Archive for Happiness at Work

Critical Factors for Keeping Top Talent

Pssst … it’s all about happiness!

Last week, I got to present “Critical Factors for Keeping Top Talent” at a SOREDI event. It was fun to share one of my favorite topics—the importance of happiness at work. With Oregon’s unemployment rate at 3.8% and the country’s at 4.3%, SOREDI was smart to focus on such a relevant topic!

The 2017 PwC CEO Survey found the top three CEO challenges in the United States are talent, technology and innovation. About talent, the report states, “Talent will help an organization distinguish itself from the competition. Organizations need people who can surmount big challenges and tackle complex issues. CEOs are looking for employees who are agile, curious, and can collaborate with others to achieve the greatest results. These skill sets are among the hardest to recruit.”

I believe in two simple truths:

  1. Your people are the #1 resource that will determine your success.
  2. Happy people perform better.

There are many factors that influence success, but it’s your people who give you an absolute advantage.

Happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy.Shawn Achor

Happiness is a worthwhile investment. Decades of compelling evidence shows that improving happiness in the workplace delivers significant increases in profit, productivity and innovation—not to mention substantial cost savings. Happier workers are healthier and more effective team members, and they provide superior customer service. Happier businesses attract top talent and are more likely to retain their best workers.

Why worry about happiness at work? You can count on:
  • 30% Higher productivity1
  • 54% Better staff retention2
  • 3x Higher creativity3

Social economist and researcher (and all-around good guy) Nic Marks uses a dynamic model to explain which factors create a happy workplace. The model takes into account people’s “experience of work” (how they feel), which is influenced by how they are “functioning at work” (what they do). This depends on the “organizational system” (where they work) and their “personal resources” (who they are). Using an assessment developed by Nic and his company Happiness Works, you can generate your own dynamic model for your workplace.

Dynamic Model

This dynamic model is from a Portland tech company Capiche worked with. Notice the colors ranging from orange to dark green. Like a stoplight, red to orange is a non-starter, and green is a go.

Measured within each of the four components of the dynamic model are:

  • Experience of work: Positive and negative feelings, engaging work, worthwhile work
  • Functioning at work: Self-expression, sense of control, sense of progress, work relationships
  • Organizational system: Job design, management system, work environment, social value
  • Personal resources: Vitality, happiness, confidence, work-life integration

People’s happiness at work is not fixed or static; instead, it is fluid and moving, interconnected and dynamic. I like the illustration of shared responsibility between the employee and employer.

People’s happiness at work is not fixed or static; instead, it is fluid and moving. Click To Tweet

Finders, Keepers?

The factors you need to keep top talent directly correlate with the factors needed to recruit talent.

Happiness at work isn’t something that’s reserved for companies like Zappos and Google. There are plenty of smaller or lesser-known companies like these Southern Oregon ones that have it right: Coding Zeal, Darex, Bio Skin, and Dutch Bros.

If you are ready to step up to happiness, give me a holler via email or phone at 541.601.0114. Let’s see where you are now and make plans to increase your organization’s happiness—and recruitment, retention, innovation, customer service and profits!


References

  1. “Insight to impact leadership that gets results.” Hay Group.
  2. “Engaging hearts and minds: preparing for a changing world.” Hay Group.
  3. “Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving.” Isen, A.M., Daubman, K.A., and Nowicki, G.P. (1987). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1122.

Keep Drama on the Stage—and out of the Workplace

In the requisite Stein on Writing, publisher, writer and master editor Sol Stein reveals this secret to successful plotting: create a crucible.

If you’ve ever seen Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you know how compelling a crucible can be. When you pit two forces of nature like Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) against one another, the results are explosive.

As Stein writes, “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit.… the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”

While such a formula makes for gripping drama, that’s the last thing you want in the workplace.

Good leaders know how to navigate conflicts, dissipate tension and redirect negative energies into positive, productive outlets. Most importantly, they themselves are not the source of drama.

Unfortunately, those leaders are rare. A recent Australian study suggests there are more villains at the top than we realize—1 in 5 CEOs may be psychopaths (versus 1 in 100 in the general population).

“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” says Nathan Brooks, the forensic psychologist who conducted the study.

A profit-driven corporate culture often propels sociopaths—who unabashedly violate ethics in pursuit of the bottom line—to positions of power, even though such behavior collectively costs companies hundreds of billions annually due to employee turnover and disengagement.

