Archive for Happiness at Work – Page 2

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.

Naughty or Nice: Which Makes for a More Effective Leader?

Mean Boss

Which boss do you think achieves better results—the one who inspires by kindness or by fear?

Despite the inroads made by science of happiness researchers in recent years, the general consensus in business culture still seems to be that the tougher the leader, the more productive the employees.

Many believe fear goes hand in hand with hard work and that “softer” leaders won’t earn the respect of their employees, rendering them less effective.

What does the research say? A recent Harvard Business Review article (“The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss” by Emma Seppälä) reveals tougher bosses generate higher levels of stress, not performance.

According to Stanford Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Seppälä, these higher levels of stress “carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.”

These costs include:

1) Healthcare

A stressed employees costs an organization 46 percent more than a healthy, happy employee, partly due to the link between stress and coronary heart disease.

2) Turnover

Stressed employees avoid the workplace through whatever means possible, whether by calling in sick, seeking a new position, or simply quitting, according to research by S. Bridger, A.J. Day, and K. Morton.

Why Be Nice?

On the other hand, nice leaders tend to have higher-performing, happier, and healthier employees.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) Trust

Harvard Business School Associate Professor of Business Administration and social psychologist Amy Cuddy has demonstrated that managers who convey warmth get better results than harsh ones, even when the tough bosses are more competent. Employees are more likely to trust a person who practices compassion and understanding.

2) Altruism

Leaders who put others above themselves gain a higher status within the group, according to the article “Nice Guys Finish First: The Competitive Altruism Hypothesis.”

3) Fairness

When managers are perceived as being fair to everyone on their team, employees not only perform at higher levels but also become better citizens themselves.

4) Inspiration

According to research by New York University Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership Jonathan Haidt, managers who demonstrate self-sacrificial behavior inspire employees to become more selfless, too. They are not only more helpful and kind to their coworkers but also more loyal to the company. Gretchen Gavett explores the contagious effects of paying it forward in an HBR article titled “The Paying-It-Forward Payoff.”

5) Stress Reduction

More than just a bumper sticker, random acts of kindness reduce stress, making people feel safer and therefore less stressed. Managers who foster a nurturing environment and encourage positive social interactions may actually boost employees’ immune systems and lower their incidences of heart disease. On the other hand, bosses who pit employees against one another and sow division cause stress levels to spike.

6) Engagement

Most of us already understand why employee engagement is crucial, and research connecting engagement to well-being only strengthens the argument for nice bosses since compassionate leadership, altruism, and integrity spark employee engagement.

7) Happiness

If you’re a follower of this blog, you also know happiness trumps high pay. As we discussed in our 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace series (see part 1 and part 2), it is far more important for employees to feel recognized and appreciated. When a workplace exhibits a culture of friendliness, helpfulness, and warmth, improvements are seen in areas ranging from customer service to performance to health and wellness to client satisfaction.

It’s time to shift the consensus that naughty is better than nice when it comes to leadership. Let the holiday call to be good for goodness’ sake carry over into the workplace—throughout the year.

Too Busy?

Tasmanian Devil
How did you answer the last time someone asked, “How are you?” I’ll bet it was something like:

  • Oh, I’m slammed.
  • I’m so busy!
  • Crazed.
  • Buried.

Recently a colleague told me she was “doing a trapeze act until the monster project is finished.” The week before, she was “wrapping up a gargantuan project.” Sounds impressive, but what does that even mean?

It seems that people have confused their own busyness with importance, value or worth. If I’m this busy, I must be in demand. I must have a thriving business. I must be very successful.

Think about the perception that your busyness creates for others. Have you created a personal brand as a very, very busy person? What does this mean? When I think “busy,” I think harried, rushing, frantic—and probably not necessarily effective or of great quality. More Tasmanian Devil and less effective leader or loving family member.

The sad thing is this perception of busyness is harming how we connect and how we interact with one another—both with colleagues and with family and friends. We forget to make time for important things like mentoring a new professional (they wouldn’t dream of asking for help from such a busy person). Or we may miss an invitation to a niece’s piano recital or basketball game because everyone knows “Aunt Chrissy is too busy.”

We have a choice in how we perceive and how we show up in the world.

