Angela Duckworth has been someone I have followed for a long time. She appears fairly regularly on a favorite podcast of mine, Freakonomics. Her book, Grit, takes a deep dive into what grit is, why it is important, how it is so powerful, and how to build it. While I intend on taking a deeper look into Grit here soon, I felt that all the talk about the challenges that leaders can face, how so many people are unhappy at work, about the importance of happiness in the workplace, and how being happy requires effort, it was important to look at how to build that mental toughness when it comes to your happiness.
We already know that leaders are faced with many challenges. Lee Cockrell mentioned in his interview that we covered in the last post about how leaders need to be prepared to handle disappointment and be able to push on. But one thing we know is that many people struggle to push on and that disappointment hits people really hard. What can we do to fight through?
Lee Cockrell has long been someone I have admired. He was the Senior Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World, leading 40,000 cast members, across 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 20 hotels, a massive shopping and entertainment district, and a massive sports complex. Those who know me know that my wife and I have been big fans of Disney for a long time but the actions of this gentleman is a major reason why.
One of the largest and most important feathers in his cap was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies, which has been used to train over 7,000 managers and leaders at Disney World. He clearly knows his stuff. Recently, he was on a podcast that I follow where they had a fantastic interview with him in advance of the release of his newest book, Career Magic.
Between the fantastic interview on the podcast and through reading his books, here are some of the most important takeaways:
I have found that a great time for me to get the best sense of who someone truly is at their core means that I need to see them when times are hard. Sports brings some great examples of this where we hear platitude like “winning cures all” which means a bad locker room is fixed when the team is winning. However, I would argue that those locker rooms aren’t fixed, there is just tension that is no longer present but the underlying problems still exist.
We see this with leaders all the time. We see leaders ride good market conditions or maximize previous people’s good decisions but that hardly tells you who they are or who they will be when things are not going well.
Historically, we can see how this is important for leading a movement or to driving change because change is hard. There will be times where adjusting course is tough and people will question if the juice is worth the squeeze. There will be times where those who are not fully behind the shift that is being made question the actions, motives, and abilities of those leading this change. Knowing how people react when things are not going well is imperative to understanding how they will act as managers when these things are happening. Continue reading
I recently was watching a fairly guilty pleasure of mine- Tomorrowland. While the movie was generally not well loved by critics and it didn’t meet Disney’s expectations (it supposedly lost north of $100 million), I enjoy it and have found a number of great takeaways from the film. I’ll likely end up covering more of these in this blog but the first one I want to share with you is the parable of the wolf.
There are two wolves that are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair.
One is light and hope.
Which one wins?
I was recently reading a great blog post by Lolly Daskal where she pointed out something amazing. Only 15% of people are happy at work. I found this stat remarkable and almost startling how many people are not happy. Work is something most of us do from the time we turn 16 until we retire at 65 (if we planned well). In those 50 years, we spend between 50-52 weeks a year at our jobs, working 40+ hours.
That is a long time to be doing something you do not like. Happiness, like many things in life, requires effort so we need to learn how to join that 15%. We have already talked about how to lead your team to happiness but that may have been putting the cart before the horse a bit. Being a leader that creates the proper environment for happiness to flourish while not being happy yourself is an incredibly challenging thing to do.
So what can you do to put some happiness into your life?
There are many interesting things about humans but one thing that leaders have and others do not is a vision. Vision involves seeing not what is there today but what could possibly be there in the future. This is something I have heard many times in my professional and academic careers but I did not fully understand it until I was fortunate enough to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As I have matured, I have found that most modern art just doesn’t really speak to me. A great example of one that does not speak to me is that was a white square painted on a white canvas (Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White from 1918). The painting pushes the limits of abstract art to the limits and while some talk about the movement created by the off-kilter square, I find that the painting is not all that interesting to me. My mother-in-law has a saying that fits in nicely here, “isn’t is good that we all have different tastes”.
In visiting the MoMA in New York, I did find a handful of paintings that actually did speak to me. One, in particular, is one that I find is a great example of vision and optimism, which I had not thought possible for ‘just a painting’.
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?