Archive for Happiness at Work

Capiche Conversations: Interview with Tracy Kaiser, Marketing & Education Manager of Ashland Food Co-op

With Contributions from General Manager Emile Amarotico & Store Manager Barry Haynes

Interview conducted by Melissa L. Michaels, Capiche Contributor/Strategic Partner, Michaels & Michaels Creative, LLC

Ask any local what the heartbeat of Ashland is, and they’ll probably say the Ashland Food Co-op. It’s not only a place to find healthy, sustainably sourced groceries, but it’s also a social hub where you can meet with friends and colleagues while enjoying selections from the Co-op Kitchen’s 200+ menu options. The Co-op team truly puts “people, the planet, and principles before profit.”

The vibrant, joyful culture visible in the Co-op workplace reflects the fruit of labors undertaken by Capiche in collaboration with the Co-op’s leadership and staff as part of a Happiness@Work project in 2013 and 2015. General Manager Emile Amarotico and the board members fully embraced the process and eagerly sought to implement recommendations gathered from employees through Capiche’s appreciative inquiry process. Nearly a decade later, the investment is still paying dividends in both employee satisfaction and the bottom line.

Following is an interview with the Co-op’s new marketing and education manager, Tracy Kaiser, along with GM Emile and Store Manager Barry Haynes.


Tracy Kaiser with Daughter

Q: Tracy, you’ve been in the Rogue Valley since 1998—one year before I arrived, incidentally. Where did you move from, and what did you think of Southern Oregon by comparison?

Tracy: I moved from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, my college town. I was raised in Wisconsin and was the bakery buyer for a mail-order company when I was recruited by Harry & David in 1998.

My father was an outdoor nut, and I was raised with a deep love for nature and wildlife. My dad always wanted to live in the mountains, and he spoke of their beauty and strength often. I can remember flying in for my interview with Harry & David. My flight arrived after dark. I was staying at the Morical House, an Ashland B&B, and I drove directly there to rest for the evening. The next morning, I pulled back the drapes and had this warm feeling that I was home. Since that moment, I cannot imagine living anywhere else but the Pacific Northwest.

Q: Prior to becoming marketing and education manager at the Ashland Food Co-op, you were senior director of product development and innovative merchandising at Harry & David. How did this prepare you to excel in your role at the Co-op?

Tracy: Harry & David is a full circle business model. We had to excel at process procedure, product development, creativity, finances, and tight timelines as well as having or learning a deep understanding for operations and orchard management. My senior VP was my mentor for several years, and I often recall the management practices she instilled within me.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Employee Prepping Food

Q: As a newcomer to the Ashland Food Co-op team, what was your initial impression of the workplace culture, and do you feel the Co-op’s mission is aligned with its brand?

Tracy: Before I started my career at AFC, I felt deeply connected with the team because I shopped there almost daily. The Co-op was my social hub! After I was hired for my position, I felt the connection deepen even more within the team. Do I feel the Co-op’s mission is aligned with our brand? Oh, yes! Spend five minutes with Lynn Scionti, one of our product managers who has been with the Co-op for 40 years! She is the embodiment of Co-op values and strives to bring our community the best products at the best price. Lynne truly inspires me on many levels, including the fact she stocks shelves like she is 25.

Ashland Food Co-op Logo

Q: You are actually witnessing the long-term impact of the Happiness@Work project conducted in 2013 and 2015 in collaboration with Capiche. Chris Cook wrote an article about this innovative work for Cooperative Grocer magazine in which she details the approach taken. This involved conducting a Happiness Works organizational assessment followed by an appreciative inquiry process. Three volunteer teams were formed to implement solutions based on the data collected: Communication & Cooperation, Renewal & Stress Management, and Learning & Development. Is this work still paying dividends today, both in terms of employee satisfaction and Co-op profits?

