Servant Leadership is a wonderful concept that has inspired our work since I first read Robert Greenleaf’s book of the same title years ago.
I just learned that the Servant Leadership Institute have their annual conference in San Diego on March 13+14 and the program looks absolutely fascinating. It includes Ken Blanchard and many other great speakers.
I can’t go myself – I’m speaking at the Dutch Happiness Week in Eindhoven – but I highly recommend the event and looking into servant leadership in general.
Danish hospital wear - stylish AND flattering :)
Yesterday I went in for a very minor planned operation at Bispebjerg Hospital close to where we Iive here in Copenhagen.
So here are 3 reflections on my first major meeting with the Danish healthcare system since I was a kid.
1: The people were awesome
Every single person I met was friendly, cheerful and competent. I felt seen and genuinely cared for the whole time. So many people welcomed me to the hospital. Many said “We’re going to take good care of you,” which I felt was a wonderful touch.
All staff also went out of their way to keep me informed at all times and took time to answer all my questions. Everything they did was explained clearly and with great empathy.
They all seemed very happy at work and were really nice and friendly around each other as well. This is important, because some research indicates that happy hospitals have better patient outcomes.
2: The whole process was highly efficient
The surgery went just perfectly and I was in and out in a few hours, just as scheduled.
It was clear that the different teams and wards had spent a lot of time optimizing the processes and figuring out the best ways to share information between them and how to optimally use the available resources.
These people clearly care about doing their jobs well and efficiently.
3: This is for everyone
I’m wealthy. If I didn’t trust the public hospitals in Denmark, I could easily afford treatment at a private hospital somewhere.
So my main reflection is that this level of care is available for free to every single Dane, regardless of income or social status. This is one of the things that make me proud of my country.
My only worry is that I’ll have to take it easy on the training for a while – just when the CrossFit Open is coming up. Dammit :)
Last month I gave a keynote at Danish pharmaceutical company Xellia. While waiting in their lobby, I noticed the sign above, carrying probably the simplest and most inspiring company purpose I’ve ever seen.
As you may know, one of the biggest current medical crises is the increasing risk of infection by multi-resistant bacteria, who are immune to traditional antibiotics.
Xellia produces an antibiotic that is still effective against multi-resistant bacteria. Their research and products directly saves lives all over the world and we are proud to have them as a client.
After the keynote, they sent us this feedback:
“Your speech clearly showed why happiness at work is so important and helped us focus on it and maintain it in our workplace. You gave our entire team a huge and much-needed boost – thank you!”
– Morten Rank, People Manager, Chemical Laboratory, Xellia Pharmaceuticals
It seems weird, but some people are against happiness at work.
Very serious pundits and cynics are coming out of the woodwork to declare that happiness at work is stupid, impossible, naïve, silly, manipulative and/or bad for you.
They’re wrong and their criticisms often reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of the happiness research.
I was getting tired of slapping these curmudgeons down one by one, so here is our combined definitive smack-down of the 20 most common anti-workplace-happiness objections.
If you like the video, please share it – we need your help to stand up for happiness at work against the cynics :)
Here’s another great and simple tool for creating better coworker relationships from our Czech Woohoo inc Partner Michal Srajer.
In this video he describes how he used Google Groups to help employees at IT company Avast connect around shared hobbies and passions.
This fosters better workplace relationships, cross-team collaboration and better teamwork.
This is beyond amazing: This fifth grade teacher in North Carolina has a personalized handshake and greeting for each of his students. What a great start to any class.
While this might be a little too much for the average workplace, one thing we teach many of our clients is the value of actually saying “good morning” to your coworkers/employees in the morning.
There are several approaches to saying good morning at work:
Level 0: You ignore people completely
Level 1: A somewhat unintelligible grunt
Level 2: Saying good morning without looking at people
Level 3: Make eye contact as you say good morning
Level 4: Also say something more than just good morning, e.g. “How are you?” or something more personal.
Level 5: Also touch the other person – e.g. a handshake or a pat on the shoulder. You can even hug, but only if you and the other person want to.
Specifically, we recommend the “Level 5 Good Morning.” What you see in the video above with the teacher is probably more of a level 6 or 7 :)
It’s a small thing. It takes no time and costs no money, but it makes people happier at work - in our opinion because it reinforces good workplace relationships between coworkers and between managers and employees.
And it works. Here are two examples:
I once worked for a bank in Germany (well these are two locations in which you would not normally expect “personal affection” ;-)).