I have chosen NOT to be busy busy busy. I prefer to think of myself as happily making my way toward my personal and professional goals. I take time for things that need time. I savor. I enjoy every moment that I can. I am grateful.

While I may have as many time challenges as the next person, I choose to represent myself (and think of myself) as a happy person who is in control of my life and not being run ragged by myriad demands and pressures. Ask me how I am, and chances are I’ll answer, “I’m great.”

If you are looking to change how you perceive and how you show up in the world, you are in luck. Research shows that we can rewire our brain at any point in our life. It comes with intention and practice. Let me know if you would like a free coaching session to get started.


As happiness guru Shawn Achor likes to point out, people get happiness backwards. Getting that monster project done will not make you happy—but your being happy will get that project done faster and better. It’s called the happiness advantage.


Mt. Ashland Creates Its Brand from the Inside Out

Mt. Ashland

Why Your Culture Comes First

Your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. The two are one and the same—inextricably intertwined. It’s where marketing, positive psychology and innovative business practices intersect. And it’s the common denominator in successful companies. Virgin Atlantic, Apple, Google, Harley Davidson, BMW and Autodesk all have strong brands and strong cultures, and all are wildly successful. I’ll bet you can name one or more in your industry.

Anyone who has been through a branding process knows the hardest part of branding isn’t coming up with a logo or tagline. It’s getting to your company’s DNA (what is at its heart)—its values, vision, passion and purpose. That’s your culture. When you get to that, you can create your brand.

Yes, this is a revisit of a previous blog post, but it’s a topic that’s particularly important to me now. It’s more relevant than ever as my Mt. Ashland—and I say my because I am a season pass holder, a board member and chair of the Community Outreach Committee—begins its 51st year with a rebranding.

Here’s an outline of what we are doing and best practices you can use in your own organization:

1. Define Mt. Ashland’s DNA.

What this means is we have defined its culture, values, vision, passion and purpose. It is real, honest and yet still a little aspirational. This is important because a brand must be rooted in reality with room to reach toward the future. Clearly defining an organization’s culture is the first step in building a brand.

2. Bring the brand to life with words.

What are your key messages? How do you communicate values, vision, passion and purpose? These words will shape all communication and will serve to be a barometer for each and every business decision. Because Mt. Ashland says it’s a steward of the environment, it will look for ways to reduce energy use and landfill waste as well as protecting the Forest Service land it operates on.

3. Create a visual identity with graphics, colors, photos and video.

Thanks to an in-kind donation from Lithia Auto Stores, we are working with their world-class marketing team. They have taken on the graphic design element of rebranding. We saw the first logo design suggestions yesterday—amazing!

4. Live the brand.

This is the hardest part. This is where most organizations fall short. Creating and embodying your unique company culture is how you answer the phone. It’s how you interact with others on the team and everyone who comes into contact with your organization. It’s whom you hire. And it’s how you bring them on board. It’s what you base EVERY business decision on.

Medford Mail Tribune Article on Mt. Ashland

Click here for a recent Mail Tribune article on this topic.

Building the culture/brand is everybody’s business, and companies that understand that have a real advantage. That’s why it’s crucial to engage your employees in your branding process, asking them to help define your values, vision, passion and purpose. Getting their input and buy-in is critical to the success of your brand. You all need to get behind the same values, vision, passion and purpose. It’s vital to creating a cohesive, productive and engaging workplace.

You will also be asking all your constituents to weigh in on what defines your company DNA. This means clients, subcontractors, other team members and influencers. Asking and listening to your constituents (and employees) is a natural way to build trust and take your relationships to the next level. This is marketing and management brilliance.

Mt. Ashland accomplished this with a community survey that was distributed widely and completed by more than 1,200 area residents. Mt. Ashland is listening to the public and making adjustments to the ski area based on their input. The aspirational part of the DNA is based on satisfying public desires for the ski area.

Good to Great and Tribal Leadership Book CoversThe realization that happy workers drive business success is sweeping the world, and the research keeps growing. Researchers at Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Riverside and Oxford University are leading the pack. Bestselling management books Good to Great and Tribal Leadership credit a shared company vision and purpose. A company with a vision has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits or being number one in a market, and this important element separates sustainable profitable companies from the rest.

Are you seeing a connection? The “great” companies build their brands around their values, vision, passion and purpose, which guide the company’s culture. The two are inextricably intertwined.