Just as the recent Wells Fargo scandal teaches us, myopic thinking may yield short-term profits but reaps incalculable damage. Sure, there are the obvious costs like $185 million in fines, $5 million in customer refunds and the potential billions in class action lawsuits from customers and the 5,300 terminated employees.

At a deeper level, however, the damage done to the Wells Fargo brand is incalculable. A bank losing the trust of its customers is tantamount to drinking Jonestown Flavor Aid.

Let’s play a word game. What do you think of when you hear Enron, Exxon and Monsanto? It’s probably fraud, Valdez and mass farmer suicides. Even when they change their names and attempt to reinvent themselves, corporations can never escape the toxic taint of corruption.

This is why it is so crucial to carefully define, protect and live your brand. From the epic to the everyday, how companies and leaders behave has lasting ramifications.

While we may not be in a position to shape the epic dimensions of our organization, all of us play a role in the everyday, and reducing drama in the workplace has widespread benefits—including boosting happiness and health, which subsequently reduces turnover, increases engagement and heightens productivity.

In this SmartBrief article, Dr. Nate Regier offers three tips for quashing office drama:

  • Practice transparency. In times of conflict, honesty is indeed the best policy. Instead of passive-aggressively venting your frustration, explain why a certain behavior is bothering you. Sidestep blame in favor of expressing your feelings. This is a common tactic in couples counseling for a reason—it reframes the concern as an expression of feeling rather than an attack and helps each understand the other’s perspective.
  • Offer your expertise. This doesn’t mean going around handing out uninvited advice. Rather, it means genuinely assessing the problem and offering to share relevant knowledge if desired—the last part being key.
  • Set realistic limits. In a conflict, identify your non-negotiables in a non-threatening manner. Once both parties have a clear understanding of the stated goals and obstacles, it’s easier to chart a path to resolution.

This kind of “compassionate accountability is key to productive relationships and communication,” writes Regier.

What are your workplace drama stories? Do you have any tips on how to cope with psychopathic bosses and smooth out tensions in the workplace?

New Agreements: 5 Ways to Transform Your Workplace

Thanks to LinkedIn, I had a chance to talk with author David Dibble last week. He read a recent blog I posted and asked to connect with me. Funny thing is I’ve been using his book The New Agreements in the Workplace for the last five years as source material for the Working with Emotional Intelligence class I teach at Southern Oregon University. I’ve summarized his work below and added a few quotes to illustrate. Thanks, David!

1. Find Your Path


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
—Goethe


As individuals in the workplace and in the world, each of us must find our own path to personal freedom and transformation. If the release of the creative human spirit in the workplace is your passion, following a true path will accelerate the journey dramatically. A true path is a roadmap that includes proven practices, community support along the way and possibly a teacher. Most importantly, a true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love.

A true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love. Click To Tweet

2. Love, Grow and Serve Your People


“All work is empty, save when there is love.”
—Kahlil Gibran


The workplace can be thought of as a living being. Workplaces are alive because they are made of people. To love, grow and serve your people means loving, growing and serving the organization. In doing so, you love, grow and serve yourself. This is true leadership.

3. Mind Your Mind in the Moment


“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”
—John Milton


Science has been looking at the human mind for thousands of years, and many questions remain. Your mind creates both your individual and organizational realities. To change yourself or your workplace, you must transform your mind. Awareness of the mind in the moment when life and work take place is a central practice to nearly every true path. With awareness, you can create heaven on earth in your workplace.

4. Shift Your Systems


“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
—Henry David Thoreau


All organizations have structural components we call systems. Systems are the formal and informal policies, procedures, habits and agreements that tell you how to do things in the workplace. They control about 90 percent of the results you create in your organization. To unlock your creative human spirit, you must shift from the fear and control that drive most workplace systems to an atmosphere of love and support.

You must shift from fear and control to an atmosphere of love and support. Click To Tweet

5. Practice a Little Every Day


“The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection—even though nothing more than the pounding of an old piano—is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star.”
—Logan Pearsall Smith


Did you know the space shuttle is off course approximately 97 percent of the time? To make the New Agreements a reality, you must practice a little every day. As you practice, you will notice change. With regular practice, you embody the New Agreements. As you move from doing to being, you become the unbridled release of your creative human spirit. This is true mastery.

