Happiness at Work – Who’s Responsible?

It’s human nature to want to be part of something important and to feel relevant and uniquely needed. After years in our careers those desires get sanded down a bit and replaced by confidence, armour and some healthy reality.

In an economy like this, where we have an employers market, there’s less focus on retaining employees, career development, team building, and succession planning… though we’ve seen reports that employee happiness contributes ROI. Well, except for the Digital space.

I ran across this shining example of a new company who is committed to its mission and has created an environment that cannot help but attract committed, high-achieving, positive people.

HealthTap.com, Palo Alto, CA

Sure, they have job descriptions to describe the skills they are looking for, but they also have illustrated clearly WHO they are looking for:

You’re passionate about what you do: Being passionate about everything we do – from coding to creative design to building our physician community – ensures we’re always at our best.

You have a change-the-world-attitude: Everyone likes to talk about changing the world, but we’ve got the special kind of excitement, capability, and dedication to make it happen.

You want to build a great company with us: It’s a lot more exciting to be the one who shapes and builds a truly great company where people love to work than to just hear people talk about how they did it later.

You are adventurous: It’s about the journey, and not just the destination. It’s important to take risks with a fearless spirit, and to embrace successes and failures in the spirit of learning.

And let’s not forget the silly pictures of everyone in casual attire with dogs and babies in the office. In the Bay Area where the market is reversed, where it’s a employees market, and talent jumps from place to place, it’s a completely different paradigm. This company is about the people, about helping people and about passion. But if they have constant role changes, managers who don’t gain consensus, or excessive stress this passion isn’t a guarantee for a happy staff.

It doesn’t come down to money. Research shows that sales, productivity, and accuracy increase when the team is happy. Where is the real stumbling block?

  • Companies still think it costs too much money to make employees happy?
  • They don’t feel responsible for employees happiness?
  • It’s too much effort to implement or measure?
  • They don’t know HOW to make employees happy?
  • Companies think employees should find ways to be happy

I believe it’s the last two. What creates happy employees is not free food or holiday bonuses. Employee engagement is not tangible and takes really understanding the culture you have created and how that culture changes from year to year. The company can only create the environment, the flavor is added by the staff.

Ultimately, in life and in work, we are all responsible for making the most of our lives and work, for our happiness, continued training and succession planning. When you rely on yourself, you make it happen. Discover what you need at work to make you happy. You be the difference.

President’s Day 2012: Who’s Your Fav?

Someone asked me who my favorite President is. It didn’t take me long to answer. I love JFK because of all he did for Civil Rights. JFK believed in his core that the freedom our forefathers imagined should include equality for all citizens, even ones that our forefathers didn’t give rights to. JFK knew that this was his challenge to face and that it was critical that he succeed. He made great gains in registering African American voters, appointing African American’s to leadership positions, desegregating the schools and public places and eliminating discrimination in housing. He did this regardless of the anger, strong-arming and danger that accompanied this mission.

During Kennedy’s Inaugural address on January 20, 1961, he said, “All this will not be finished in the first hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the lifetime of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

He wasn’t about the first 100 days and picking low hanging fruit to prove delivery on campaign promises. He wasn’t about posturing.

I started thinking about the similarities between what JFK and Obama faced in their terms. Why was JFK so successful and Obama, not so much? Is it the whole bi-partisan problem?

– JFK helped us stay out of nuclear war with Soviets
– Advanced anti-discrimination laws
– Helped recover from stock market crash of 1962 & drastic unemployment rates

So what’s your opinion on who did it better and why?

Read a poem I wrote about JFK from college!

Remembering Howard Goldberg, Qantas

When I think of Howard I think of him more as a friend or family. But he was also my previous boss at Qantas Airways and my mentor. While I was trying to connect with my feelings over his recent passing I started sifting through old files. I ran across a document I wrote nominating Howard for an eXcel Award- a Qantas internal recognition award. I don’t think Howard ever knew I submitted this for him. Politically, I knew it was a long shot so I just didn’t mention it.

Here is that letter circa 2005:

I have had the opportunity to work with many powerful and entrepreneurial managers before and thrive well working with visionaries. But above all other Presidents, Vice Presidents, and CEOs I have followed, Howard Goldberg manages with the most important leadership characteristics.

