Why Employee Happiness May Not Really Be Your Goal

Happy and Unhappy faces. Does emplyee happiness equal engagement?

Are you focusing on the wrong thing with employee engagement? It seems that in many cases we are. Do a Google search    on employee engagement and see how many other words pop up with it. When I do one of the words that comes up most frequently is happiness. The suggestion is that employee happiness and employee engagement are one and the same.

In fact, overall too much time is spent on employee engagement thinking about employee happiness. On the surface there seems to be good reasons for it.

For example, studies have shown again and again that happy employees are more productive. According to a Warwick Study   , happy employees are typically 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees. Many other studies make similar claims that happiness is securely bound to productivity. 

happy employees at work. A Wharton Study    suggests that employee satisfaction results in two to three percent higher returns for shareholders. Another study suggests five times better stock performance over organizations with lower employee satisfaction. This was primarily based on a study of the 100 Best Places to Work compared to organizations that didn’t make the list.

Still    more research    indicates that organizations experience 30 percent higher customer referrals when employees are happy.   

And of course, there is the matter of employee retention. Tons of articles all touting significant increases in retention when job satisfaction is high.

Here is Where It All Goes Wrong

The issue I have with all of these studies (and many others) is that they try to create correlations that aren’t there. Mostly they try to use other words or concepts to mean the same as engagement.

The Warwick study is the exception. There is absolutely no doubt that happy employees are more productive than unhappy employees. Beyond just that one study, the evidence is overwhelming and indisputable. Higher productivity is affected by employee happiness. What you can do about it is another matter, but we’ll get to that in a minute or two.

Employee satisfaction is not the same as happiness. A person can be satisfied with their work conditions and job responsibilities and yet not be happy. Tying happiness to employee satisfaction greatly limits the scope of happiness.

Many other studies, such as the one reporting 30 percent higher customer referrals, mix engagement and happiness. As evidence of that, what the researchers did was administer an employee engagement survey to their subjects. I have written before about what a waste of timemost employee engagement surveys are. Aside from that, when the researchers wrote their conclusions they didn’t talk about engagement. They talked about happiness. Again, making the assumption that engagement and happiness are the same. They’re not. Not even close.

The result of all this is a muddying of the waters. Instead of focusing on things that really make a difference with our team or organization, we focus on making people happy. We fail dismally as a leader when we try to make everyone happy. It just can’t be done. So stop trying.

Six Secrets About Happiness

Happiness is not engagement

It actually is possible for an employee to be engaged at work and not really be happy. There is no research I could find that legitimately ties happiness to engagement. 

Let’s understand exactly what employee engagement is to understand why happiness is not the same thing. Engagement is when an employee at work is functioning with the best interests of the organization in mind. Their attitudes and actions reflect the values and goals of their team or organization. 

Woman working happily in garden. Happiness is affected outside the workplace as well as in.Just the specific scope of being happy at work concerns much more than just whether or not a person is engaged. Do they affect each other? Without a doubt. Happy employees are more likely to be engaged. Being engaged makes it easier to be happy. Yet happiness expands beyond the scope of just engagement. Or the workplace for that matter.

Happiness is Not Job Satisfaction

Again, a person can have job satisfaction and not be happy. Job Satisfaction has to do with whether you like what you do. It is affected by the particular tasks and responsibilities you have. Whether or not you are being challenged and utilizing your best skills. Co-workers, environment, managers all factor in there. You can be satisfied with your job and not necessarily be happy.

You Can’t Control Happiness

Even if all of the above was not true it wouldn’t matter. Employee engagement and happiness and job satisfaction are all one and the same. Employee engagement surveys are excellent indicators of employee happiness. So what?

What you can’t get away from is that no matter how much you know about the level of happiness in our employees you simply cannot control it. YOU CANNOT MAKE SOMEONE ELSE HAPPY, despite what all the love poems and sonnets tell you. And that’s not just in the workplace, that’s everywhere. You can no more make someone happy than you can change the past or predict the future. 

And the fact that happiness is beyond the workplace is another reason we can’t control it. Whether or not someone is happy is not just determined by work but also by their lives outside of work. Relationships, involvement, circumstances. All things that affect happiness that carries over into the workplace.

Ultimately, we cannot control the happiness of others. And here’s why.

It’s a Personal Decision

Happiness is not determined by outside factors. Happiness is a choice each individual makes.