Living the New Agreements

How does this sit with you? How does it manifest in your workplace? If you want to work with the New Agreements, let’s talk about how coaching or consulting can help you create positive change.

Where’s the Beef? Why Customer Experience Is the New Marketing

What motivates you to try a new product or service? Is it a million-dollar ad campaign full of sound and fury? Is it that steady stream of robo emails you keep marking as Junk? Or maybe it’s those sidebar ads that pop up based on your content browsing habits.

I’m guessing it’s none of these because you—like most of today’s consumers—have a finely attuned BS barometer. In other words, you don’t believe the hype.

Instead, you probably seek out recommendations from friends. You listen to word of mouth, and you do your research. You carefully study Amazon and Yelp reviews, looking for verified purchasers and reviews that ring true.

In a consumer world where everyone is connected, shoddy quality and poor customer service have a global ripple effect that can deliver a deathblow in minutes.

That is why, according to Experience: The Blog author Augie Ray, companies shouldn’t be so much concerned with content marketing strategies as with customer experience.

Where’s the Beef?

The days are gone when a company can glide by on glitz, buying its way into consumers’ hearts with earworm jingles and inane catchphrases. We’re inured to their tactics because we see through them.

Transparency is the new watchword. If it isn’t WYSIWYG, people tune out.

As human beings, we crave authenticity. We demand substance—from product quality to customer service, every element of the experience must deliver genuine value.

Make It Real

We want to associate with organizations that possess a deep sense of purpose and values that echo our own—companies that live their brand.

One reason Thrive Market has been so deliciously successful is they began with a clearly defined mission: “to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.” And the many people who care about eating healthy, living sustainably, and helping to feed hungry families have been recommending them like crazy.

Rather than jumping into social marketing campaigns, Augie Ray argues in a recent interview that companies should be “focusing on improving the customer experience and then activating trusted peer-to-peer word of mouth.”

Be All That You Can Be

Cultivating a positive customer experience is not a skin-deep exercise. It goes down to the bones of your organization—your culture.

As we’ve repeatedly explored in past blog posts, your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. Creating a workplace that is a palpable example of your core values helps nurture those values in your employees.

I’m Lovin’ It

If you want your employees to deliver a WOW experience to customers as Zappos does (see How to Live the Brand), you need to create a culture where you’re wowing your employees.

We already know from research that having happier employees means greater productivity and superior customer service (see The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity). The question is how to get there.

Be More

Honing your leadership capacities will help you foster a healthy, happy culture, and that in turn, will build the “empathy, loyalty, and trust” Ray describes as crucial to a successful company.

Ray writes, “The importance of purposeful, ethical leadership is underscored in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, which finds that the biggest gaps companies have are in attributes such as listens to customers; treats employees well; is ethical, transparent and open; and puts customers before profits.”

Just Do It

Like a Zen koan, the paradoxical truth is that by prioritizing employee happiness and customer experience over the bottom line, companies ultimately profit more. How can organizations not see the value in that?

Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook to start building a healthier, happier organization today.

Note: Special thanks to one of our readers (Lisa Baehr) for sharing Augie’s interview and inspiring this article.

Is Your Work a Test of Endurance or a Labor of Love? Find out with a Simple Survey.

What makes you happy at work? Benefits? Bonuses? Vacations?

Well none of these, actually. The top factors determining a person’s happiness at work are whether they a) enjoy the actual tasks required, b) are able to focus on the things they do best and c) are proud of their employer. Other factors that can impact happiness include relationships at work; the job’s social impact; feeling in control of your work and of workplace decisions; and sensing that you’re progressing and learning.

Statistics show your happiness at work is also a result of skill levels, providing service, supervising others and working at a small company, according to the Happiness at Work Survey jointly developed by Delivering Happiness at Work (DH@W) and Nic Marks.

DH@W is the consultancy firm Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded on the heels of his 2010 bestseller, Delivering Happiness.

Nic is one of the founding directors of Happiness Works as well as a fellow of the new economics foundation (nef) and a board member of Action for Happiness. He is best known for creating the award-winning Happy Planet Index—the first global measure of sustainable well-being. Nic spoke at the prestigious TEDGlobal conference in 2010 and authored one the first TEDbooks: A Happiness Manifesto.

More than 11,000 people in 90+ countries have taken the 47-question Happiness at Work Survey, which asks simple questions regarding work-life balance, use of time on the job and overall feelings while at work.