The team was large, about 40 people worked in one open space office. It surprised me a lot that every morning, whoever arrived, walked through the whole office and greeted everybody with a handshake and some personal words. It did not matter if the team members came, the bosses from higher up or anybody from another department. It was known everywhere that here you greet everybody personally.
For the first week, I found that very strange and a bit intimidating. Also, it cost a lot of time all in all. Yet afterwards, I really enjoyed it. It gave everybody the chance to get to know the colleagues a bit better, to hear what they are off to or to realize that somebody is not in or just returned from a trip or vacation. There was no need to e-mail weekly lists on who is out when. We just knew it.
Btw, when I moved on to another job, I sort of missed it.
And this one is great too:
Actually the level 5 good morning is working a treat – which is why I’ve kept it up!
I have a new team member that I supervise who sits next to me, and Mihaly also sits with us in the same section, which can be a bitdaunting for a new team member!! The three of us collaborate really well together, and I think the level 5 good morning has helped our new team member feel comfortable…
In fact, the three of us just worked on an urgent roll-out of our new website, and we had a great team dynamic – everyone knew their role, trusted one another, communicated perfectly. It was great.
I think the level 5 good morning was a big contributor to that… It’s hard to measure though isn’t it, you sort of just ’feel’ the effect. Anyway, thanks for the invaluable advice!
The opposite is also true: If someone comes into the workplace and says good morning and gets no real reaction, that can lead to people feeling isolated, ignored and lonely – which makes some people really unhappy at work.
So say “good morning” at work. It works!
Wow – I cannot believe how many fascinating international events we get invited to speak at.
While most of our speaking gigs are for client companies and therefore limited to only their employees, we also speak at open events.
If you want to see me speak about happiness at work, these are my upcoming international speaking gigs that are open to the public.
- Brussels, February 15: Keynote at Council of British International Schools
- Eindhoven, March 13+14: Keynote+workshop at Eindhoven Happiness Week
- Miami, March 16-18: World Happiness Summit
- Ho Chi Minh City, March 22+23: Keynote + workshop at Vietnam Best Places to Work Event
- Istanbul, March 29+30: Keynote+workshop with Power of Happiness
- Beirut, March 31: Keynote at Lebanon HR Summit
- Dubai, May 1: Keynote at 12th Human Capital Forum
And of course – don’t forget our own International Conference on Happiness at Work in Copenhagen on May 18+19.
For the last 8 years we have arranged an annual conference on happiness at work in Copenhagen. The next one is on May 18+19 2017 and for the first time ever we’re making the conference international, so the whole event will be in English.
We want to show you just how energetic, fun and valuable this conference is, so here are five of our favorite speeches from previous years.
David Marquet (2013): Happiness at work on a nuclear submarine
When David Marquet took command of the nuclear submarine the USS Santa Fe, he knew he needed to change a lot of things. It was the worst performing submarine, was never ready for its missions on time and was basically the laughing stock of the US navy.
David came in with a plan to improve the results on the submarine and thereby make its crew happier. By accident, he found that he had to do it the other way around: Make the submarine a happy workplace and results would follow.
The new plan worked, and the USS Santa Fe became the best performing submarine.
In this speech from our 2013 conference, David Marquet explains how he did it and how you can create a happier workplace too.
Srikumar Rao (2009): The two traps that keep us from being happy
One of the highlights of our 2009 conference on happiness at work in Copenhagen was Dr. Srikumar S. Rao’s wonderfully inspiring and funny presentation.
His presentation focused specifically on two traps you must avoid, that keep us from becoming happy.
Dr. Rao is the man behind the pioneering course Creativity and Personal Mastery, the only business school course that has its own alumni association and it has been extensively covered in the media including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the London Times, the Independent, Time, the Financial Times, Fortune, the Guardian, Business Week and dozens of other publications.
The Free Help Guy (2015): Happiness is… helping others.
The Free Help Guy has devoted a large part of his life to helping others – free and anonymously.
He believes in doing what you can for others, that value doesn’t look like coins and notes and that for every problem there is at least one solution.
He also believes in anonymity rather than self promotion and in living by your beliefs, which is why you can’t see his face in the video.
In this inspiring speech, he shares his story. Read more at www.thefreehelpguy.com.
Steve Shapiro (2011): Personality Poker
Does your organization help every single employee know their strong sides AND apply them more at work? Do people know and respect their coworkers’ personalities and preferences? Do you know what makes your coworkers happy or unhappy at work?