I have known people who seemed to have everything and yet never quite seemed to be happy. By contrast, I know others who have very little and are always happy it seems. What makes them happy or not is that simply they choose to be happy. It’s cliche but that doesn’t make it any less true.

The Apostle Paul said it best when he said,

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself….I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”

What Paul is saying is that he made a conscious choice to be happy no matter what was happening to him or around him. 

Your happiness is entirely up to you. And so is theirs.

It is Not Measureable

Even IF we could control happiness, exactly how would we determine the level of happiness each person feels. Other than asking them I know of no other measurement. Apparently, no one else does either as evidenced by all the research we cited before where happiness is measured by engagement or job satisfaction or productivity. If that is all wrong (and it is) then we have no real measurement of happiness and nor do we want to.

Culture Rules

While we can’t control happiness we can create an environment more conducive to happiness. It’s not so much making them happy as it is removing reasons to be unhappy. It has to do with the culture we create in the workplace.

When you place a high priority on caring and showing employees you care. When a high value is placed on people and that is reflected in the way they are treated. When core values are clear to everyone and reinforced in your own behavior and in the behavior you expect from others.

If you put people in circumstances where their best skills are being used and challenging them to grow. When we value their input and their output. Make it so each person feels like a valuable part of the team, the organization, and it’s goals. 

Control what you can control. Create circumstances where employees are able to have higher job satisfaction and become more engaged. Give them reasons to choose to be happy.

Are you ready to be the boss everyone wants to work for? Do you want to re-engage your employees? Reduce conflict? Contact me TODAY for a free Discovery Strategy Session    and let me show you how to get started right away!
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nurturing employees Involves more than a paycheck

Is your organization living from paycheck to paycheck? I’m not asking how your financial ledgers are; I’m asking how your employee ledgers are. When the primary relationship with our employees is transactional we are shorting the ledger. Demand 40 (or often more) hours of work a week in exchange for a piece of paper with numbers on it or a direct deposit to the bank account. If we are not nurturing employees we are living paycheck to paycheck as surely as most of our employees are.

The Animal Nature of Nurture

trainer and killer whale. the relationship is similar to how we can be nurturing employeesOne of the benefits of living in Central Florida is all the attractions around here.  One of the attractions, of course, is Sea World.

Sherry and I love to watch the animal trainers work with the animals at Sea World. It’s really interesting how they can do so well with it.  There seems to be a very special relationship with the animal and many an animal trainer will tell you exactly that.

I discovered how they are able to work with them so effectively. I had the benefit of attending a special session with the some of the animal trainers at Sea World, including one of the whale trainers. They shared how they are able to create a level of predictability in performance when animal behavior can be so unpredictable.
When an animal trainer is going to work extensively with an animal, it is critical during a developmental time that the trainer spend one-on-one time with the animal.
  • They will feed the animal
  • They make physical contact
  • They talk to the animal and encourage it.

This nurturing, one-on-one time allows the animal and the trainer to build reciprocal trust.  The reciprocal trust and the nurturing that allow the trainer and animal to be able to work together effectively and safely.

Nurturing Employees as a Leader

If you want an engaged and productive workforce, you must include nurturing employees as a part of the relationship. It transforms the relationship from merely transactional to one of collaborative. It provides meaning and purpose to their job and not just a check. Without taking an employee beyond that transactional level, you will NEVER help them reach their fuller potential, when means they will never be as productive as they could be for you.

The Human Nature of Nurture

As humans we like to think we are different from the animals. We are more advanced, more sophisticated, more intellectual. And in many ways we are. However, in matters of emotions and needs, there are ways where we aren’t any different from the animals.  We need nurturing ourselves. Our desire for relationship supersedes all else and creates desires for more.
  • Our need to trust others and be trusted.
  • We are desperate for people to recognize that we are significant
  • For others to recognize that we have an impact.
  • We crave for them to encourage us
  • Our deep need for them to guide us.

As I have often said before, it’s all personal and it’s all emotional. If you keep it transactional your organization is living paycheck to paycheck. You can survive that way but it’s hard to really thrive.

Giving Nurture

The flip side is that we all have the ability to nurture other people, it doesn’t come out naturally.  It has to be intentional and it has to be developed over time.

Why would I want to bother to do that in a business environment or as a leader?

