Work Words

Work Words

Language matters. The way we talk, the words we use, the conversations we spark. It all matters. If our aim is to create and maintain a happy work culture (and it should be!), then it stands to reason that we have to speak differently. In fact, I define leadership with one simple question: “What conversations happen because you’re in the room?” You see, leaders move the conversation beyond the mundane, task-centric business-speak that is pervasive in most work cultures. They refuse to participate in, engage in or allow negativity, pessimism or cynicism. Instead, they elevate the dialogue, ignite thought and encourage participation. They speak (and listen) differently. They talk about success not just in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of fulfillment, meaning and the opportunity to fully utilize the talents of the team. And because the members of the team see and hear this different kind of language, they too, speak and think differently. The air in great work cultures is filled with words of appreciation and gratitude. Conversations about dreams and goals and giving abound. And this becomes the norm, the culture. And success of the more traditional kind (profits) follows. In fact, one study showed that more profitable organizations literally speak differently than those that are less profitable. The ratio of positive language to negative in successful companies is 3 to 1, while those companies deemed unsuccessful have a 1 to 1 ratio. So, take a few minutes this week to think about your language and your conversations. What do you say that inspires your team members to do more, achieve more and be...
Change Comes From Your Office, Not Just the Oval Office

Change Comes From Your Office, Not Just the Oval Office

I don’t want to run for public office, but I want to have an impact on my community, or maybe even society as a whole. And I believe that’s possible. I’ve had this discussion with friends of mine who are business owners or leaders, declaring that I don’t think we have to be elected officials to create significant positive change. I believe that businesses, under the guidance of thoughtful leaders, can powerfully impact society, while also making money. What I really mean is that I think we can change the world, and I have every intention of doing just that. Howard Schultz once announced a Starbucks initiative called “Race Together,” which is intended to spark conversation about race relations in America. You could argue that this is a PR move, but I think that Schultz is exactly the kind of thoughtful leader who sees an opportunity to improve the world and not just his bottom line. He’s doing it by encouraging discussion, creating conversation, opening up dialogue…over a cup of coffee. I understand the debate against this effort, but I applaud Schultz’s interest in improving the world, while most business leaders are interested only in improving their cash flow. Facebook also launched a new version of its community standards. Same thing. Zuckerberg and team are changing the world by saying that some things (e.g. hate speak, bullying, intolerance) just aren’t acceptable and won’t be permitted. My own company tries to change the world through perhaps simpler efforts. Our Happiness Counts™ program is an effort to wake companies up to the idea that treating employees like people and supporting their...
The 20% Work For Me. I Make Sure Of It.

The 20% Work For Me. I Make Sure Of It.

When Gallup polled US workers last year, they found that 80% of people don’t like their jobs, and what’s worse, 67% say they plan to leave their jobs within the next 12 months. Anecdotally, I know this is true. I hear my friends talk about how much they hate their jobs all the time. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen – the language they use to describe their work is negative, negative, negative. In some cases, they seem to take pride in how awful it is. They brag about the stress, the hours, the conflicts; and they count the days and years until they can stop working. As a father, I’m worried that my children are hearing and believing these messages. I’m concerned that they believe that when they enter the workforce it’s all stress and misery, buffered occasionally by happy hours, TGIF and a desperate hope that “one day I can retire.” Who is out there telling our kids, my kids, that work is rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful and important on numerous levels? As a business owner, I know that if my team members are sitting at their desks thinking how much they hate their jobs and planning to leave soon, then clearly they aren’t helping us achieve our business goals. But I’m convinced that it doesn’t have to be this way, and I’m committed to changing the conversation about work by changing the culture at work. I want to make sure that every member of my team feels valued and that their work is valuable. I find opportunities for every single person to have a voice in what we’re doing. And,...
Be A Warrior. A Joyful Warrior.

Be A Warrior. A Joyful Warrior.

Earlier this year, before we knew that the Golden State Warriors were going to set the NBA record for most wins in a season, they just seemed different than the other teams in the league. And not just because no other team could beat them. Unlike most teams that spend the first few weeks and months of the season stumbling along, figuring out their chemistry, experimenting with line-ups and strategies, the Warriors came out of the gate playing at an entirely different level than everyone else. They were smooth, relaxed, confident, and in each game, whether they had a big lead or small, they simply never seemed worried. Moreover, unlike most teams, they looked like they were having fun. Yes, fun. You could see it on their faces. Not only of the players, but the coaches, too. And the fans, also. There was something different in the air during a Warriors game. No screaming coaches, no panicked players, no drama. This team was actually enjoying playing the game. On the day when the Warriors, the reigning NBA champions, won a record-setting 16th straight game, coach Steve Kerr, who, at the time, was actually taking time off due to recent surgery, addressed his team and reminded them of their “four core principles.” What were those principles? Shooting, passing, rebounding and defense? Nope. At the beginning of the season in which the pressure was on for the Warriors to defend their championship and prove to the world that it was no fluke that this undersized team was the best in the league, Kerr defined their core principles as joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. Let those four...
We Are Our Stories.

We Are Our Stories.

A few years ago, my wife and I took a trip to Burlington, Vermont. It was one of those perfect long weekends. We were there in November, and winter was running late, so the weather was ideal. It was cold and clear, but not unbearable, and we would watch the sun set over Lake Champlain, bundled in our scarves and sipping hot chocolate. We went to a market where we met a woman who made hand-knit wool caps from yarn that came from sheep that grazed in a pasture just three and a half miles from the market itself, and in fact, she was the third generation of women in her family to make these caps. At that same market, we met a guy who made honey that came from a local breed of bees that harvested pollen from some native flower that I now forget the name of, but this honey was the color of amber and tasted like butterscotch. We came back from that trip and told everyone about Burlington … people got bored hearing our incessant stories about “perfect Burlington.” Our stories – that’s what we brought back from our trip to Burlington. Not wool caps and honey, but stories. When we hear stories and create stories and tell stories, we are crafting and sharing the brand of a place, spreading awareness and interest far and wide. There was nothing we experienced in Burlington that we don’t have in my own home town of Winter Park, Florida. Literally. Incredible farmers market? Check. Spectacular weather? Check. Local history? Check. Sunset over the lake? Oh yeah! But something...
What if. What next. What about now?

