Category Archives: Monday Tips

Happiness tip: Start your next meeting with something positive

Psychological experiments can be very devious, and this one was certainly no exception. The focus was meetings and the format was simple: Groups of people were asked to discuss and reach consensus on a contentious topic.

Here’s the devious bit: Unbeknownst to the other participants one member of the group was an actor hired by the researchers. The actor was told to speak first in the discussions. In half the experiments he would say something positive while in the other half he would start by saying something critical. After that he simply participated in the discussion like the other group members.

The experiment showed that when the first thing said in the meeting was positive, the discussion turned out more constructive, people listened more and were more likely to reach consensus. When the first statement was critical the mood became more hostile, people were more argumentative and consensus became less likely.

The researchers concluded that the way a meeting starts has a large impact on the tone of the discussion and on whether or not the group will eventually reach consensus.

Ah – meetings. The most energizing, creative and fun activity in the workplace. What’s that you say? They’re not? Well they can be. In fact they should be. Here’s a happiness tip that we’ve introduce with many of our clients that tends to work really well: Start your next meeting with something positive.

Many groups, projects or departments open their meetings with a round where each participant can say what he or she is working on, and quite often this ends up as a litany of complaints and problems. But as the experiment cited above shows, this is likely to affect the whole meeting.

So do this instead: Open meetings with a round where each person answers a question such as:

  • Name one thing you’ve accomplished since the last meeting that you’ve been proud of?
  • Name a person who has helped you since the last meeting.
  • Mention one thing you’re looking forward to in the coming week/month?
  • What’s the funniest thing someone has told you in the last week?
  • Mention something interesting you’ve learned since the last meeting

Pick a new question for each meeting and make some up yourself – as long as they focus on something positive.

Don’t spend a lot of time on this, just give each participant 20-30 seconds to share something positive. As the experiment mentioned above shows, a meeting becomes much more productive when you start with something positive instead of with a round of collective and individual moans.

One reader of this blog actually tried it and here’s what he told me afterwards:

Hi Alexander,

I have been reading your work for a few days now, and I cannot get enough.

We have 4 analysts on our team, who touch many if not all groups in our company, and the insight you provide in your articles is invaluable. Our role often means our view is black and white in order to deliver results, which is often received in a bad light.

So, I immediately utilized item 1 of your five weird tips for great meetings. It was like the Jedi mind trick for convincing others to lobby for our interests!

My Sr Analyst was struggling to keep her jaw from dropping. No more than a simple ask of what is the funniest thing your kids have said to you lately. Everyone had a story, and we all laughed for a quick 2 minutes before getting to the agenda.

Just wanted to say, “Thank you,”

All the best,

Related posts

Happiness tip: Find and use your strengths at work

Do you know what you’re really good at in your job? Where you shine? Do you have a good sense of your contributions to the workplace?

This week’s happiness tip is to take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire and find what your top 5 personal strengths are out of a total of 24 potential personal strengths.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. You’ll be asked to register as a user first but it is free.
  2. Take the test. It has 240 questions so this can take a while :)
  3. Make a list of your top 5 strengths.
  4. For each of your top 5 signature strengths, try to write down some situations at work where you used those strengths.
  5. Take a look at your list. What strengths do you get to use often at work? These represent your main contribution to the workplace.
  6. What strengths do you rarely or never use at work? These represent untapped potential for you and your workplace. Is there any way you could get to use them more often?
  7. If you like, come back to this post and write your top 5 strengths in a comment so we can get to know each other a little better. I already wrote my top strengths in a comment :o)

This is a great exercise because it helps you discover your personal contribution to the workplace and also to find out of you have strengths that you are not currently using at work. Using your strengths daily is an important factor in becoming happy at work and in life. It will also make you more successful at work.

Finally, a strengths-based approach where you look at your personal strengths and how you can use them more at work is a lot more effective and a lot more fun than looking at your shortcomings and problems.

Happiness tip: Think back and look forward

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Soren Kierkegaard


I gave a speech at Boston University and during the Q&A someone mentioned the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard and called him Denmark’s Chief Unhappiness Officer. I loved that :o)

The quote above is probably his most famous and offers a real insight: It’s important to reflect on your past but you can’t live looking backwards.

This week’s tip for more happiness is to simply take a moment to reflect on the things you have done recently to create some happiness at work for yourself or others and to look forward as well

If you’re reading this, I can only assume that you agree with me that being happy at work is a worthwhile goal and something we should all focus on.