When you are able to nurture people, you are able to connect with people.  When you can connect with people, you can build influence with them.  When you can build your influence, then you can help them get the most out of themselves.  That’s what great leaders do. It’s the very nature of leadership: to get the most out of others.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  -John Maxwell

Here’s some things you can do to build those nurturing relationships:

  1. COMMIT TO PEOPLE – you have to be committed to their development.  It doesn’t mean you are an enabler, it doesn’t mean that you take over their lives; it simply means that you provide the circumstances and that you are committed to helping them help themselves if they are willing to take the steps to go in the right direction.
  2. BELIEVE IN PEOPLE – If you don’t believe that they can become better or that they can achieve greater things, then you are not going to be able to get anything out of them because that belief will show through.  Whether you believe they are worthless or believe they are worthwhile, it will show through in everything you do.
  3. GIVE WITH NO CONDITIONS – Pour yourself into them and do it without setting any conditions.  A lot of people thing that giving is a reciprocal thing; I do something for you and you do something for me.  No conditions here.  Go in and pour yourself into them simply because you want to see them get the best out of themselves.  You will benefit in the long-run but you can’t go into it with the expectation of a tradeoff because there isn’t necessarily going to be one.

Build your relationship power! Develop the leader in you and see the profit in moving beyond the transactional relationship. Let’s work together to move you beyond paycheck to paycheck. Contact me today for a free Discovery Strategy Session.

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Compelling Reasons a Leadership Coach Can Help

A leadership coach can help you get from here to thereEveryone needs a sounding board. In all my years in business, I have as yet to meet a single person who was so supremely confident in every decision they made that they needed no feedback. That’s where a leadership coach can help.

A Valid Sounding Board

The problem with most of the sounding boards that leaders tend to gravitate towards is that they have skin in the game. They have some sort of vested interest in the outcome. Talk to a colleague, chat with an assistant, share with your spouse. They are involved somehow. They can’t disconnect themselves completely from the situation enough to give feedback that isn’t somehow skewed. It’s not necessarily intentional, it’s our nature when our own emotions or well-being is involved.

By contrast, the Leadership Coach can provide that perspective. They can listen objectively. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Best of all, they help you discover the answers hidden from you.

“Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.”Jack Welch

A Leadership Coach is Not a Consultant

In fact, an important distinction is that a leadership coach is NOT a consultant per se. A consultant gives you answers. They are typically expert in your industry. And they are good for that. If it is a question of process, a consultant is a good option.

It’s Rarely a Matter of Process

The thing is that the issue is rarely one of process. It is usually one of leadership and people. No one can give you the answers to that because the correct approach is one that is inherently you. A leadership coach can help you find that answer that is only inside of you. And it will be the best solution because it is yours and not someone else’s.

A Leadership Coach is an Expert

So an excellent leadership coach does not need to be an expert in your field. That’s not where you want the answers. They do need to be an expert on leadership. And communication. and relationships.

More Reasons for a Leadership Coach

The right coach provides benefits that are almost unfathomable for the leader. Here’s some of the other benefits provided by a leadership coach.

Experience is NOT the best teacher

You have most likely heard that phrase from someone at least once in your life. Maybe you have even used it. But it’s a lie. We all have experiences every moment of every single day of our life. If experience was really the best teacher shouldn’t we be pretty close to perfect by now?

Therefore it’s not the experience, it’s the lesson. If we spend time REFLECTING on our experience there is a lesson to be derived. We can take the pain of the experience and turn it into something that adds value to us. A leadership coach plays a vital role in helping you find those lesson gems inside of each experience. That’s hard to do on your own.

Your WHY can get lost in the woods

There is the old saying that when you are up to your ears in alligators it’s hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp (there is absolutely no political commentary there). When we are dealing with the crisis of the moment we can get lost. We forget WHY we are doing what we do to begin with. Your coach will help you keep your eye on the prize, bringing you back to center when you need it.

Focus or flurry

Action alone isn’t necessarily useful. As John Maxwell says, many people major in the minors. We spend a lot of time being active and busy. Is the right actions? The right kind of busy? We can busy ourselves with a flurry of actions that get us no closer to our goals. A leadership coach will help you focus your efforts so that they are more productive and more in line with your personal or organizational goals.

Overcome Resistance

a leadership coach helps you break through resistanceAll of us are naturally resistant to doing anything that puts us out on the line. So if you find yourself having those feelings know that you are in good company. Left on our own, we will often give in to that resistance. Even the high achievers you see give in to resistance a lot more than they would likely want to admit.

