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Happy @ Work? 
by JoAnna Brandi


In my first book "Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal and Keep 'em Coming Back" I share lots of different ways to build customer loyalty and engagement. One of those ways is called "Create Groupies." One of the examples I share in my speeches of the same name tells the story of a company called Merit Direct. Every year Merit runs a "Co-op" in July and brings together their customers with industry experts for two and a half days of learning, sharing, eating, drinking, dancing, golf and every year, "Karaoke Kaos." There's nothing more engaging then singing along to your client's favorite tunes, except perhaps dancing the "Macarena" or the Electric slide with them. I speak at the conference every year, and this year I had the joy and the privilege to deliver the luncheon speech which I titled "Happy @ Work?".

Since many of you don't get the chance to hear my speeches, I thought I would give you the highlights of this one which am sure will become one of my favorites. (And yours too if you have a meeting in the future where you need an inspiring keynote address.)

Herewith some of my thoughts on the topic: 

There are more heart attacks on Monday morning prior to 9AM than any other time of the week. Is it any wonder? 84% of US workers report they are Unhappy at work. That would explain the dismal reports coming from the Gallup organization that tell us that less than one third of the workforce is actually engaged in their work. Gallup estimates that disengagement is responsible for 375 Billion dollars in lost productivity - and that just the direct costs!

Productivity lost because people are unhappy at work. 

While Happiness is a choice - a personal choice - it is to a company's advantage to create the kind of working environment and use the kind of leadership practices - that bring out the best in people, help them feel good about work and their contribution to it.

When people feel good at work they are more productive, more creative, more resilient, more likely to achieve their goals.  Here are 7 ways that you can create happier, more engaged employees. 

1. Give people the opportunity to use their strengths and skills.

People who have the chance to do what they do best - to be in their strength zone - are more likely to be engaged in their job then those who don't. 

When you're NOT in the strength zone you're 6 times LESS likely to be engaged in your job - you are more likely to dread going to work, you are more likely to have negative attitudes and interactions, you're more likely to treat the customer poorly and have few, if any, creative moments.

That makes sense - when people have the chance to do what they do best - they FEEL good about where they are and what they are doing.  What percentage of a typical day do you get to play to your strengths? The higher the percentage, the more likely you are to enjoy your job.

We all know we get more of what we focus on. Focus on weaknesses - they expand.  Focus on strengths, they do too. There are many good levers for engaging performance - by far the master lever for engaging employees and increasing performance is to help people discover and play to their strengths.  

Focusing on an employee's strengths gives them confidence, self assurance and increases their well being. 

2. Provide challenge, stretch goals and opportunities for advancement. 

Ongoing surveys by Career Systems Int'l say that almost half (48.4%) of their respondents claim that "exciting work and challenge" top the list of reasons for staying on the job. Second on the list is "career growth, learning and development.

People today are on the move, they don't want a job they can have forever they want a job that stretches them, a job that expands them and that helps them move to the next level. Strengths-based doesn't mean ignoring weaknesses - it means identifying and using strengths to improve in all areas.

As we help employees stretch their comfort zones, they become more and more capable, more and more competent and create more and more value.

3. Provide a balance between stress and recovery. 

Everybody's stressed - nobody has time - everybody's inbox is full.  We're multitasking so much that we becoming ineffective. Accuracy rates are going down and stress related illness are going up.

We try managing our time but TIME is really not the issue. Energy is. Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. When we work from our strengths we create more energy, when we work from our weaknesses we deplete energy.

Every thought, feeling, activity, or behavior has an energy cost.  All day long there are energy gains and energy drains. Becoming more aware of where our energy is going, and when it's spent frivolously will help us manage it.  

Create "recovery time" during the day. Let people work on a single project for an hour.  Set aside small bits of time where people can relax, renew, rejuvenate before taking on the next thing.  Build rituals to insure a balance between stress and recovery.

4. Express authentic appreciation.

William James said the deepest human need is that for appreciation. When leaders develop the art of listening deeply and giving meaningful feedback and genuine appreciation, performance increases.  

When feeling appreciation - we create a positive emotional and physical response that changes our bio chemistry and the variability patterns of our heart. 

