How can happiness make you a more effective and inspiring leader?
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We all know that positive inner states mean reduction of stress, which results in:
Better strategic thinking and problem-solving ability
Greater engagement in the task at hand
Deeper interpersonal connections
Belief in possibilities
The ability to inspire performance, engagement, and connection with your team and organization
In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, researcher in positive psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
As leaders we need to protect our happiness personally, and that of our teams as well. First things first, follow the oxygen mask rule and focus on what makes YOU happy, optimistic and peaceful.
This might mean taking regular breaks from the news, finding time to exercise, to relax, to laugh or to play with pets or children. The more time you can devote to pursuing what gives you joy or solace, the better you will be on the job.
A recent poll by Partners In Leadership confirms that when employees are happier at work, 85% say they take more initiative; 73% say they are better collaborators; and 48% care more about their work.
When there is change, grief, loss or fear, keeping your team spirit can be the last thing on your list. However, there is a great opportunity for your team to be front and centre, because our work teams are our primary community for 80% of our lives!
What are the most important things you can do as a leader to shift your team into a happier, healthier team dynamic?
Our research into resilience has given us some intriguing data. Often leaders have higher levels of resilience than their teams. It may be because people who are more comfortable with change and challenge self-select into leadership.
It could also mean that as we take our hard knocks on the way up we develop our resilience capabilities and attributes. Whatever the reason, we may be more ready and poised for change than our team. What does this mean?
1.) Start where they are, not where you are. Take the time to acknowledge the stress, loss, or upset on your team before moving into solutions. Practice what Google has coined "Ostentatious Listening".
Ask questions, find out what your people are thinking, feeling, and doing. It will make you happier when you empathize with others and recognize the common humanity of those you work with.
2.) Create a vision of a positive future. Once you've acknowledged reality, then focus on getting through this together, supporting each other, and coming out of this better and stronger as a team. It will make you happier when your team is aligned around something optimistic and future-focused.
3.) Focus on the HERO. HERO is an acronym from positive psychology researchers for Hopeful, Efficacious, Resilient and Optimistic. Teach your team that acronym and ask the team to support each other in being HEROes.
In your next team meeting bring up this model and ask the team "How can we support each other in being Hopeful, Efficacious, Resilient and Optimistic?" and see where the discussion goes.
Often you'll learn what your team members need, and who is in trouble and needs more of your support and 1:1 attention. It will make you happier as you bring positivity to the people you work with.
4.) Take time for Appreciation. Appreciation is the recognition or admiration of something. Holding something in high regard, like a work of art, is an example of having an appreciation of it.
Appreciation is also defined as feelings of thankfulness. ... Finally, another definition of appreciation is growth in the price or worth of something - to grow in value. We all want to be appreciated.
Think of the best bosses, coaches, teachers, friends or loved ones you have, and my guess is that you have been appreciated by those people for who you are, what you've done, or the tone you set. Appreciating others doesn't just mean saying thank you.
It means taking the time to think about what others bring to you or add to your life and work. During this Covid-19 pandemic many of us are appreciating the people who care for our ageing parents, teach our children, pick up our recycling or deliver our packages in a new way. It will make you happier as you reflect on what you value.
5.) Build Relationships Individually and Collectively. Managers need to touch base more often. Particularly during times of significant change, your team members may be prone to distraction, and their performance can dip if they don’t feel personally connected and encouraged to do their best.
Particularly if you’re working remotely, take the time to talk. And don’t always default to video chat which is now proving to be a source of burnout and exhaustion, because a good old-fashioned audio call can relax us and it doesn’t have to take long.
Ask questions. How are you? What’s working/ not working? How can we get you back on track? Better still, how can we keep you going like the rock star you are? A 5-10 minute individual call every other day outside of regular team meetings may be enough to ensure that you’re connecting and motivating your people.
It will also make you happier when you have a better perspective on how each of your team members is doing.