Yet study after study has shown that we are less likely to give in to resistance when someone else is holding us accountable. A coach who knows the actions we have determined and the deadlines to meet keeps us in check. Can’t just anyone do that? Only if they are there specifically for that purpose. A leadership coach will know how to help you move past the resistance and go forward.

Clarity

Sometimes our actions are like driving through the fog. We are getting work done but not really sure where it’s taking us. We see a little ahead but can’t really see the road fully. This is where a coach who is not an expert in your field can really be a benefit. A coach who doesn’t make assumptions based on industry knowledge will ask questions others won’t. You explain it and just that process can lead to thoughts that break down mindsets that block us. We get clarity when we see beyond where we are.

Save time

A coach can help you get there faster than you would likely do on your own. Because of the all the other things a leadership coach can do for you, you spend less time spinning your wheels. You benefit from more productive time. You become more effective.

Get from here to there

If your intent is to move forward, a leadership coach can be the bridge that helps you get from here to there. Where is there? It’s wherever you want to be. A coach will help you define in specific terms what your THERE is and develop a specific plan to achieve it. No one does it alone.

A coach is dedicated specifically to your success. They won’t drag you there or stand behind you pushing. However they will walk alongside you as a friend and a guide.

Find out how a coach may help you. Schedule your FREE Discovery Strategy Session with me today!

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Boundaries Make the Team and Make the Player

Leaders help make people more productive by setting boundaries for work. Call them expectations, guidance, or whatever other word you choose to use there; except limits – don’t ever use limits. It seems like semantics but it’s not. Limits are perceived as repressive while boundaries or expectations are seen as guiding. Words matter.

Boundaries with the Lone Wolf

A lone wolf on the prairie. Working with a Lone Wolf requires boundaries.Boundaries are especially useful when dealing with the lone wolf team member. Every leader will encounter a lone wolf at one time or another in your journey. You probably recognize the type. They are part of your team yet seem to do their best work when left alone. The lone wolf may likely get along with the other team members but doesn’t seem to do well at either delegating or sharing workload. They are not hostile to others but just prefer to do their part and get it done. The benefit of this is that they are usually hard workers and simply get the job done. As a leader it is inevitable you will encounter at least one lone wolf on your team.

My Lone Wolf Story

One that sticks out for me was someone I worked with on a volunteer team; in fact specifically it was Cub Scouts. Volunteer teams are always a challenge anyway. It’s like herding cats. You want to really test the mettle of a potential leader observe them with a group of volunteers.

Derby Crisis

A collection of Pinewood Derby cars ready to race.We had our annual Pinewood Derby coming up less than a month away. This is where the boys between the ages of 6 and 11 make their own little race car out of a small block of pinewood and hold races on a track made for that purpose. It’s a big deal for them and a lot of fun.

The derby chair got overwhelmed and quit. Cancelling the derby was out of the question. So we quickly put together a committee and I was asked to take the lead. We compiled our timeline and our list of things that had to be done. One of the members of this team was my lone wolf. I remembered from previous experiences that when this person was teamed with others to do something she typically did it herself in her own way. It got done quickly and effectively but it was primarily her doing it. For this project she agreed to take on securing the trophies and awards for the derby winners.

Using Boundaries for Results

I COULD have insisted that she work with a teammate to get the work done. After all, we have to think about backup. We have to worry about training someone to do it next year. There are many arguments about why I SHOULD have insisted she work with a team. The one argument against was that she would end up doing it herself anyway and frustrating any team members who wanted to do something. Truthfully, most of them were content to let her do the work – remember, volunteers.

What I did was simply set boundaries for her. I told Jenny (not her real name) what the expectations were as to the type and levels of awards we wanted. She was given a budget. Jenny was given a deadline. And then I set her loose.

You can probably already guess at the outcome. Jenny was done well before the deadline. She was on budget. The trophies and awards were perfect. And overall the derby was a success. Everyone had a great time!

Boundaries Make Sense

It seems counter-intuitive as a leader on the surface. Our job is to get people to work together towards a goal, right? Yet if you look at it, she WAS part of a team and she DID work towards a common goal. I felt that she could best do that in this circumstance by being given guidelines and allowed to do it her way.

Boundaries Make Freedom

The boundaries didn’t tie her down; just the opposite. The boundaries allowed her the freedom to work the way that she worked best. And yet at the same time, the boundaries ensured that the results were consistent with what we needed even if it wasn’t exactly the way I would have done it. If you are working with a lone wolf, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to make them be something they are not. It is often best to leverage the way they work and how they work to meet the immediate need.

