Archive for Science of Happiness

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.

Facebook Memories: What I Was Excited About 6 Years Ago

If you’re a Facebook user, don’t you love the “You have memories with xyz to look back on today” feature? Revisiting earlier Facebook posts can be fun—and remind you of what mattered to you at different times in your life.

It made me happy when a memory popped up about a letter to the editor I wrote that was published in the Mail Tribune on April 25, 2011. Just Tuesday night, I was sharing the concept of positive psychology and its benefits with my current cohort of Southern Oregon University business students in my Working with Emotional Intelligence class. And my respect for positive psychology has only grown over the last six years.

Here’s my original letter:

I was pleased to see an article on England’s new Action for Happiness Movement, whose mission is to encourage people to increase the happiness of others.

Happiness has become a very meaningful concept. People are focusing on more than just smiles and friendliness. Happiness has, quite rightfully, become about making the most of the good times, and about dealing with the bad times. It has come to include resilience and a positive outlook during adversity, both of which are significant parts of happiness.

Positive psychology has boosted the case for happiness. Many of the ideas are not new, but the fact that there is now a scientific basis for happiness gives them new life. Research over the past quarter-century has shown that happiness has a wide range of benefits for individuals, teams, organizations and communities. What’s more, research has found that it is possible to build happiness—it is not a matter of luck.

Action for Happiness’ launch event received a great turnout, international media coverage and a strong social-media reaction. More importantly, the launch event brought together a very diverse group of people, all of whom brought their unique ideas and approaches to happiness.

The Dalai Lama has been Patron Saint to Action for Happiness since its beginning. According to the website, “Our members take action to increase wellbeing in their homes, workplaces, schools and local communities. Our vision is a happier world, with fewer people suffering with mental health problems and more people feeling good, functioning well and helping others.”

Bravo! Please join me in exploring further the ways you can increase your happiness and that of others (I’ve just assigned my business students to do the same)! Here’s a good place to start.

This blog craves comments. Please share what’s working for you!

Feeling Rootbound? Maybe It’s Time to Repot

Tending the Garden

It’s springtime, and for the gardeners among us, that means digging our hands into earth, pruning overgrowth and planting seedlings for the harvest to come. It also means weeding, tending to ailing plants and finding new homes for the rootbound ones beginning to wilt.

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit wilted yourself. Have you been rooted in the same career for years? Has the zing for accomplishment morphed into a dull boredom and resignation to monotony? Do you find yourself daydreaming about new career trajectories that could offer deeper satisfaction?

Time to Repot

It might be time to repot. Former Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) Dean Ernie Arbuckle taught a generation of Stanford students the secret to lifelong flourishing: “Repotting, that’s how you get new bloom.” He advises, “You should have a plan of accomplishment and when that is achieved you should be willing to start off again.”

Arbuckle’s advice to repot every decade stuck with many Stanford alumni, including Donald E. Petersen, who told The New York Times, “It’s time to repot myself” when stepping down as head of Ford Motor after 10 years. Arjay Miller, who succeeded Arbuckle as Stanford GSB dean, repeated the line at his resignation.

From Mad Man to Philanthropist

Peter Hero, another Arbuckle mentee, left a lucrative Madison Avenue agency when the pointlessness of his career suddenly smacked him in the face during a debate about Sugar Crisp cereal. “I have to get out of here,” Hero said, initiating a series of repottings that included managing Spice Islands, pursuing a graduate degree in art history, heading the Oregon Arts Commission and serving as president of the Maine College of Art.

Eventually, Hero accepted his current position as CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, growing its assets from $9 million to over $1.2 billion. Today, the foundation has an enormous philanthropic impact, distributing a million dollars a week to charitable organizations.

Hero has found the purpose lacking in his past careers. “I realized later on that the whole time I was exploring new paths, I was moving toward a job that for me was far more than a way to earn money,” he says.

To learn five lessons Hero offers on repotting, see Loren Mooney’s Insights article Is It Time to “Repot” Your Career?.

My Own Repotting

When I launched Capiche five years ago, I was in the midst of a major repotting myself. Not only was I starting my own consulting business, but I was also completing a master in management degree after decades of serving in marketing leadership positions.

