Well, as it turns out, leaders, the level of engagement in your organization (read: company, division, department, family, etc.) is directly proportionate to the level of your own happiness. Allow me to explain.
Do you remember reading Highlights Magazine when you were a kid? I LOVED that magazine and looked forward to each new issue. In fact, I’ve blogged about it previously. (See: A Tale of Two Leaders) One of my favorite features in Highlights was “Hidden Pictures.” There was a picture, usually a rather busy illustration, and embedded in the picture were several screwy/incongruent objects. For instance, there might be a toothbrush in a tree, a coffee mug in a person’s hair, or a fish in a shoe. Your task, dear reader, was to scan the illustration and find all the things wrong in the picture. As it turns out, dear leader, you are likely doing the same thing in your work every day. We have been conditioned – maybe even wired – to search our environment and find all the things that are wrong.
The result of this habit of searching for all of the mistakes, faults, and incongruities, is that we completely overlook all of the good, positive things going on around us. We also miss valuable opportunities to recognize the people doing all of the good, positive work around us. And that, my friends, leads to employees who are just going through the motions – they have just checked out. And, I don’t think I need to point out to you, that disengaged employees negatively impact the bottom line, besides just making for a gloomy, icky place to go to work every day.
The interesting connection that I am determined to make here is that the more you search for and point out positive things in your environment, the more your happiness level rises. So, basically, when you appreciate the positive in your environment, you increase your level of happiness AND raise the level of employee engagement in your organization. You might say that the lagniappe (Cajun for by-product) that you as a leader get from having an attitude of gratitude and personal happiness is increased employee engagement. But you don’t have to trust me on this, (although why wouldn’t you?). There’s plenty of research to back me up.
I have distilled some of the best scientific research and my own experiential findings in working with high-level leaders who are very concerned about employee engagement levels into the following easy, quick, and pain-free tips for increasing employee engagement and your own happiness. And remember, this is all about re-training the brain to look for the positive in your environment.
Easy, Quick, Pain-free Tips to Increase Employee Engagement and Your Happiness:
- Commit to thanking, praising, or recognizing one person each day for a job well done or for something specific that they have accomplished. You may even want to walk on the wild side and commit to appreciating three people before your head hits the pillow each night. Remember that in doing so you are also making yourself feel better, and you will then want to do it even more often. Thus, you will be creating a “delicious cycle.” (Lame, I know, but it’s the only positive word I could think of that rhymes with “vicious.”)
- Each morning, write down three new things in your life for which you are thankful.
- At the end of the day, write down one positive experience that you have had in the past 24-hours.
- Walk around more. Back in the eighties, there was the management theory du jour called “Management by Walking Around, or MBWA.” Put down the spreadsheet, leave the office, and get out to the people on the front line. Force yourself to notice something positive – maybe catch someone doing something right, and then of course, see #1 above.
- If you have a way of tracking employee productivity, find out who the most productive person in the organization was last month, and recognize, thank, and acknowledge their efforts. (Again, benefits boomerang back to you.)
- Lighten up. This is tough for a lot of hard-driving business leaders, but the fact is, when there is levity in the workplace, there is greater productivity. People want to work in a light-hearted environment where fun is allowed and valued. Serious, uptight, buttoned-down, work environments only lead to stress, accidents, errors, and employee turnover. There is a direct connection between the punch line and the bottom line. When you learn to laugh a little, maybe even let loose with a guffaw or two, you’ll experience a release of endorphins and you will be hooked. It’s all good – for you – and for the organization.
I know that you may not yet be sold on the connection between a happy leader and a happy, engaged organization. I can see the doubt written all over your face. You don’t have to take my word for it. Pick up a copy of Shawn Achor’s book, “The Happiness Advantage” or Adrian Gostick’s book “The Levity Effect,” for starters. Or you could just trust me on this one. What do you have to lose? Give it a whirl. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
- What would you add to the above list?
- What’s something you do to create a happier work environment?
- Please leave a comment below and share your insights with the community.
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.