Steve Shapiro, the author of 24/7 Innovation and Best Practices Are Stupid takes participants at our 2011 conference through a game of Personality Poker, showing the 4 main personalities at work and what makes each of them happy or unhappy.
Henry Stewart (2016): 3 advanced tips for creating a happy workplace
Henry Stewart is the founder of Happy, a company in London that does computer and happiness trainings. They are also (naturally) a very happy workplace.
In this speech, Henry shares 3 advanced tips for creating a happy workplace:
- Let employees choose their boss
- Give pre-approval on big projects
- Let employees set their own goals
Bonus video: The world’s happiest DJ (2015)
This isn’t a speech as such but it is one of our favorite moments from the conferences.
This is a German DJ who became famous on youtube a few years ago for being incredibly happy while playing. He used that as a springboard to quit the day job that he hated and become a full-time DJ.
In this video from our 2015 conference he plays a very short set and then shares his story.
Meet a man who had the courage to go his own way and became world famous for being happy at work.
Here’s a thought experiment for you: Imagine two sales people working for the same company but in different regions.
Johnson slaves away in her area. She does a great job, she’s a professional and accomplished sales rep and she’s always ready to help her clients and colleagues. However, due to circumstances beyond her control she doesn’t reach her sales target this quarter. Maybe her biggest account goes bankrupt or maybe there’s just less economic activity in her region.
Smith, on the other hand, is lazy. He is not very competent and he never bothers to go the extra mile to help his colleagues or his clients. But due to circumstances beyond his control he achieves his sales target nonetheless that quarter. Maybe a big order drops in completely by chance, or maybe the growth in his region is increasing, or maybe his sales target just wasn’t ambitious enough from the start.
Which of the two deserves praise and recognition? Johnson, who does a great job, but performs below target or lazy Smith, who just got lucky this budget year?
To me it’s pretty obvious that it’s both better, more fair and more helpful to the future results of the company to acknowledge and reward the employees who have delivered the bigger effort.
And of course most companies do the opposite and reward only results, partly because results are easier to measure, but also because of we have a systematic bias for underestimating the ‘luck’-factor.
Daniel Kahneman is the only psychologist who’s been awarded a Nobel Prize. However he won it in economics, since there is no Nobel Prize in psychology. He got the prize for his work with identifying how humans make decisions and founding the field of behavioral economics.
One of the intriguing results of his research is that we highly underestimate the impact that luck has in many situations, and we massively overestimate the effects of our own actions. Good results are often due to luck (at least in part), but we choose to take credit for them anyway.
It’s extremely demotivating to those employees who have made an extra effort but don’t get recognition for it, to stand by and see their less competent (but luckier) colleagues receive both accolades and financial rewards.
Some companies try to solve the problem by creating more complicated bonus structures, but that’s rarely a good solution. Experience shows that bonus schemes are either so simple that they’re almost sure to be unfair to somebody, or so complicated that no one can make heads or tails of them. The study also shows that bonus schemes and rewards on the whole lead to poorer results, less motivation and inferior efforts. I’ve blogged about this before in this column.
To me the solution is simple: Leaders must focus just more on the effort of employees than on just their results. We must recognize not only those who reach their goals, but especially those who do an amazing job and even more so those who help others to become better at their job.
One great example if this is the New York-based company Next Jump. Their most important and prestigious employee award is not given based on performance but based on who helps others the most. In this video you can see their 2014 awards ceremony:
It’s not so straightforward, as results tend to be more measurable and visible. Encouraging a great effort will require that we as leaders have more insight and show more interest in our employees’ daily work. However there are three good reasons why we should do it anyway, even if it’s more demanding on us.
Effort is not reliant on luck
While good results may be due to luck, great effort is always due to the employee’s talents and attitude – and those employees who consistently demonstrate and improve skills, should clearly be recognized and celebrated.
A strong effort will – in the long run – always lead to better results
It’s no good if we only optimize for this quarterly result. We are optimizing for the next 20 or 30 quarterly results.
We avoid suboptimization
If we only recognize the employee’s results, we’re creating a culture in which we’ll do anything to obtain results – instead of doing what’s right for the clients and for the long term targets of the company. If I only get rewards for achieving my own sales targets, why on earth should I spend time and effort helping my colleagues?
So leaders must encourage and acknowledge effort rather than results. In the long run it will create more fairness, more motivation and – ironically – better results.
What is valued most in your workplace – results or efforts? What does that approach do for your motivation and engagement? How has it affected you and your coworkers?
Write a comment – we’d love to hear your take.