The results confirm that highly skilled workers are 50% more likely to be happy at work than their unskilled counterparts. People whose work involves caregiving or direct service are 75% happier than, for example, those in sales. Supervisors are 27% more likely to be happy than those who are supervised. And you are 25% more likely to be happy working for a company of fewer than 100 employees than for a business with 1,000 or more employees. Age matters, too. Workers age 40 and above tend to be happier than younger employees.

The 47-question survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. It asks questions such as, “How satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your work and the time you spend on other aspects of your life?” and “How much of the time you spend at work do you feel bored?” The assessment also includes questions about colleagues and managers, workspace environment and your individual demeanor. After completion, survey respondents receive personalized reports intended to help navigate the way forward—particularly if, like many workers, they feel work is a test of endurance instead of a labor of love.

Some consider happiness in the workplace a fluffy subject. There’s an extensive body of research, however, demonstrating that a happy workforce can make a big difference. One large meta-analysis found happy employees have on average 31% higher productivity, their sales are 37% higher and their creativity is some three times higher than less-happy workers.

Recent research from the University of Warwick, UK, and IZA, Bonn, Germany, showed that randomly selected individuals who were made happier exhibited approximately 12% greater productivity, as measured by a standardized task of correctly adding combinations of numbers for 10 minutes. In one experiment, a comedy movie clip was played to a group of subjects. Their subsequent productivity was found to be substantially greater (approximately 13%) than the control group that had not viewed the clip (December 15, 2015, HBR The Daily Stat).

Take the happiness survey to find out how happy you are at work. We’ll be curious to hear the results!

Want to make a happy workplace? Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook at Capiche. She will help you assess what’s happening now and make positive moves to increase happiness (and productivity) at work. Your work really can be a labor of love!

Rewire Your Brain for Happiness: Why What You Think About Is What You Think About

This time of year, I’m reminded of the connection between gratitude and happiness and the need to get more of both. I’ve noticed people tend to spend more time focusing on what is wrong and not enough about what is right in their lives.

For some people, it’s their job. People in professions like tax accounting, auditing, and law may be even more focused on the wrong—the mistakes—because that’s what they are trained and paid to do: to find the wrong and fix it.

What happens when we focus on what’s wrong more than what’s right? Harvard researcher Shawn Achor calls it the Tetris Effect. I call it “What You Think About Is What You Think About.” Granted, Shawn’s title is catchier, but mine is more descriptive.

Four years ago, a Google search for gratitude + happiness yielded 14.6 million results. This month, the same search yielded 25.8 million results. That’s 11.2 million more instances of gratitude + happiness online. Now that in itself is something I’m grateful for, and it makes me happy. That means more people discussing, researching, writing about and considering the combination of gratitude and happiness at reputable institutions such as The New York Times, Harvard, Psychology Today and Forbes.

In a research study, 27 Harvard students were paid to play the videogame Tetris for multiple hours a day, three days in a row. In the following days, the students reported they couldn’t stop seeing the Tetris shapes everywhere they looked. Their brains kept trying to rearrange everything—from buildings and trees on the landscape to cereal boxes on the shelf in the grocery store—to form a solid line so as to advance to the next level of the videogame. They couldn’t stop seeing the world as sequences of Tetris blocks!

This is caused by a natural physical process that actually changes the wiring of the brain. These new neural pathways warped the way these students viewed real-life situations. When people are focused on something—anything—their brains adapt and hone in on those circumstances and events.

A tax accountant may be terrific at her job, but when she brings her way of looking at the world home, she will miss seeing all the good in her life and may be on the road to depression. The same goes for the great attorney, who may be terrific in court but not so much at home, where family members feel like they are participants in a deposition.

Think about what you think about. When you notice something good happening, really notice it. Relish it. The more you can take notice, the more you will begin to see. Revisit my blog post What Went Well to learn a great technique for boosting your awareness and gratitude for the happy moments in life.

References

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principals of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.

5 Leadership Capacities That Will Make Your Organization Shine

Want to be energetic? Enthusiastic? Hopeful?

Who doesn’t?!

Are people in your organization energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful?

Here’s the secret. I got it from education writer Michael Fullan, who lays out five leadership capacities in a simple way while weaving in knowledge and research from yesterday’s and today’s thought leaders.