Create a ritual - start and end a meeting with gratitude and appreciation. I've never heard an employee complain that they get appreciated too much. Leaders have the opportunity to create behaviors that help people feel valued and appreciated.  Do it often - Do it sincerely.

5. Create connection to people and purpose - a "cause"- There are three faces to enduring happiness. Pleasure, engagement and meaning. 

Jason Jennings, author of "Think Big Act Small" and "Less is More" studied over 160,000 companies - to find the fastest and the most productive. He says the best companies turn their mission and vision into a cause. They connect their people with a compelling "why" to do business. A cause gives meaning to people's lives. It provides purpose, fuels passion, drives momentum and builds culture. And according to Jason "culture is the ultimate competitive advantage." I agree.

Cause is one of the things that help people feel connected - another is friends. According to Gallup - people are 7 times more likely to be engaged when they have a best friend at work. Give people the opportunities to create and cultivate friendships and connect them to a cause bigger than themselves and you are contributing to their happiness and well being. 

6. Shift from "Power over" to "Power with."

We've all experienced the first big power shift in the marketplace - the power has shifted from the people who sell to the people who buy. Now we need to look at the power shift that needs to happen inside our companies. The newest shift in the model from Power over to Power with.  

There are still vestiges of "Power Over" today: decisions are made at the top; critical information is given to only a few, there is a mechanistic view of the organization as a machine.  There are lots of rules, often there is an environment of fear.  This model that tends to dwell on weakness - looks for what's wrong and who's to blame for it. The old attitude that characterized the command and control models still exist in some form in lots of companies.

Want to engage and involve employees? You have to believe in their brilliance, not just your own.  "Power With" is a more organic model. It sees the organization as a system where everything is related; it strives for intrinsic motivation by connection to that cause.  

It's all about leveraging the strengths and including the people that do the work in the decision making processes. It's a win-win model.

How do you get to this model? You master the art of letting go. It's one of the hardest things for a manager or leader. Let go of ego, let go of the need to be right, let go of same old same old. Let go.  

7.  Use Positive Leadership practices.

Let me start by saying this - because people misunderstand me frequently - there is a place for negative thinking in business - there are positive uses for pessimism. Negative emotions play an important role in helping us navigate around danger - there are times when it's very important to look at "what's wrong" of things.  

However - too much of this kind of thinking and managing narrows our outlook and perspective and physiologically puts us in a state of contraction where creativity and innovation are impossible. Honor the place negative thinking has in business but don't worship it. In business - as in marriage - if you want to flourish use the 5:1 ratio.

Five positive interactions to every one negative. Spend five times more of your time in positive frames than in negative ones. Give five times more positive than corrective feedback. The experience of positive emotions:  

Widens our scope of attention, gives us more choices, increases our intuition, increases our creativity, speeds problem solving.

Alters the front brain symmetry; increases our immune function; lowers our cortisol levels and speeds recovery from cardio vascular effects of negativity.

Increases our resilience to adversity; increases our happiness; reduces our inflammatory response to stress; reduces pain; reduces the likelihood of stroke and high blood pressure.  

Positive emotion increases our psychological capital and produce hope, optimism, resilience and efficacy.

And there is a clear link between positive emotions and longevity - optimists live on average 7-9 years longer than pessimists.  

Over time positive emotions make us healthier, more socially adept, more knowledgeable, more effective and, yes, resilient. Powerful reasons for creating positivity. 

Want to keep more customers and keep them happy? Start today. Create more value and focus in the workplace and you'll create more value in the marketplace.


The Author

JoAnna Brandi

JoAnna Brandi is the Publisher of the Customer Care Coach® leadership program. She is the author of three books: "Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back" "Building Customer Loyalty - 21 Essential Elements in ACTION" and "54 Ways to stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World" JoAnna is an accomplished public speaker and a contributing author to numerous business publications. Her work in customer loyalty has been cited in Fortune Magazine, Sales and Marketing Magazine, The Executive Report on Customer Retention, US Banker, the Retail Advantage, The Kiplinger Letter, The Competitive Advantage and dozens of others.

You can subscribe to her bi-weekly Customer Care Tip for free and find more of her work at and .

Many more articles in The Customer Care Coach and Motivation & Retention in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2008 by JoAnna Brandi. All rights reserved.

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