Happy Easter

I just love this article written by CATHY L. GREENBERG & JOHANNA DILLON. This is very much what I have been trumpeting through my work career and still is by signing my email ‘be happy’.

Last thursday,after some 8 years, I revisited Rogers House, the place I have toiled for decades. I had the joy of meeting  some old colleages and be reminded of the days where we were a happy group and enjoying benefits for us and the owners.

How eventful, when today my heart is filled with joy as I celebrate the day when our Lord Jesus has risen from his tomb, signifying the victory of life over death for all mankind. As an Easter gift I would like to share this with you.

Any company can profit from a natural resource it already has—happiness. The secret is to engage your best talent through whole-brain function to overcome fear with appreciation. It’s teachable and transferable. Use happiness to improve performance—and deliver profit-providing useable insights.

Whole-Brain Function

Think of something that makes you smile—for example, praise from a trusted mentor. Now, think of something that makes you frown—for example, your mentor goes away from your life tomorrow. She is your favorite co-worker, the one who believes in you and pushes you to be your best, but she’s dying and leaving work today. Hold a visual of your time together and the threat of her leaving forever, both at the same time. Can you balance joy and fear in your mind?

If you say yes, I won’t believe you. It’s impossible to feel fear and appreciation simultaneously. You can’t feel hope or appreciation while experiencing sorrow, guilt, or anger. You can’t experience positive and negative emotions simultaneously. Whole-brain function is required to make decisions, but first you must engage your emotional state before taking action. Unfortunately, you will only use that portion of your brain that is available; in many cases, that state is fear, anxiety, or grief. In the best of all worlds, it’s appreciation—an attitude of gratitude.

As a behavioral scientist, executive coach, and business consultant, I want everyone to know that being a happy company is the single greatest transformation a company can take to retain talent, improve its competitive position and top-line revenue.

Let’s start with five HAPIE principles:

  • H – Heartfelt, humble, inclusive, inspirational, innovative leadership
  • A – Adaptive, enthusiastic, emotionally intelligent employees
  • P – Profit for all who contribute to return on people (ROP), in addition to ROI
  • I – Invigorated stakeholders, vendors, and clients who market the company
  • E – Engaged, constructive, community partners who share their success

From these five traits emerge a set of behaviors that create a positive, transformational climate of inspiration and happiness. When applied together, they pave the way for a culture of appreciation or a Happy Company Climate.

Happy Organizations

Few leaders understand the importance of engaging energy like “happiness”. In a hard-nosed, numbers-based business, they misinterpret happiness to be a time-waster that doesn’t support bottom-line results. Cynics imagine everyone singing “Kumbaya.”

Here’s the truth.

  • Corporate happiness is a deep commitment felt when people engage their sense of purpose while contributing to a fulfilling corporate mission.
  • Happy companies see reality through a positive mindset, even in adversity.
  • It perceives the market as a place of abundance with many opportunities.
  • Great leaders choose optimism over pessimism because a positive culture inspires creative, pragmatic approaches and draws out the best in people.
  • Honesty pervades a happy company, infusing it with personal respect, appreciation, and trust and contributing to business success.
  • Every stakeholder and community respects and appreciates happy companies because of their constructive force that enhances the quality of life.

Happy companies create optimal conditions that enable the ultimate engagement of our mission at work. They are best prepared to succeed long term. Everyone wants to work in a profitable, happy company.

The Truth Really Hurts

Why do few companies apply these principles and achieve “happiness = profit”? They focus on reacting to problems and fear, which blocks their ability to engage happiness factors.

Most companies are only vaguely aware of their fear-based state because they spend more time trying to focus their energy on solving problems rather than building on the success of their strengths. Management does not know how unhappiness severely hurts performance. Why? Because they lack skills to perceive, measure or change behaviors known as happiness factors to bolster success, or how unhappiness causes failure. Leaders of unhappy companies know they are struggling and get stuck. Despite their best efforts, they can’t match their competitors. Employees work harder, even though they try to work smarter—”the faster I work, the behinder I get!” Unhappy companies only sustain positive energy for short bursts (during a crisis) but fear poisons productivity with politics.

The best leaders know you can’t run a successful, dynamic business based on fear. Fear prevents people from contributing their best and hurts profits through increased absenteeism, turnover, and redundancy.

In many organizations, fear is a dominant management technique.

  • We fear missing a deadline, losing a sale, or receiving unfair treatment (even if we make the numbers).
  • We induce fear based on unknowns in business; we fear many things—our competitors, their high-quality or low-price alternative, missing profit projections, even successful growth that may be too much to handle.
  • We have financing fears: of interest rates, bond rates, exchange rates or a downturn in the capital markets.
  • We have conflicting fears: management fears spiraling wages, healthcare, and possible strikes; labor fears abusive management and low raises.
  • We even fear weather that might disrupt our production, our delivery, or our customers’ buying patterns.
  • And some fears haunt us all: terrorism and the cost of war.

Fear has many immeasurable costs—talent, wellness, and energy. Yet, fear is everywhere. It so saturates our spirit and cultures that we accept it as “normal.” But does fear motivate us to perform better? No. Fear is a limited motivator because it triggers a state of activated stress which results in a limited set of responses: freeze, flight, or fight. These old-brain behaviors limit whole-brain function. Often the reaction is fear-based hostility, a primal, reactive reflex. Fear is great for split-second survival, but it thwarts long-term prosperity because it “short-circuits” higher thought, shutting down the part of the brain that enables us to see possibility. Fear drains both the individual and the franchise of energy and imagination. Instead of motivating us, fear depresses our spirit of innovation and can even kill us physically through stress-related illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, alcoholism and diabetes.