The five critical leadership capacities Fullan describes in his book Leading in a Culture of Change are:

  1. Moral purpose

  2. Understanding change

  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships

  4. Knowledge-building

  5. Coherence-making

If you want an organization filled with people who are energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful, you’ve got to make sure your leadership team embodies these capacities in all they do—and that the entire organization is on board with the culture these capacities make up. This is essentially your organization’s brand.

The challenge for each individual is to live the brand and to let it inform every single decision made for the organization.

Moral Purpose

Moral purpose relates to three key elements necessary for a successful organization: vision, values and purpose. Successful organizations are clear on these, and their employees embody them in every action. For example, if sustainability is one of your organization’s values, you wouldn’t send out countless direct mail pieces printed on glossy unrecycled paper. If you were a public school system with a purpose to educate all students in your district, you wouldn’t discriminate against a student with disabilities or low income. Tony Hsieh used vision, value and purpose as the foundation for his world-renowned start-up Zappos. We all know how that worked out!

Understanding Change

To understand change and get others on board is tricky, and 70 percent of change initiatives fail. This is according to John Kotter, who spent 40 years researching change efforts in thousands of contexts. Do you want to know what works? In his book Leading Change, Kotter outlines the eight change accelerators. Get the book. Read it. It’s great. Why reinvent the wheel?

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

When talking about building relationships, the first thing that comes to my mind is emotional intelligence. It’s different from IQ in that you can develop it. People with average IQ and high EQ outperform people with high IQ 70 percent of the time. In a nutshell, EQ is understanding yourself and others—combined with having personal motivation and regulation to communicate effectively and navigate relationships. It will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58 percent more effective at your job and rank you with 90 percent of top performers.

I’ve taught classes on leading with emotional intelligence and written lots of blogs on the topic. You can read some of them here:

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula Equals EI Plus Coaching

What Tops the List of Lessons Learned by a Recent Master in Management Grad?

Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Knowledge-Building

Knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing are critical for the growth of any person or organization. The challenge is that individuals will not engage in sharing unless they find it motivating to do so. You can encourage their motivation by making them feel valued and connecting it to your organization’s moral purpose.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
—John F. Kennedy


Coherence-Making

Finally, to build coherence, a leader must be relentless in the first four capacities—that means having moral purpose, understanding change, developing relationships, and building and sharing knowledge. “The Coherence Framework has four components: focusing direction, cultivating collaborative cultures, deepening learning and securing accountability,” says Fullan in Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts and Systems.

Over time, you will find the most powerful coherence will come from having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to-solve problems. You will learn as you go. Coherence binds the brand to the culture and creates the culture necessary for the organization—and its people—to flourish.

Develop Your Leadership Capacities

Capiche works with leaders and leadership teams. Let me work with you to develop the five leadership capacities to forge a strong brand and culture. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to get started today.

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula = EI + Coaching

Happy, Successful Leader with Emotional Intelligence
What will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58% more effective at your job and rank you with 90% of top performers? If you’ve been following this blog, you can probably guess.

Yep, that’s right. Emotional intelligence.

Unless you want to be among the 80% of low-EQ employees classed as “bottom performers,” it’s time to discover how you can accelerate your career and become a better leader by developing your emotional intelligence.

Studies show those with average IQs outshine their highest-IQ counterparts 70% of the time because of their EQ.

Whereas IQ and personality are static elements of your makeup, you can always increase your emotional intelligence (thanks to the wonders of neuroplasticity)—and doing so will make a surprising difference in both your life and work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In a recent Forbes article, bestselling coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and cofounder of Talent Smart Travis Bradberry describes the two primary competencies and four core skills that make up emotional intelligence.

Personal Competence

This first competency comprises self-awareness (observation) and self-management (actions). Your observation skills, sensitivity and ability to control your emotions come into play here. How conscious are you of your emotions, and how accurate are your self-perceptions? Do you practice mindfulness to remain aware of your emotions, and are you able to take a step back and regulate them when needed? How malleable are you, and can you transform a negative emotion into a positive action?

Social Competence

This competency focuses on social awareness (observation) and relationship management (actions), mapping the reflection and regulation required for personal competence to social situations and relationships. How well do you understand the motives, actions and moods of those around you? Do you intuitively sense people’s emotions and accurately perceive their intentions? Can you use these perceptions to navigate relationships and communicate successfully?

What’s Your EQ?