Customer and Company Loyal: Howard runs the sales and marketing department with the mission of improving our relationships with our partners and customers. He finds ways to reduce strain and barriers that would otherwise hinder our partners’ success. Every contract and project created or overseen by him assures that the company’s best interest is first and foremost. Howard leads by example and it is very easy to see his loyalty to Qantas and his genuine love of his staff, the product and the potential for growth in N. America.

Challenges the staff: Howard doesn’t have to create superficial expectations and milestones for his staff. In his own way of showing his motivation and eagerness to succeed, Howard challenges his employees to achieve increased results and improve our region’s earning potential. He leads through encouragement when he focuses more on what we are doing right than on what we are doing wrong. Consequently, we are all motivated to keep improving and optimize our methods for the good of the company. Personally, Howard takes the time to meet with me and discuss my strengths and foster my career.

Chief Fireman: In the course of every project, problems arise. Howard has a unique ability to not only listen but to also advise the best ways to solve problems. No matter how busy he can get, he always makes time for face-to-face meetings to help us straighten out our business issues. It takes a lot of energy to juggle all the projects and personalities in Sales and Marketing but Howard has proven incredibly adept at being a chief fireman and leading us to find ways to prevent future outbreaks.

Respects Me: Howard lets me do my job the way I know it needs to be done. If I find myself in conflict with a colleague, vendor or policy, I can always ask Howard for advice. No one likes to be micro-managed. By allowing me the latitude to do my job and set my own course, he is actually gaining productivity from me. I feel more invested in my position and work to achieve my personal best with goals that are set very high. The best bosses manage by being very clear about what’s important and what are critical success components of a job or project.

Howard encourages us to stretch and take risks. Taking risks is essential to the field of online marketing. There is nothing ‘tried and true’ for this new and evolving form of marketing. It is only by trying new strategies and media partners that we can test and measure for future success. Great leaders encourage employees to make mistakes (small ones). Even more important, they treat those mistakes as learning opportunities.

Howard recognizes our strengths and thinks of his employees as individuals. He is very supportive and effective at nudging me toward the goals I have set for myself. He praises my work when I am heading in the right direction and is available with helpful advice when I go off the path. He celebrates my success, which makes me more motivated to exceed previous performance.

Has a sense of humor: One of Howard’s most endearing qualities is that, a long time ago, he learned that having a sense of humor is an important survival skill. It is with this optimistic and funny outlook that he guides us through budget cuts and swings in bureaucracy and helps his team weather many situations.

Shares information: In a company that receives directives from head office, it would be easy to feel lost or disconnected from the company’s mission. Howard makes it a priority to continuously communicate pertinent information and elicit our responses and feedback.

Howard comes to work everyday with a refreshing outlook and genuine goal to help Qantas grow revenue and create lasting relationships. He always tries to make customers happy and present Qantas in the most favorable light. It is with great enthusiasm and pride that he leads his team.

Howard has the unwavering respect and admiration of his staff because he has earned it. It does not take 5 years working with him to see that he is a man of his word. Truly most of us hold Howard in such high regard that we follow his decisions and advice and are eager to make his team a success. He is a model boss and a major contributor to the success of Qantas North America. He is an amazing, caring boss who I personally and professionally respect and recommend for an eXcel award.

Building On Your Strengths

My eyes have been opened. (Dramatic, huh?) I have always believed that I was an introspective person, old enough to know who I am and young enough to know who I want to be. The difference between last week (above) and this week is that I can put my finger exactly on my top 5 strengths.

If you haven’t taken the Strengths Finder 2.0 online test, stop reading this, go to Amazon, purchase the book (which has a unique code allowing you to take the online test). My Marketing department did this as an exercise and over 90% of the team agreed the results were shockingly accurate. What an experiment too! We had many core strengths in common- achievers, analytics, ideation, futuristic- but we also had some interesting outliers like woo, fairness and consistent.

The premise of strength-based research is that success can only be achieved by improving and operating from our strengths. To that end, we cannot become accomplished by trying to improve our weaknesses. It’s a common behavior to say, I’m horrible at xxx, so I’m going to take classes to fix it. The book argues that you can only become competent this way, but not excel. Managers who only focus on weaknesses, like parents, are only creating more problems. By focusing on our strengths we become happier, more engaged and our creativity shines.

See what you think. Open your eyes.

Book description from Amazon:Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, in 2001 which ignited a global conversation and helped millions to discover their top five talents.

In its latest national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular assessment, language of 34 themes, and much more (see below for details). While you can read this book in one sitting, you’ll use it as a reference for decades.