The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.
That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
– Warren Bennis
In June I’ll be speaking at the 5th International Conference on Happiness at Work in Coruña in Northern Spain.
Considering that I’m also speaking in Chile later this year and possibly in Colombia, I should probably get cracking on learning Spanish :)
If you can not honestly say that your job is overall making life better for someone somewhere in some way that is meaningful to you, then you should be doing something else.
A short while ago we announced our new Partner program.
The basic idea is simple: You can get access to all of the materials that we have created and refined over the years with clients like LEGO, Microsoft, IKEA and Shell and use them to go create happy workplaces.
You can use all of these materials as an external consultant with your clients or you can use them internally with employees, managers and teams inside your organization to make it a happier workplace.
And we just reached a cool milestone: We now have partners in 10 different countries. There are now partners in Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Australia, Argentina, Colombia, US, South Africa, Bulgaria, and the UK.
That is AWESOME!
Would you like to join us? Read all about Woohoo Partners here.
My business card. Does your workplace have a CHO?
I think every company should have a CHO – a Chief Happiness Officer. Here’s why.
The CHO title is modelled on all the other CXO titles. The CTO is in charge of technology, the CFO is responsible for the financials, the COO is head of operations, etc. And once you realize that employee happiness may be the most important success factor for a business today, it becomes essential to have a Chief Happiness Officer, someone who is the main driver in making and keeping the workplace happy.
I see more and more CHOs which is fantastic because this is one of the most important roles in the organization. They may not always be called Chief Happiness Officers – it can be the HR manager, it can be the CEO, it can even be a regular employee. The important things is that it’s a person who sees themselves as responsible for making and keeping the organization happy.
Why do companies appoint CHOs? For one simple reason: Because they are realizing that happy workplaces make more money.
Studies show that happy employees are more productive, more innovative, more motivated, more energetic and more optimistic. They are also less sick, stay with the company longer and make the customers more loyal. For those reasons (and many others) happy companies make more money.
Also, companies are starting to see that there is an ethical dimension to running a workplace, and that a corporate culture that is toxic and stressful will slowly wear employees down and can ruin their careers, their health and their private lives. This is wrong and more and more leaders understand that a workplace should have a net-positive influence on employees’ lives.
So what does a CHO do? The job is both inspirational and practical. First, this person should (of course) be happy him- or herself. It should be someone who can inspire happiness in others by their nature, and someone who is fun, likable and has a lot of energy. It should also be a person who genuinely cares about the well-being of people in the workplace.
Secondly, the CHO’s job is to spearhead different initiatives to make people happier in the workplace, like celebrations, trainings, events and similar activities in the workplace that help people do great work and see the purpose of what they do.
The important thing is that the CHO has the support of top-level management. They may not require a huge budget but if the CEO does not give a crap abut the employees, all the efforts of the CHO will be wasted. Or worse, they may come off as a a cynical attempt to keep people content in a toxic culture.
Some people hate the very idea of a CHO – they find it creepy and weird. And there are absolutely some pitfalls. The role is not to be a corporate clown or a happiness enforcer, constantly checking if everyone’s happy. That would be horrible.
But having a great CHO, a person somewhere in the organization who has the skills, the knowledge and the passion to help create a happy workplace and who has the unconditional support of top management makes perfect sense. It will not only make employees happier, it will also most likely make the company money.
On May 14 I’m doing a workshop on happiness at work together with the amazing Roosevelt Finlayson, who has been researching and promoting “Festivals in the workplace” for years.
Is that a perfect match or what? :)
If you’re in the Caribbean, this will be an awesome event to attend. Read all about it here.
Woohoo :) I was just booked to speak at Expo Capital Humano (a big HR conference) in Chile in November.
I can’t wait to be back in Santiago. The pic above is from my last trip there where I spoke at a conference arranged by Caja Los Andes.
I should bone up on my Spanish :)
I just saw Whiplash and it is not only a great movie but also the perfect example of the “success through suffering” narrative that permeates the modern world in general and the US especially. In this movie a young jazz drumming prodigy is tortured relentlessly by his sadistic teacher and the extreme mental and physical pain he suffers makes him a star drummer.
There are a million other movies and books that subscribe to the same basic world view, according to which you can only achieve success through sacrifice and pain and the more it hurts, the more successful you will ultimately be.
I’ve been trying to think of stories in pop culture that have a narrative where someone achieves success through happiness, but the only ones I can think of (like Forest Gump and Big) are stories where idiots or children achieve success through their innocence and naivite. This only serves to strengthen the narrative, since only idiots achieve success through happiness.
I think this world view is false. I think there is much more success to be found (in business, in art, and in life) in fun, happiness, camaraderie, and in simply enjoying what you do on the whole.
In real life there are many examples. Richard Branson clearly attributes much of his success to the fact that he’s enjoyed himself along the way. Ben and Jerry, the ice cream makers, say the same thing and so does Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Tony Hsieh of Zappos and many others.
I find it telling that the director of Whiplash Damien Chazelle was a serious drumming student as a young man and has this to say about that time:
[I was in] a very competitive jazz band that was modeled after professional bands. And I remembered being very terrified. That was my overall emotion during those years. Just dread. And not being able to eat meals before rehearsals and losing sleep and sweating my ass off.
To this day, he still gets nauseous when he sees a drum kit so when it came time to do the movie, here’s how he wanted to do it:
I like a set to be a happy place, where people can feel free to experiment. Especially, for instance, with this set. We only had 20 days to shoot the whole movie. The stress and the anxiety were just inherent in the schedule. So I tried to make it as stress-free of a set as possible.
So the whole “success through suffering” mindset is not only wrong, I think it’s become so pervasive that it’s become self-reinforcing. People go into many ventures expecting it to be tough, expecting to have to sacrifice many other aspects of their lives to “make it” – and if that’s what you expect, then there’s a good chance that that how it will end up.
Also, once people do become successful and start analyzing what worked, this narrative means that they’re more likely to attribute their succes to all the “hard work” and their sacrifices – even though their success may just as well have come from the times they had fun, the help they got from people who likes them or a supporting environment they found themselves in.
And finally, the very idea that you can slave away in stress and fear and frustration for years and sacrifice everything else in your life and THEN achieve your goal and just turn around and be happy seems very suspect to me. I think if you’ve been in pain for that long, that pain is most likely going to stay with you and you will be successful and unhappy.
And that’s why I’m convinced that the best path to success is not pain, it’s happiness. It’s not about comfort and choosing the easy path – but it is about making sure that you enjoy the process most of the time.
As we know, happy people are more productive, energetic, creative and motivated and also learn faster. So enjoying what you will no only make you more likely to reach your goals, it will also vastly increase your chances of being happy once you do get there.
And that’s why I’m challenging the narrative that success comes through suffering.
I just got this hilarious email from Dean Langsam:
Hi. I’m Dean, a casual follower.
I work at a military base. The base has two entrances, one to the north and one to the south. The entrances have guards – regular soldiers who have other jobs but once every few month they have this guard duty for a week.
Let me tell you it is a CRAPPY duty, but it must be done. Most soldiers hate it and show it, telling you “good day” with out really meaning it.
But today, I showed my credentials to the soldier, and he replied “Good day sir, thank you for choosing the northern entrance”. It was funny and made my day nicer, his day nicer and I’m sure it had a positive effect on many people.
It was wonderful.