Category Archives: Leadership

Leadership is an insanely important discipline. Here you’ll find the thought, tools and tricks of the trade of great leaders.

Why Ping-Pong Tables Wont Make Your Employees Happy – And What Will

In this animated interview Olivier Larvoir and I talk about:

  • Which company recently installed a slide in the office to make it a ‘happier’ place to work (#facepalm)
  • Why your employees don’t want free coffee, ping pong tables and away days – and what they DO want
  • How to attract the best talent without writing a job ad or hiring a recruitment agency
  • What happiest places work all do that you can implement today (think: Google, Zappos, Southwest Airlines)
  • The one word most leaders are scared to say but is the key to better productivity (hint: it isn’t ‘motivation’)

Ben Zander on Leading with Happiness

I interviewed the legendary conductor Ben Zander for my next book on Leading with Happiness and here is one of my favorite quotes of his:

Doing well in the stock market, or satisfying the shareholders is a natural byproduct of an effective business. And what makes an effective business is the same thing that makes an effective orchestra: People who want to be there, who give everything they have, who are having a wonderful time doing it, whose eyes are shining, who are giving out energy to people around them.

Show investors that you care about more than just profits

I found this researching my next book, Leading with Happiness.

At the 2008 Southwest Airlines Shareholders’ Meeting, CEO Gary Kelly ended his presentation with this wonderful story.

February the 27th we had flight number 1218 preparing for departure from Dallas to Las Vegas via Austin and as the customers were taking their seats our Dallas flight attendant Robin Hopkins was approached by a customer who I’ll refer to as Janice.

Janice was asking for help with her cellphone and she didn’t know how to turn it off. Robin assisted Janice but asked if she was okay because Robin can tell that she had been crying. Janice answered that she was on her way to Las Vegas to identify her only son at the medical examiner’s office.

Upon hearing this Robin informed the two other flight attendants Melissa Smith and Lisa Christian as to what was going on and our flight attendants comforted Janice.

Melissa and Lisa handled the entire flight from Austin to Las Vegas while Robin sat with Janice and she learned about her son and she was there to provide comfort. They talked for the rest of the flight.
When they landed in Las Vegas Candace Robinson and Brandy Fuller who are Las Vegas in-flight supervisors met Janice at the gate and they took over. Brandy handled all of her immediate needs while Candace went on to get her own car to drive Janice. Candace was also able to secure a hotel room next to the funeral home.

There was no one there for Janice except for Southwest Airlines people and this is just one powerful example of our people in action and it happens hundreds of times every single day and most of which we never hear about. But they don’t do it for the recognition, they don’t do it for the money. They do it because they care and at Southwest Airlines we are blessed to find and to hire and to keep people who care.

I don’t know if you can teach people how to care but you can’t encourage it you can support it and when you know about it you can certainly recognize it.

This is amazing story and I love the fact that the CEO told it at the shareholders’ meeting. This clearly shows investors where Southwest’s priorities are and that they can expect the company to continue to treat its employees and customers well.

I’m writing my next book called “Leading With Happiness” and I would LOVE your feedback

As always, I do all my writing in a café.

I am now 6 chapters and 25,000 words into writing my next book titled “Leading with Happiness” and I would love to get feedback on what I’ve written.

Here are the 6 chapters I’ve finished so far:

1 – Introduction
2 – Why happiness
3 – The science of happiness
5 – What is happy leadership not
6 – Why don’t all leaders do it
7 – Get happy yourself

You’ll notice I’ve skipped chapter 4 (What is happy leadership) for now.

I would be really, really grateful if you would pick a chapter (or more than one), read it and tell me what you think in a comment on this post. No matter which chapter you pick, it may make sense to read the introduction – it’s pretty short and it explains what the whole book is about.