In an Inc. article, Bradberry outlines 18 key indicators of highly developed emotional intelligence.

Here are a few questions to help you explore your EQ and see how you well you meet Bradberry’s criteria:

  • Do you use a rich range of vocabulary when describing your and others’ emotions? The better you can articulate emotions, the better you can understand and thus manage those emotions.
  • Are you curious about people? Curiosity is a marker of empathy, and it also suggests a natural willingness to listen.
  • Do you welcome change? When your reaction to change is governed by openness and adaptability rather than fear, you will float rather than flounder in the face of transformation.
  • Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? If you have a clear sense of your gifts and blind spots, you can leverage your strengths to your advantage while minimizing the impact of your weaknesses.
  • How well can you judge people’s character? This quality is critical to building and leading a successful team.

Ready to Develop Your EI?

Becoming aware of the significance of emotional intelligence is the first step. The second is actively seeking to improve it.

It’s sometimes difficult to objectively evaluate your EI, particularly if you’re one of the many high potentials and middle managers who need to develop this area before they can rise to greatness. Even those who have already achieved success may have difficulty connecting with their employees in meaningful and effective ways.

No matter where you’re at on the EQ scale, you can always benefit from honing your EI. According to Bradberry, “every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary.”

But monetary rewards are only the beginning. Possessing self-understanding and the ability to control your emotions will give you a greater sense of purpose, peace and well-being. Developing a deeper rapport with your colleagues and employees will increase your effectiveness, their productivity and everyone’s happiness.

The Time Is Now

A co-active leadership coach like Chris Cook can accurately assess your EQ, identify ways to improve your emotional intelligence and give you the tools to do so. Chris will nudge you gently but firmly toward outcomes, holding you accountable while inspiring personal and professional growth.

To schedule a complimentary phone, Skype or in-person consultation with Chris, call 541.601.0114, email chris@capiche.us or complete our Contact form today.

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Or Why I Love Positive Psychology

Sunshine Yellow Flower

My students in the Working with Emotional Intelligence class at Southern Oregon University recently presented on an emotional intelligence (EI) topic they wanted to know more about. I was delighted at the number who picked a positive psychology topic. That’s what I chose four years ago when I took an EI class as part of my Master in Management program. That got me thinking back …

Here’s how my thesis began: Previous business bestsellers (e.g., One Minute Manager, Who Moved My Cheese, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) may have offered good advice, and while much of this advice is intuitive, it was not based on research.

PsyCap

Research has demonstrated that specific psychological states contribute to an organization’s success. Developed by Fred Luthans, the premise of Psychological Capital (or PsyCap) is that a company can enhance its leadership, employee development and performance by developing four psychological states in its employees: hope, confidence [efficacy], optimism and resiliency. PsyCap is something that can be cultivated and can have a profound effect on an organization’s bottom line (Luthans, Avolio, Avey & Norman, 2007).

PsyCap is an individual’s positive state of psychological development characterized by the four constructs of:

  1. Hope: persevering toward goals and making adjustments along the way to succeed
  2. Confidence [efficacy]: taking on and putting in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks
  3. Optimism: feeling positive about succeeding now and in the future
  4. Resiliency: the ability to sustain and bounce back from problems and adversity to attain success (Avey, Luthans, Smith & Palmer, 2010)

PsyCap is made up of the combination of all four states because together they can predict performance outcomes more accurately than any single one (Avey, et al., 2010).

Outcomes

Through his research, Luthans confirmed that these states can be learned and the outcomes measured. He worked with a well-known Silicon Valley high-tech firm, where 75 engineering managers participated in PsyCap training. After subtracting the cost of the training and the engineers’ time, the calculated return on investment was 270% (Hope, Optimism and Other Business Assets, 2007).

Increasing Your PsyCap

I appreciate my students pointing me back to my PsyCap roots, and I love that I am able to use this research to help people and organizations around the Rogue Valley and beyond. If your organization would benefit from greater PsyCap, give me a call at 541.601.0114. Let’s see how successful you can be!

References

Avey, J., Luthans, F., Smith, R., & Palmer, N. (2010). Impact of positive psychological capital on employee well-being over time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 15(1), 17–28. doi:10.1037/a0016998.

Hope, optimism, and other business assets: Q&A with Fred Luthans. (2007, January 11). Gallup Management Journal. Retrieved from http://gmi.gallup.com.

