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Happiness and the bottom line

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

As Burt’s Bees began expanding into 19 new countries, CEO John Replogle might have been tempted to pester his team with frequent meetings or flood their inboxes with pressing demands.

But he didn’t. Instead, he sent daily emails praising team members. He scheduled a three-hour session with employees on “happiness.” He re­­minded deputies to talk with their teams about the company’s values.

One senior team member reported that the CEO’s focus kept managers en­­gaged and cohesive. They were happier.

By fostering positive mindsets, a leader can boost productivity, creativity, engagement—just about every performance measure, according to research. Yet “happiness” isn’t well understood as a performance driver.

Often, people think of happiness as an effect of success, such as, “I’ll be happy when I get a raise.” But it actually works the other way around.

You can help train others’ brains to be positive by introducing new habits, such as this one, introduced at KPMG.

In December 2008, before a particularly horrendous tax season, tax man­­agers at KPMG engaged in a new activity. They were asked to choose one of five positive-change activities:

  1. Jot down three things to be thankful for.
  2. Write a positive note to someone in their network.
  3. Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  4. Exercise for 10 minutes.  
  5. Describe in a journal something meaningful that happened that day.

For two weeks, participants did one activity every day. At the end, metrics re­­vealed that the group’s levels of engage­­ment and sense of well-being soared.

Four months later, these folks were still more optimistic than the control group. Participants’ mean score on the life satisfaction scale had shot up from 22.96 to 27.23 (on a 35-point scale).Their brains had become “rewired” for happiness.

— Adapted from Positive Intelligence, Shawn Achor, Harvard Business Review.

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