There are two steps to this. Take a few quiet minutes to yourself today, where you can reflect on these questions. Write your answers down, that makes it stick more.

1: Think back
So what have you done to promote happiness in your workplace? What worked and why did it work? What didn’t work and what could you have done instead?

And if you haven’t really done anything specific at work to create some happiness, ask yourself why not? What’s holding you back? If you continue to do nothing, what will that lead to?

2: Look forward
What can you do from now on? What have you learned works? What have you learned doesn’t work that you should stay away from?

What can you gain from creating more happiness at work for yourself and others? What can you lose if you don’t?

Two Danish bosses surprise their employees in the morning

Carsten and Karsten, two sales managers at Danish company Solar, wanted to do something nice for their employees.

Early one Monday morning, they stood at the entrance and greeted every employee with a cheerful “good morning” and a breakfast they could take to their desks.

This a great example of a “random act of workplace kindness”. Have you ever done something surprising and nice for a co-worker? Let us know in a comment.

The level 5 “Good morning”

Studies show that when you have a good start to your work day, you’ll typically have a good day. Here’s our easiest and best tip for kicking your work day off with happiness: The Level 5 Good Morning.

We call it that because 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 want to :-)

At what level are the typical good mornings in your workplace? And what would happen if you took it to level 5?

Please do not underestimate the effect of something as simple as saying good morning at work. Here’s an example from one workplace:

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.

So that’s your mission: For the rest of this week, greet your co-workers in the morning with a level 5 good morning.

What if people don’t say good morning back? Well, here’s one way to deal with that.

Once you’ve done it, please write a comment below and tell us how it went. Did it work or fail miserably? Did you do it exactly as proscribed or improve upon the mission in your own way?

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Monday tip: Let’s do lunch

The Chief Happiness Officer's monday tipsHow’s this for a ridiculously simple Monday tip: Invite a co-worker to lunch.

Don’t make a big production out of it, just ask another co-worker if they want to go to lunch with you. Then use that time to talk about something other than work.

You get extra points for doing it with a co-worker you don’t know that well yet. Who will you take to lunch today?

The Chief Happiness Officer’s Monday tips are simple, easy, fun things you can do to make yourself and others happy at work and get the work-week off to a great start. Something everyone can do in five minutes, tops. When you try it, write a comment here to tell me how it went.

Previous Monday tips.

Monday Tip: Give you co-workers a morning surprise

We recently did two full-day workshops for the Copenhagen division of Danish electronics wholesaler Solar, and they have really embraced workplace happiness. Last Monday, the two managers Carsten and Karsten decided to surprise their people with a friendly greeting. They stood in the reception area that Monday morning and gave each of their employees a friendly, high-energy good morning and a breakfast plate.

Watch this:

Several of their employees wrote us later to tell us how much they appreciated this simple gesture and the spirit it was performed in. Kudos to Carsten and Karsten for taking a good idea and running with it.

How could you greet your co-workers on a regular, gray, boring Monday morning to get their work week off to a happy start?

The Chief Happiness Officer’s Monday tips are simple, easy, fun things you can do to make yourself and others happy at work and get the work-week off to a great start. Something everyone can do in five minutes, tops. When you try it, write a comment here to tell me how it went.

Previous Monday tips.

Monday tip

This week’s Monday Tip is the most fun, playful collection of life advice I have ever seen. Don’t take my word for it – just watch it!

The words are from a graduation speech given by Mary Schmich. The voice is Baz Luhrmann’s, the Australian movie director who did Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom and many others.

… and who says you can’t post a Monday Tip on a Wednesday :o)

The Chief Happiness Officer’s Monday tips are simple, easy, fun things you can do to make yourself and others happy at work and get the work-week off to a great start. Something everyone can do in five minutes, tops. When you try it, write a comment here to tell me how it went.

Previous Monday tips.

Monday Tip: Stealth Disco

It’s Monday and time for yet another Monday Tip.

I’ve got two words for ya: Stealth Disco.

According to Wikipedia, Stealth Disco is:

The act of being videotaped dancing or rocking out behind or near someone who is doing something serious and does not notice.

Now go Disco. Stealthily.

Update – I’ll go first:

This is me Stealth Discoing my associate Jon. Now it’s your turn. Feel free to document it in the comments :o)

The Chief Happiness Officer’s Monday tips are simple, easy, fun things you can do to make yourself and others happy at work and get the work-week off to a great start. Something everyone can do in five minutes, tops. When you try it, write a comment here to tell me how it went.

Previous Monday tips.