Emile: The Happiness@Work initiative inspired a number of communication enhancements that continue today. Until COVID precluded group get-togethers, we have produced twice yearly All Store Assemblies chock-full of updates and trainings. We routinely conduct Team Huddles to keep members informed and provide space for dialogue. A weekly Huddle News email provides storewide messaging to team leaders and desk workers. We have just launched BeeKeeper, a mobile communication platform accessible to frontline employees via mobile device as well as desktop. In time, this may replace decades-old all store and department paper logbooks. It will integrate a number of other Happiness@Work-inspired programs, including our weekly employee surveys and our shoutout board used to recognize peer successes and gratitude.

The most tangible enhancements to renewal and stress management are the outdoor break area, which has literally blossomed, and a complete renovation of the indoor break/food prep area, including new fixtures, counters, seating, and computer “non”-workstations!

We have integrated volumes of training for all employees as well as curriculums relevant to specific workers. Examples include implicit bias and cultural agility awareness, harassment, and active shooter training.
Emile Amarotico

The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic!Emile Amarotico

Q: What was it like working with Chris?

Emile: The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic!

EXCERPTS FROM CO-OPERATIVE GROCER ARTICLE

The Happiness@Work project was born out of tension created around whether or not to unionize. As the issue was resolved and the employees created their own union, the Co-op’s leadership felt it was time to realign with the Co-op’s mission and vision: “joyfully working together, providing a workplace that fosters opportunities for participation, empowerment and growth in an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.”

The Ashland Food Co-op created a Happiness@Work Team comprising board members, the general manager, and representatives from the newly formed employee alliance. After reviewing several proposals from consultants, the Co-op selected Capiche for the project.…

General Manager Amarotico says, “This work has had a positive impact on employee engagement. By implementing solutions they’ve designed, employees enliven the entire organization. It’s great that we’re making strides toward a happy workplace and have solutions being designed and implemented. The key take-away is that the results will include more productivity, happier customers, and an atmosphere with a vibe that more people want to participate in.”

Amarotico adds, “I would recommend Capiche to any organization that is truly committed to engaging with the nerve system of their organization with the intention of creating positive change.”

What Would Increased Happiness Do for Your Business? Ashland Food Co-op Aligns Mission with Culture, Boosts Financial Success, by Chris Cook for Cooperative Grocer magazine

Barry Haynes

Q: Recently, Barry Haynes was promoted from produce manager to store manager. He was part of this exploratory process and is a real-life example of Happiness@Work in action. What sets the experience of a Co-op employee apart from a typical job?

Barry: Working at the Co-op provides the opportunity to be a part of a community and family that is not usually found in the typical work environment. Management believes in Servant Leadership and approaches every day with the intent of making everyone’s workday experience a positive one.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Employee Cooking Food

Q: How has your team pulled together in the face of COVID challenges? What measures has the Co-op taken to help keep the staff and community safe, and how has the shopping experience changed as a result—including the addition of curbside pickup and an online store?

Barry: The challenges of the pandemic have taken a toll on essential workers everywhere. All employees have been receiving a Hero Pay differential since the early stages of the pandemic. Additionally, we have been providing a meal to employees for every shift worked as well as numerous gift certificates and other benefits intended to maintain positive morale.

We have implemented numerous protocols and protective measures ahead of and beyond state requirements. Shopping patterns have drastically changed. Average basket size has increased, and customers are visiting us less frequently to limit their exposure.

The creation of online shopping with curbside pickup was a priority, and the team moved quickly to successfully execute this project.

Almeda Fire Rubble

Q: How did the Co-op respond in the aftermath of the Almeda Fire as community members found themselves in dire need of resources?

Tracy: From day one of the Almeda Fires, the Co-op team wanted to help the community. They reached out to vendors across the region and country to ask for their help with products, supplies, and food to get to the fire victims.

And that help came through in big ways, getting nutritious food to displaced families, home supplies in high demand, and wellness and food for first responders and firefighters. These donations and distributions wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated and well-connected Co-op team.