What if. What next. What about now?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a company’s responsibility to its team members. Here in the US, most employers understand the importance of helping employees maintain their health, providing health insurance plans and more often these days, wellness programs. I call this the “What if?” What if my employee, her spouse or kids gets sick? How can I help them stay healthy or pay for costly medical expenses? Most employers also help their employees prepare for retirement, providing pensions and programs that often include an employer match. I call this the “What next?” What will my team members do next? How will they support themselves when they retire? How can I help? But “What about now?” Sure, I want to alleviate some of life’s worries from my team members, but I also want to inspire them to be fully realized, fully engaged human beings today. And every day! I want them to come to work happy, fulfilled, engaged and inspired. I want this because I care about them. And I want this because if we’re going to ask our team members to help us grow our businesses and commit themselves fully to our goals, then I think we owe some consideration to the “what about now?” In my company, we do this by encouraging team members to set personal goals and assisting them in achieving those goals. We do this by hiring people who are passionate about life outside the walls of work. And we do this more formally through a new program called the “40 Hour Sabbatical.” Look, I’m willing to pay for my employees’ health insurance...
Make Your Mother Happy. Be Happy.

Make Your Mother Happy. Be Happy.

If I were to ask what your goals are, you would likely give me some quantifiable answer, like earning a certain salary, attaining some specific position within your company, or being in a position to retire by a certain age. We are obsessed with milestones and measurement. And I get it. In business, we like to say, “If it can’t be measured, it can’t be mastered.” We conduct strategic planning sessions and discuss SMART goals, the ‘M,’ of course, standing for “measurable.” However, if I were to ask what your goals are for your children, what would you say? Nearly everyone I ask gives me a one-word answer without even a second to consider it. We want our kids to be happy. I certainly do. I want them to find joy and meaning in life. I want them to be thoughtful, kind, creative, confident and proud adults. None of these things can be measured. So, I’m wondering why do we think so differently about ourselves as adults than we do about our children? We seek specific and measurable goals for ourselves and desire beautiful, meaningful and yet nebulous things for our kids. Why the disconnect? Why don’t we allow ourselves to have aspirations that are more difficult to pinpoint when they are achieved? Why are we unable or unwilling to articulate these more meaningful, yet less measurable goals? One answer is in the way we think about happiness in our culture. For us, happiness is the reward for achieving a goal rather than being the goal itself. It’s true. When we say that our goal is to retire by...
How You Are You At Work?

How You Are You At Work?

There was a great quote in a Harvard Business Review article last year that said: “Most people at work… divert considerable energy every day to a second job that no one has hired them to do.” What they’re referring to is that most people come to the office each day feeling like they have to be a completely different person than who they really are. In other words, that director of marketing or systems analyst or chief operating officer sitting over there is really just an actor playing that role. Many of us have had this experience or have it every day, where we pull into the parking lot at work, turn off the car, look in the mirror, take a deep breath and leave our real selves in the car – our personality, hopes, dreams, passions, opinions – and slip into the role of who we think we’re supposed to be for the next 8 – 12 hours of the day. How exhausting! In fact, HBR goes on to say that this role-playing vs. being a real person is one of the biggest obstacles to productivity in the US workplace. And no wonder, how can we be 100% focused on doing our jobs at a high level and helping our organizations pursue their business strategies when we’re busy trying to be someone we’re not? But as leaders, there’s something we can do about this. We can consciously create a business environment or organizational culture that allows people to be who they are. We can encourage our team members to be themselves and to pursue the things they’re interested...

Happiness at Work: If Only It Were Easy

It’s a fact, happy people are more productive, more engaged and quite simply better at just about everything they do. And organizations that cultivate and sustain a positive culture are more innovative, creative, productive and, yes, successful by just about any metric, including profits. So the question is, why don’t business leaders invest in happiness? Why don’t they make it a priority and a goal? The answer is simple. It’s hard. You see, if we believe we can strengthen our teams by giving employees more money, then that’s easy, just write bigger checks. If we think our team members will be more committed if they have more time off, simply change the vacation or PTO policy. Or, if we believe that people will be happier if we give them more rewards for their hard work, well, yep, that’s not very hard either, just schedule more happy hours, put a foosball table in the office or stock better snacks in the break room. The problem is, none of these is a sustainable solution. Research shows that money and other rewards don’t motivate people, yet this is how we think. That’s why employers regularly implement ideas such as these, brag about them and even win awards for “Greatest Place to Work” because of things like big bonuses, free beer, unlimited vacation policies and break rooms with ten different types of cereal. But these things aren’t the answer to creating a great place to work for the long term, a place where team members are loyal, engaged, proud and passionate. Instead, the real answer is both much simpler and much more difficult....
The Happiness Jar

The Happiness Jar

You’ve heard of a bundle of joy, but how about a jar of happiness? The brainchild of our project manager, Jenna, our happiness jar is our newest office tradition here at Happiness Counts. It’s purpose? Simple. Throughout the year, we’ll write down little happy things that happen here (or that we create!) and store it in the jar. At the end of the year, we’ll gather together, empty out the jar, and revel in all the happiness this year has brought us. It’s kind of like a time-capsule, only better. Feel free to join us in creating a jar of your own, and take in all the joy from your year this December! Let’s make happiness...