My studies focused on the inspiration that would drive my business model: using science of happiness and positive psychology research to boost employee productivity, strengthen organizations and boost company profits. Ahead of the curve, I was excited to see happiness explode onto the business scene as publications such as Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal published a wave of articles validating my emphasis on employee happiness as a lynchpin of productivity and profit.

I continued to reinvent myself, earning a co-active coaching certification from The Coaches Institute (CTI). Adding coaching to my branding, culture and marketing services enabled me to work one on one with individuals, impacting companies through their leadership while helping people achieve life-changing personal and professional goals.

But I wasn’t done repotting. I wanted to apply my expertise to a subject I have always been passionate about: wine. Given the growing international recognition for Southern Oregon wineries, I decided to add a specialization in wine marketing.

Currently enrolled in the viticulture and enology program at the Southern Oregon Wine Institute (SOWI), I have spent the past year getting to know the regional wine industry. I serve on the Marketing Committee for the Southern Oregon Wineries Association and regularly attend events such as the Oregon Wine Symposium.

With every fresh repotting, I find a deeper sense of purpose and gratification, and Capiche clients benefit from my evolving range of expertise and expanding services.

What’s Next for You?

If you were to repot, where would you spread your new roots? What would you find most nourishing?

I would love to help you or your organization discover and fulfill your deeper purpose. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to begin repotting today.

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.

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.

Who’s the Boss of Work Engagement and Happiness?

Time to Focus
Try a new perspective: Instead of asking what your employer is doing, check in with what you are doing.

Whose responsibility is it to create employee engagement, happiness and thus, results?

According to most old-school employee engagement assessments, the employee is treated as a passive participant. Questions like, “My employer encourages work/life balance” or “My manager gives me opportunities to set goals” take control from the employee and put it squarely in the hands of the employer.

Coaching guru and thought leader Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is working on a book based on research he and his daughter, Kelly, are doing on personal responsibility toward engagement and results at work. Kelly has a PhD from Yale in behavioral marketing and is now a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

The Goldsmiths found that the employee has direct control over his or her own happiness, productivity and engagement. Engagement and results are a joint responsibility of the employee and the employer. As I see it and as the book portrays, the employee has more to do with the outcomes than the employer ever will. The results of their research flies in the face of most HR programs, which put the responsibility for engagement and results on the employer.

The results so far have been intriguing. Marshall shared his process and findings in a podcast with Dr. Cathy Greenberg and Dr. Relly Nadler. The podcast aired in January 2015 on the Leadership Development News. I happened to hear it recently while in the San Francisco Bay Area assisting with a workshop on relationship systems coaching through CRR Global.

As relationship systems coaches, we believe the quality of relationship systems is based on the emotional intelligence, social intelligence and relationship intelligence of the participants in each system. In other words, the individual is largely responsible for his or her own engagement, happiness and results.

The Goldsmiths’ research hinges on six questions:

  1. Did I do my best to be happy?
  2. Did I do my best to be kind-meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  4. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  5. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?
  6. Did I do my best to be easily engaged?

People evaluate themselves every day with this new paradigm. Instead of asking, “Is the company motivating me?” they now ask, “Did I do my best today to make progress toward goal achievement?” Rather than asking, “Do I have a friend at work?” they ask, “Am I doing my best to build positive relationships?” And so on.

So far the Goldsmiths have conducted 41 studies with 1,710 participants. According to Marshall, “We asked people to just answer these questions, and we give them a challenge every day: ‘Did you do your best to …?’ Then, two weeks later, we asked if they had become happier, is your life more meaningful, etc. What we found is, so far, 30% of the people said, ‘I got better at everything.’ All six items go up. 59% said 4–6 went up, 86% said something got better, 14% said no change, and nobody got worse at anything.”

The results are exciting. It’s more proof about the adaptability of the brain and new developments in neuroscience—what you attend to and focus on becomes prominent and is more malleable. In this case, focusing on doing one’s best to increase engagement, happiness and progress pays off.

Marshall’s 35th book, Triggers, will be published in May 2015. The promo reads, “Drawing on his unparalleled experience as an international executive educator and coach, Marshall Goldsmith invites us to understand how our own beliefs and the environments in which we operate can trigger negative behaviors, or a resistance to the need to change. But he also offers up some simple, practical advice to help us navigate the negative and make the most of the triggers that will help us to sustain positive change.”

Need some help getting started on the path to positive change? Contact Capiche’s Chris Cook to see if performance coaching is right for you. Call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us.