The other way we were able to help get resources back to the fire victims was through our new Round Up Program called Change for Good. We quickly communicated to our community about the need to support displaced families and how they could easily help the community by rounding up their change when they were at the cash register checking out. In very little time, we had over $75,000 donated from our community, and the donations were distributed throughout local organizations supporting our displaced community members.

Ashland Food Co-op Kitchen Cheese, Fruit, Baguette

Q: A lot of people are surprised to learn the Co-op Kitchen is the largest restaurant in the City of Ashland—a town acclaimed for its plethora of restaurants. The Co-op Kitchen employs 45 to 50 people and pays more restaurant taxes than any other business in the city. It offers 200+ products and a highly customizable menu suitable for any diet—from vegan to Paleo to keto. What makes the Co-op Kitchen such an attractive option for those seeking dining options in Ashland?

Tracy: As you stated, we offer a robust assortment of products that support a broad range of dietary needs. We take great pride in the quality of our ingredients. Not only are our meal offerings nutritious, they are incredibly delicious! I often express to community members that since I started working for the Co-op, I feel so much healthier, especially when I make an effort to eat at the Hot Bar. We have stepped up our culinary and production game over the last year, and even with all of the shifts in our business practices during COVID, our Prepared Foods Team and executive chef were still able to curate new products for our community.

Ashland Food Co-op Joyfully Working Together

Q: I love the Co-op’s Vision: “Joyfully working together …  Delighting shoppers … Enhancing health … Enriching community.” Often, a vision is aspirational, but the Co-op seems to be living this already. What do you envision for the future of the Ashland Food Co-op?

Tracy: Finding new ways to reach more community members with nutrient-rich food and making it approachable to all, even if you are food-insecure. We have a lot of amazing managers and board members who are visionaries and strategic thinkers, and we look forward to potential opportunities to grow our current store footprint or find other locations in Southern Oregon that support our drive to bring nutritious food to all who live in our region.

SERVICES CAPICHE HAS PROVIDED FOR THE ASHLAND FOOD CO-OP
  • Happiness@Work Project
  • Organizational Development
  • Surveys
  • Organizational Assessment
  • Research
  • Meeting Facilitation
The twinkle in Chris’s eye belies keen insights into what makes people tick, be it in the workplace or the marketplace. Perhaps it’s a twinkle of magic! —Emile Amarotico Click To Tweet

Remember Silent Spring? Here’s Today’s Clarion Call—and It’s for Civility.

How is it that we as a society seem to be slipping into a scary model of disrespect, incivility, and creation of a culture of separateness and fear? I rue the day we lost our humanity, but when did that happen? Do we still have a chance to regain it?

Talking with residents on a recent visit to Spain and Portugal confirmed my feelings and further cemented my personal goal of encouraging civility—specifically in the workplace, as that is my professional focus. However, my wish is to see civility return throughout our culture.

Below is a reprint of a post I wrote in 2013 with some compelling statistics on the financial benefits of encouraging a civil workplace. So much of it applies today, and we know the benefits are far more than simply financial.

Please do comment—I love to hear and learn from you! What have you found? What is working at your organization?

Civility Costs Nothing—and Buys Everything

It Really Does Pay to Be the “Nice Guy”

With the science of happiness at work as a cornerstone of my business model, I am always interested in new research that illustrates how happy employees are more productive and creative, provide better customer service, are better team players, are sick less, and stay longer. These days, there is a LOT of that research, and the findings continue to be consistent with these positive outcomes.

It amazes me that I still find people who resist the idea of happiness at work—or those who believe the statistics but think they don’t have the time or resources to invest in creating a workplace where happiness is part of the culture.

“Happiness at work? I’m not happy—why should anyone else be?” or “They should be happy to have a job” or “We’re not here to be happy; we’re here to make a profit.” Then I remind them happiness at work boosts the bottom line, and their interest is piqued.