Luthans, F., Avolio, B.J., Avey, J.B., & Norman, S.M. (2007, Autumn). Positive psychological capital: measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 60(3), 541–572. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00083.x.

Why Businesses Fail—and Succeed

Adam Cuppy Presenting
Above: Adam Cuppy speaking on leadership (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Why do most businesses fail? Is it lack of resources? Poor marketing? Untrained employees? Or perhaps it’s their location—the company’s too far away from the epicenter of their industry, too under the radar to get noticed.

None of the above, according to Coding ZEAL co-founder Adam Cuppy. He thinks it’s because “their leadership is very poor.” His fellow founders Sean Culver and Trever Yarrish agree.

Drawing a diagram of a snow-capped mountain, Adam explains, “Leaders tend to think they need to … stand on top of the mountain. Reality is,” he continues, “they’re the one holding it up.”

Instead of being on a power trip, leaders should practice humility and service. By switching from proclaiming to listening, managers learn valuable truths from their employees, customers and the community.

Leaders can get stuck in a circular loop, asking and then answering their own questions. This is when stagnancy occurs.

The leader who stands on the top of the mountain “always has the answer.”

Coding ZEAL turns that model upside-down. “As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Adam. “The problem is that if it’s the same person that’s answering the question, you run into a dilemma because it’s not giving an opportunity to the other people in the organization to help you answer that.”

At Coding ZEAL, every new employee becomes a partner in a way. The structure is not flat, but it’s agile and encourages creative collaboration.

Hire for Culture

The three founding partners agree culture is crucial to their success. “We hire for culture fit and we hire for empathy and we hire for capacity,” says Adam. “You don’t hire for current talent necessarily. That actually becomes an added benefit.”

Coding skills and algorithms can be taught; empathy, zealotry and excitement must come from within.

We’ve blogged about the centrality of culture to authentic branding in past articles such as Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First, and Coding ZEAL is yet one more successful example of this principle in action.

Growth

“We are only limited by our perceived constraints,” says Adam.

That optimistic philosophy has paid off. “We’re at a point now that is super exciting and fun,” says Adam. “It feels we’re constantly bursting at the seams. We’re always in that catch-22 of capacity being maxed out and needing to hire more people.”

Good leadership involves finding that sweet spot between too many and too few employees. You don’t want to grow so quickly that the culture becomes diluted, nor do you want to grow so slowly that your employees become overworked.

Pair Programming
Above: Coding ZEAL developers pair programming (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Pair Programming

Guided by Kent Beck’s extreme programming (XP) principles, Coding ZEAL developers practice pair programming. Not only does this allow veteran programmers to mentor newer employees, but when two minds focus on a task, they can spot and resolve problems far more quickly.

“Randy is bringing his expertise to the table, Sean’s bringing his expertise to the table, and where they overlap, greatness happens,” says Adam. “Where they don’t overlap, the other one’s learning.”

By investing in skill-building and education, Coding ZEAL is laying the groundwork for happier, and thus more productive, employees.

Code Occasions

“People are everything, you have to rock everybody’s world,” says Adam.

Knowing how mentally taxing coding all day is, Adam notes, “It’s imperative that there be developer happiness.”

Coding ZEAL leaders recognize that for their programmers, “much of that happiness has to focus around … mental space,” Adam says.

That is why they came up with the idea of code occasions. Coding ZEAL actually pays for its developers to go off and play, to create and imagine and implement their own ideas in a fresh and stimulating environment with one or two coworkers.

“It’s the inspiration, that cross-pollination,” says Adam, “that’s huge in everything we do.”

Employee Happiness

Coding ZEAL T-ShirtWhen you have happy, fulfilled employees whose creativity is stretched and nourished, the company flourishes, too.

Driven by a superhuman enthusiasm, Coding ZEAL developers gladly devote hours of intense focus to deliver products that exceed customer expectations. For them, this isn’t a job; it’s a calling.

By cultivating employee happiness, Coding ZEAL leaders enjoy unbridled loyalty from their programmers, whose emotional connection with the company results in sentiments like, “I will show up on the weekends if I have to. I will do what I have to because I have this vision driving my ambition,” explains Adam.

If poor leadership is why businesses fail, Adam’s, Sean’s and Trever’s empathetic leadership is why companies succeed.

To read more wisdom from Coding ZEAL founders, see our last article on the secret to exceeding customer expectations.