What’s the good news? We can beat our wiring, even though fear and imagination still operate in different parts of our brain. Fear-based management behaviors mimic our caveman ancestors; biologically the behaviors are identical. Our primal emotions are the same, since fear trumps reason.

Try this exercise. When we see a lion about to pounce is our fear-based reaction healthy? Are we dreaming of a peaceful coexistence with nature? Think again. Those in the past who pondered such crises often died.

But if fear wins every time it is activated, then in today’s world, where wild animals wear suits, live at desks with access to unlimited information, commute on planes, and join boards and committees, how can we overcome our biology?

Happy people and healthy companies think before they react and apply enabling coaching techniques to explore and engage the best in everyone. They learn to recognize fear and apply HAPIE principles of positive psychology. Primal emotions, while required for survival, short-circuit the higher emotions needed for performance as a competitive weapon in the war for talent. Emotions and thought are closely entwined. While fear can drive us down, optimism can elevate us because it reshapes behavior and enables us to bond, find strength in numbers, feel appreciation, achieve creativity, and create a sum greater than our parts.

Happy companies succeed because people engage using positive, reinforcing emotions that maximize their diverse strengths. Their people constructively work together, find meaning and satisfaction in their work, and deliver high-quality service and products that positively contribute to their franchise and society. Profits follow naturally. Now, you can see now how Happiness = Profit!

The 8th habit

I must admit that the book of Stephen Covey the 8th Habit did not impact on me as much as the former the 7th habit. For quite some time I have been wondering the reasons for this lower impact of the 8th Habit on me, though I was a great fan of Stephen Covey, a keen disciple of his teaching and a certified trainer of the Covey Leadership centre.

First, the 8th Habit lacks the novelty effect on me. Way back in 1992, when I first read the 1st book, I was really impressed. I recalled that all through the 10 hours flight from Hong Kong to Mauritius, my eyes were glued to the book. I highlighted the parts of the book that was directly touching my life then and saw in the book possible avenues to better my life. The examples given in the text were so near the reality that I was then living and provided at the time the necessary thoughts that I needed. The benefits I could derived from the reading was so proximate and realisable. My enthusiasm was aroused at its peak to bring me to action. Secondly the direct and tangible benefit of reading the book is not so obvious.

The above reflection now has taught me a great learning which I am applying today.

The interest that one has in any particular subject is proportional to the use one can make out of it. If you want to get the attention of someone of a subject, present to the person the benefits he will be able to derive from it. WIFM stands for What’s in for me. Should I need to convince someone of something: talk of his needs?

Now I am reviewing the 8th Habit with a new perspective: in my present situation, WIFM in reading the book.

Here is a commentary of Ken Shelton which covers beautifully and succinctly Covey’s book.

Leaders often sense a painful, Grand Canyon gap between potential greatness and actual contribution. It’s one thing to be aware of problems and challenges at work and another thing to develop the personal power and moral authority to break out of those problems and become a force in solving them.

So asserts Stephen R. Covey, author of The 8th Habit. And his solution: “One word expresses the pathway to greatness—voice. Voice lies at the nexus of talent (your natural gifs and strengths), passion (those things that naturally energize, excite, motivate and inspire you), need (including what the world needs enough to pay for) and conscience (that still, small voice within that assures you of what is right and prompts you to take action).

“When you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion—work that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet—you discover your voice.”

Take Four Steps

According to Covey, those leaders on this path to greatness find their voice and inspire others to find theirs. He notes that they often find their voice when they face challenges and take four steps:

1. Tap into your talent. “Tapping into your talents starts with understanding where you excel,” suggests Covey. “It involves recognizing your strengths and positioning yourself to leverage them. To tap into your talent, consider the question: What am I good at doing?”

2. Fuel your passion. “When you take part in activities that fill you with positive emotion, you are fueling your passion,” notes Covey. “Pursuits that spark your passion bring excitement, enthusiasm, joy, and fun. To fuel your passion, ask yourself: What do I love doing?”

3. Become burdened with a need. “When a problem in society lodges itself in your heart and won’t let go, you become burdened with a need,” he says. “Perhaps, the need is an injustice you wish to remedy. Maybe it’s a disease you would love to cure. Whatever the case, a burden gnaws at your conscience. To take stock of your biggest burden, wrestle with the question: What need must I serve?”

4. Take action to meet the need. Once a need has arrested your attention, you can find your voice by taking action, he continues. “A need compels you to do something besides criticize from the sidelines. To meet the need, think about this question: How can I align my talent with my passion in order to meet the need that burdens me?”

A Promise and a Challenge

Covey then extends a promise and a challenge.

The promise: “If you will apply these four capacities—talent (discipline), passion (emotion), need (vision), and conscience (spirit-directed action) to any role or responsibility of your life, you can find your voice in that role.”

The challenge: “Take two or three of the primary roles in your life, and in each role, ask yourself these four questions: What need do I sense? Do I possess a true talent that, if disciplined and applied, can meet the need? Does the opportunity to meet the need tap into my passion? Does my conscience inspire me to become involved and take action?”

Covey guarantees that if you answer all four questions in the affirmative, develop a plan of action and then go to work on it, you will begin to find your voice in life—a life of deep meaning, satisfaction, and greatness—and you will begin to inspire others to find their voice.

The choice to expand your influence and increase your contribution is the choice to inspire others to find their voice, he says. You unleash “latent genius, creativity, passion, talent, and motivation. Organizations that reach a critical mass of people and teams ex-pressing their full voice will achieve breakthroughs in productivity, innovation, and leadership. As you find your voice and inspire others to find theirs, you increase your freedom and power to solve your greatest challenge.”