This month a new piece of research was published in the Harvard Business Review about civility and rudeness: “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale—and the Bottom Line.” Guess what? Civility at work creates results similar to happiness at work, and rudeness at work creates results that correlate to unhappiness at work.

Did you know rudeness at work is raging and is on the rise? According to researchers, 98 percent of workers polled said they experienced rudeness at work—with half of them experiencing it at least once a week, up from 25 percent in 1998.

Like unhappiness at work, rudeness at work undermines the bottom line. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, the researchers found the following statistics:

Among employees who have experienced incivility at work:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time they spent at work
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
  • 66% said their performance declined
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% said they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
  • 24% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Other studies have found that creativity suffers; performance and team spirit decline; and customers who witness the rude behaviors turn away. Sounds a lot like what happens with unhappiness at work.

It also sounds like a recipe for disaster—not a way to increase an organization’s profits or become known as an employer of choice. And it’s expensive! According to a study conducted by Accountemps and reported in Fortune, managers and executives at Fortune 1,000 firms spend 13 percent of their time—the equivalent of seven weeks per year—mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of incivility. And just think of the costs should consultants and attorneys be brought in to help settle a situation.

So What’s a Leader to Do?

In managing yourself, model good behavior. After all, the leader sets the tone of the organization. You are on stage, and your supporting cast is taking cues from you. Ask for feedback—what do your employees like and dislike about your leadership style? How does that relate to civility (or happiness) at work? What can you do to shift behaviors that are perceived poorly?

And keep a pulse on the organization. What’s really going on, and how are people treated and treating others? You need to be connected to your workforce and constantly striving to create a culture where people feel as though they have what’s needed to succeed.

In managing the organization, hire for and reward civility. If civility is a key attribute your culture values, put it above all else. For example, at Zappos, people are hired based on fit within the culture, and the most skilled person will be passed over if their values don’t match the values Zappos has deemed essential to its core. Share those values (and make sure civility is one of them) and demonstrate what it looks like to live those values. Be specific. Tie those to individual performance assessments and rewards, and celebrate circumstances in which the values of civility and respect shine brightly.

Rude or civil? Unhappy or happy? The choice is clear. Civil, respectful cultures enjoy the same benefits as cultures where people are encouraged and given a climate where they can succeed at work—that’s when they can reach their potential.

Today’s data show creating a culture of civility and happiness is not simply the morally right thing to do, it’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Contact me for more specifics or for a culture check of your organization. Let’s see how your company can become an employer of choice—a place where people feel as though their contributions matter, a place that resonates with their values, vision, passion, and sense of purpose. It is possible!

Cheers! I look forward to hearing from you!

Lots to Complain About at Work? Here’s a Better Tactic

Have you ever had a moment of realization that all you’ve been doing lately is complaining? It can happen to the best of us. With blatant disregard for schedules, increasing incivility as the norm, and an ever-multiplying pile of work on our plates, it’s no surprise. Seems there’s plenty to complain about.

So how are your complaints received? In most cases, I’m guessing your answer is “not so well.”

Here’s another idea. See if you can find a request in your complaint—and get curious. Instead of complaining about Amber’s perpetual tardiness and Jason’s curt tone in meetings, try these two tactics.

  1. Find the request in your complaint. Decide what would make the situation better and ask for it. Make the request. This is the most straightforward and emotionally intelligent tactic. And you’ll be surprised how effective it is! (e.g., Instead of complaining to whomever will listen that Amber is always late, you say directly, “Amber, your tardiness upsets the team’s workflow. Would you please be more conscientious about our starting time?” She replies, “Oh, I apologize. Sometimes I get so caught up in my kids’ last-minute needs, I forget that you are counting on me to …”)
  2. Get curious. See what you can uncover about the offender. You may find legitimate circumstances contributing to the offensive behavior. And you may find you have more in common than you ever imagined. While that doesn’t excuse the behavior, it can help you develop a better relationship so you can talk reasonably about the behavior and make the request described in Tactic #1. These relationships create long-term benefits when you have ongoing collaborations.