Boundaries work with not just the lone wolf but with everyone on the team. Author and coach Dr. Henry Cloud once wrote that

Every human being must have boundaries in order to have successful relationships or a successful performance in life.

So we set boundaries for teams, for individuals, and as leaders we especially set them for ourselves. It works for the lone wolf, it works for us too.

Unsure about where the boundaries are or how to set them? I can help. Contact me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com to schedule a FREE Discovery Strategy Session.

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Your Best As a Leader Depends on Your Questions

We love answers! We want to know! Why has the term “Google It” become so popular? Because it is a quick and easy way to find answers. Type in a phrase or keyword and in a flash Google gives you results. Lots of results!

Outside of Google, how do we find the answers we seek?

We ask questions.

Questions Get to the Basics

When I took a class in journalism at the University of Central Florida (GO KNIGHTS!) they emphasized that a journalist always seeks to find answers to the certain details about a story. The answers are covered with the acronym WWWWWH. That’s Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

  • WHO is involved in the story?
  • WHAT happened?
  • WHEN did it happen?
  • WHERE did it happen?
  • WHY did it happen?
  • HOW did it happen?

If you answer those questions you have told the reader most of what they want to know. Everything else is details.

Applying Questions in Life

Questions Drive Creative SolutionsI’ve kept that idea and tried to apply it to my life. In general I try to use questions as much as possible to learn, to discover, and to get clarity.

Sometimes I ask those questions of others. Most of the time I ask them of myself.

As a leader, we need to question ourselves often. Not the questions of doubt and deceit. Those are the questions that are meant to tear down; to break down our confidence, destroy our purpose, and rationalize choosing the easier path.

The questions we need to ask are ones that build, that focus, that reinforce our confidence, reaffirm our purpose, and show us a path no matter the difficulty. According to John Maxwell, author of Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, asking questions provides several benefits:

  1. You Only Get Answers to Questions You Ask

    Seems obvious, right? But amazing how often we don’t ask questions about what we want or need to know.

  2. Questions Unlock and Open Doors that Otherwise Remain Closed

    Peter Drucker once said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

  3. Questions Are the Most Effective Means of Connecting With People

    Have you ever stopped to ask directions from a stranger, say when your GPS is lying to you? How many told you to go away without giving you directions? Not many I would bet. A simple question generates interest.

  4. Questions Cultivate Humility

    When I was fresh out of college with my degree, I felt I had to have all the answers so I never asked questions. The more I learned, the more I learned what I don’t know. Questions help me discover that even more but helps me learn faster.

  5. Questions Help You Engage Others in Conversations

    Look at talk show hosts. Their entire existence revolves around asking questions of celebrities to start a conversation.

  6. Questions Allow Us to Build Better Ideas

    What we discover from others leads to great things. When I work with clients I use this to help them improve their workplace.

  7. Questions Give Us Different Perspective

    When we want to do things differently we have to see things differently and overcome our assumptions.

  8. Questions Challenge Mind-Sets and Get You Out of Ruts

    We settle into the familiar. Asking questions like “why” and “why not” can disrupt our status quo.

Start with Questioning Yourself

I recently read a blog about the 11 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Day. It was impactful and insightful. Unfortunately, it is on a subscription service and I am not able to share it here. If you want to find it yourself, the subscription program is called Maximum Impact Mentoring.

That was 11 questions and that may seem a bit much. Most of us complain we don’t even have time for breakfast, much less time time to go through a bunch of questions every day. Eventually you want to get there but in the meantime…

Let’s Go Simple

The statesman and philosopher Benjamin Franklin has been said to guide his life by asking himself two questions. In the morning he would ask himself, “what good will I do today?” and then in the evening before going to bed he would ask “what good did I do today?

Simple and if you think that’s enough for you, that’s great, go for it. If you want it more customized to your role as a leader, however, let’s try something else. For best results, I recommend keeping a journal. Use Evernote (my favorite), a diary app, or just a spiral notebook or composition book. Every day, set aside 5-10 minutes and ask these questions. Modify them based on whether you do this in the morning or evening.

  • What did I learn yesterday (today)?
  • How did I add value yesterday (today)?
  • Who do I need to recognize today (tomorrow)?
  • How will I focus on my strengths today (tomorrow)?
  • Who will I show appreciation to today (tomorrow)? 

Do you ask a lot of questions? How did not asking questions cost you? How can you make sure you lead with questions?

Share your comments here or email me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.

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