In your feedback, please do not focus on:

  • Typos, spelling and punctuation
  • Design and layout
  • Cross references and footnotes
  • Figures and illustrations – they come later

But please do give me your thoughts on the content, including:

  • Anything that you like or which rings a bell for you
  • Anything that isn’t perfectly clear to you
  • Any factual mistakes or misunderstandings
  • Any additional stories or example you know of that I could add

Please share your feedback in a comment on this post!

If you’re curious, the remaining chapters are:

  • 8 – Make your employees happy
  • 9 – Make your customers happy
  • 10 – Make the world happy
  • 11 – What happy leaders don’t do
  • 12 – Leading with happiness in tough times
  • 13 – The challenges of leading with happiness
  • 14 – Get Started

How to succeed in business if you’re not a morning person

Work has moved from cow to computer, but workplaces still favour early risers and an industrial-age view of productivity.

Camilla Kring has a PhD in Work-Life Balance and as owner of Super Navigators, makes workplaces happier by increasing the Work-Life Balance of their employees. She is specialized in creating flexible work cultures that support our differences in family forms, work forms and biological rhythms.

This is her talk from the International Conference on Happiness at Work 2017 in Copenhagen. Flexibility is among the keys to well-being, and management must have the courage to address the flexibility of their company’s work culture because culture determines whether employees have the courage to make use of flexibility.

The first step is to set people free from 9-5 and that work is something that only can take place at the office. Work is not a place – it’s an ongoing activity. Second, focus more on results and less on visibility. Third, give people the tools to improve their individual Work-Life Balance.

With Great Talent Comes Great Responsibility – how goals and KPIs demotivate the best employees

More and more workplaces want to measure everything. KPIs, scorecards and performance goals are supposed to motivate employees and help increase their productivity. But is that really a good way to motivate employees and makes them happy?

Helle Hein has a ph.d. in management and has done research on motivation for the past 20 years.

Her research shows that many people are not motivated by metrics and bonuses but by something more meaningful – a professional calling or a cause that matters deeply to them. Leading these people based only on performance measures and financial rewards leads to frustration and a huge loss of talent and motivation.

In this talk from the International Conference on Happiness at work 2017 in Copenhagen she will show you how your organization can get the most out of its most talented employees, what really motivates people (no, it’s not bonuses) and how to make sure that people feel that their work really matters to them.

Using the Science of Happiness to Create Happier and More Successful Companies

Happy workplaces are more profitable and innovative, attract the best employees and have lower absenteeism and employee turnover rates. Simply put, happy companies make more money.

But how do you create a happy workplace? Many companies try and fail because they focus on the wrong things.

Some of the best answers are found in the happiness science – a fascinating field with research going on all over the world.

In this talk from our 2017 International Conference on Happiness at Work I reveal the 5 most important findings from Positive Psychology and how they apply in the workplace.

We’ll be releasing more talks from the conference soon. Subscribe to our newsletter, if you don’t want to miss them.

Being great at your work vs. feeling great about your work

If we want to be happy in our jobs, we need to be good at our jobs.

We human beings have a basic need to know that we contribute, create value and can make a difference and effect change in our environment.

That’s why doing a good a job feels amazing. It gives us feelings like pride, accomplishment, fulfilment, growth and worth.

On the other hand, when we feel that we don’t perform well at work, it creates feelings like inadequacy and lack of control plus of course fear that we might lose our jobs.

And it’s also in the company’s best interest to make sure that every single employee and team is getting great results and living up to their potential. Companies typically focus on 4 areas to make that happen:

  • Skills: Training, competencies, job skills match,  …
  • Resources: Time, tools, IT-systems, …
  • Structure: Organization, plans, goals, budgets, strategy, processes, …
  • Support: Coworker+manager support, coaches/mentors, …

These are all important and enable us to get results. If your workplace is not giving employees these 4 things, then how on earth can you expect them to perform well?

If we want people to be happier at work, we can definitely help them get better results. We can give them better training, more resources, more support, etc. in order to help them perform better.

However, many people already get great results – but don’t feel that way. And if that’s the case, then they won’t be very happy at work.