What’s so bad about complaining? Plenty. It derails progress, creates negativity, and amplifies the annoyance and destructive feelings already present. It improves nothing.

You may be surprised how pervasive complaining is in our culture. When legendary Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith interviewed more than 200 of his clients, he discovered something that matched previous research he had read but still found hard to believe: “a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining—or listening to others complain. Even more amazing, almost a third spend 20 hours or more per month doing so.”

Just think what could be possible if that time was shifted to actively asking for what you need and building relationships. A lot more positivity and progress would be possible—and isn’t that what we strive for?

If you’re looking to create a more positive culture in your work environment, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris for an initial conversation. Let’s tap into your organization’s positivity and unleash its potential.

Inspired by The Next Time You Want to Complain at Work, Do This Instead, by Peter Bregman

The Success Secret Every Company Knows but Few Achieve

Adobe understands it. And Google, Apple, Microsoft. Airbnb does, too. LinkedIn, KPMG, Accenture, the San Diego Zoo—they all get it. Zappos, certainly. And these companies are paragons of it, according to Entrepreneur.

Companies who know this success secret tend to have quadruple the average profit and double the average revenue—even while being a quarter smaller than other organizations Jacob Morgan analyzed in this article for the Harvard Business Review.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’ve probably already guessed what this elusive alchemy is since we’ve written about it a lot before. That’s right—employee engagement.

But why is it so hard for companies to get right—even while pouring millions into trying to obtain it?

For starters, most companies are slapping a band-aid on a broken leg and calling it good. That’s not going to do it.

Many of the problems at organizations with poor engagement are systemic, and it takes a deep cultural shift to address the underlying causes of disengagement and build a more authentic, inspiring workplace.

For Morgan, this means creating an experiential organization with desirable cultural, technological, and physical environments.

Out of the 250+ organizations he studied, only 6% were intensely focused on all three—and they had the performance upswings to show it. He also found a correlation between investment in these areas and inclusion on “best of” lists. Further, these companies saw substantial gains in stock value.

On the flip side, a fifth of the companies analyzed scored very low on all three fronts, and employees ranked over 50% of the organizations poorly in one or more of these areas. This shows how far most companies have to go.

But where to begin? Andrew Sumitani of TINYpulse wrote The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement to help managers take those crucial steps toward organizational transformation.

Sumitani starts by sharing this TED talk on employee motivation by Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely:

He documents the significant financial advantages enjoyed by companies with higher employee engagement—including as much as 18% higher revenue per employee. Combine greater profits with the enormous savings yielded from employee retention and less absenteeism, and you start to understand why experiential companies are raking in the bucks.

Sumitani outlines two strategies for boosting engagement:

  1. Create recognition programs that honor contributions. Don’t hand out token achievement awards for simply reaching milestones like working a certain number of years. Most will move on before reaching that five-year anniversary if you don’t have an appealing workplace. Instead, acknowledge employees for substantive accomplishments, innovative ideas, and other extraordinary behavior. This recognition should be highly personalized and spontaneous rather than generic and perfunctory. Lastly, establish peer recognition programs that give employees opportunities to honor co-workers, whose accomplishments may otherwise go under the radar of high-flying managers.
  2. Survey, survey, survey. If you want to know what matters to your employees, ask them. Don’t burden them with bloated surveys every year or so. Rather, short and frequent is the way to go here. Bolster trust and open communication by transparently sharing the data. Then do something with those results. Formulate an action plan to show you are not only listening but genuinely committed to responding to concerns.

Capiche Can Help

Are you ready to propel your company to the next level of engagement, productivity, and profit? We can help you conduct the organizational analysis, collect the data and implement the strategies that can turn your organization into the next paragon of employee engagement. Email chris@capiche.us or call 541.601.0114 today.

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.