is as a pyramid. First, you must have a system that allows for happiness but doesn’t try to force it. This is like when he invited people over to dinner only to have those people be the ones doing the cooking. This allowed the group to organize themselves in a way that allowed for them to maximize their skills and their happiness.
Next, people only play when they are happy so you need to nurture that happiness. When you find something that makes your team happy, embrace it. When your team is happy, they will play around and run experiments. These experiments are where more happiness can be found but they are also where products can be discovered that your team is passionate about. These experiments help accelerate learning which allows for innovative management. Only once these have been done can your team have meaningful products and services that they are behind and happy to represent.
What can you do to create a system that manages for happiness? Do you work for somewhere that has meaningful products and services? Think happiness is overrated? Let me know in the comments below!