This is a crucial distinction that few companies make – the distinction between getting good results and feeling good about those results. If we want employees to be happy at work, they also need the latter - and many don’t have that.

When that is the case, employees may get great results right now but it won’t be sustainable. When people are not happy at work, it hurts their motivation, productivity and creativity. Stress and burnout tend to follow.

So in addition to helping employees get great results, companies also need to make sure that people feel great about their results.

There are 3 things that give us that feeling of results.

1: Meaning

I saw this sign in the lobby of Danish pharmaceutical company Xellia, 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, which 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.

It’s crucial that we know what we have to do at work, but  equally crucial that we know why we do it.

That is what gives work meaning and purpose: when you know why you do each task and how it somehow helps someone.

And it’s not enough that your work is meaningful to the organization – it must be meaningful to you. Your work must have a purpose that you believe is worthy.

On the other hand, if you have no idea why your work matters and no sense that it makes any kind of a difference, it really doesn’t matter how good you are at your job – you won’t be very happy.

Many workplaces take great pains to give employees performance goals to clearly show them what they are expected to do. But we must make equally sure to show employees why their work matters and how it makes a positive difference.

US online retailer Zappos are a great example of this. Whereas most customer service reps are measured on how many calls/emails they handle, Zappos’ employees are measured primarily on how happy they make their customers. The former metric makes sense only to the company, the latter is meaningful for employees too because it shows them that they make a positive difference for the customers.

2: Autonomy

When you are free to do your job your way, you are much more likely to take pride in your results and feel good about them.

On the other hand, if a micro-managing boss is telling you exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it, you are much less likely to feel good about the results you get, because they won’t be your results.

As much as possible, we should be free to choose:

  • What we work on
  • Who we work with
  • What approaches and methods to use
  • When and where we work

One of my favorite examples of this is Middelfart Savings Bank in Denmark, one of the happiest workplaces in Europe. How did they achieve that? They gave their employees huge levels of freedom and responsibility. Their former HR directors said this:

“You’d be amazed what happens once people are empowered to make decisions.”

Another amazing example comes from the US Navy, where nuclear submarine captain David Marquet gave his sailors unprecedented autonomy. He explained how he did it at our conference in 2015:

3: Appreciation

And finally, we feel good about the work we do when we are recognized for it.

Harvard Business School professors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer talk about this in their awesome book The Progress Principle. They sum up the book’s main message like this:

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

Even a small win can make all the difference in how people feel and perform.

Creating a culture of positive feedback in an organization is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to give employees a feeling of results.

When your coworkers, your boss or even the customers praise your good work, it clearly shows that you make a difference and get great results.

On the other hand, if you feel you do good work but nobody ever notices, it becomes much harder to maintain pride in your work. Some companies even take it a step further – they never praise good work, but all mistakes are instantly and severely punished.

Our absolute favorite way to praise others at work is The Poncho. Try it!

The upshot

It’s not enough to help employees get great results – we must help them get a feeling of results.

Of course we first need them to do good work. No one should expect to feel good about their work, if they’re not doing a very good job in the first place.

But that’s not enough.

Happiness at work only comes when people know that their work has meaning and purpose, when they have freedom and autonomy in how they work and when they are appreciated and recognized for their good work.

Imagine the opposite. Imagine that you’re very good at your job and get great results. But you have no idea why any of your tasks matter, somebody else has decided how you work on those tasks leaving you no freedom and autonomy and you are never recognized for any of your efforts.

How happy could you be at work under those conditions? How good would your results be in the long run? How soon would you lose all motivation and burn out?

So improving how people feel about their results is crucial.

It’s also a lot easier. Provided a person is very good at their job already, improving their feeling of results may be a lot faster and easier than improving their actual results.

It’s also a lot more effective, because if we can’t figure out how to make people feel proud and appreciated about their work, it doesn’t matter how stellar their results are – they will never be happy at work and their performance will ultimately suffer.

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