When your people are living your brand, their personal values are in synch with the company’s. They are happier and more productive—and they are your best ambassadors. Involve them from the start, get clear on values, vision, passion and purpose, walk the talk, and enjoy your success!

If you are ready to get going on your company culture and brand, give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email me at chris@capiche.us. Let me help you uncover your own unique culture and brand to propel your organization forward. And let’s have a great time doing so!

The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity

Business Leader Inspiring Employees

If you’ve been following this blog and other science of happiness research, you already know achieving employee satisfaction is key to creating a sustainable and productive workforce.

It’s simple, really. More satisfied employees = happier employees = more engaged employees = more productive employees = a mutually beneficial equation for everyone.

A 2012 Gallup meta-analysis of 263 research studies conducted across nearly 200 companies revealed that highly engaged employees translates into significantly more dollar signs—22 percent more, roughly. The Q12® report, titled “Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes,” found a 0.42 correlation between engagement and performance. Organizations whose employees ranked in the top half for employee engagement were almost twice as successful, and those in the 99th percentile showed quadruple the success rate over those scoring in the 1st percentile.

So how do you cultivate that employee engagement? Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath explore this question in “The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs” at the HBR Blog.

According to the article, a 2013 Harvard Business Review survey of 19,000 people suggests meeting the following four needs is the secret:

Delivering Happiness Frameworks1) Renewal (physical). Employees are encouraged to take breaks to stretch, exercise, get fresh air or even power-nap. They return feeling rejuvenated and energized, ready to barrel through the next big task.

2) Value (emotional). When staff members feel valued by their coworkers and especially their supervisors, they are more motivated. We explore this formula extensively in our blog posts on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (Part 1 and Part 2).

3) Focus (mental). Employees who are bombarded with distractions, competing deadlines and inane meetings lose focus and clarity about their priorities. Organizations that give workers greater control over their own schedules so they can carve out focus time for intensive projects will see a corresponding rise in productivity.

4) Purpose (spiritual). Feeling part of something larger and more important than one’s self is crucial to employee happiness. Tony Hsiesh testifies to the significance of this factor to Zappos’ success in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Passion, Profits, and Purpose (see the Happiness Frameworks sidebar, graphics courtesy of the Delivering Happiness website).

The more needs met, the more exponentially engaged employees will be. Satisfy one need, and employees will be 30 percent more focused, 50 percent more engaged, and 63 percent more likely to stay with the company. Satisfying all four results in employees who are 125 percent more engaged than those whose needs are not being met.

The following graph (courtesy of HBR.org) illustrates the remarkable correlation between satisfaction of these four variables and performance.

Effects of Meeting Employees Needs Graph

Daniel Pink’s research backs up these findings. According to Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, people need these three things to feel motivated: 1) autonomy, 2) sense of purpose and 2) ability to master their endeavor.

Pink discovered that employee drive goes far deeper than dollars. Offering rewards like monetary bonuses actually decreases motivation in the long run because it depletes the intrinsic motivation derived from the work itself. The carrot wears out quickly, and it becomes the goal of the work rather than the actual process. Businesses would do better to ensure the work itself is gratifying.

Organizations that invest in cultivating employee happiness and engagement by meeting their primary needs wind up healthier, happier and ultimately richer.

Chris Cook can help your company get started on that path. Contact her at 541.601.0114 or chris@capiche.us to chart a course toward your brighter future.

10 Ways to Practice the Negative Approach to Happiness: Part 2

Hill at Sunset: Contemplation

Taking the Negative Approach to Happiness

Here we pick up from our last article on practicing the negative approach to happiness. To recap, Part 1 offered the following tips on finding happiness through the back door:

  1. Be Vulnerable
  2. Humiliate Yourself
  3. Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario
  4. Don’t Think Positively
  5. Give up Hope

Below are the next five steps on your backwards path toward happiness:

1) Realize It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Pretending everything is copacetic when you’re feeling otherwise is another form of counterproductive suppression. Therapeutic modalities such as radical acceptance therapy teach us to soften ourselves to pain, grief and anxiety. Resisting these feelings causes our bodies to tense and our stress levels to spike, while letting down our guard and allowing the pain to wash over us helps us heal our wounds. Author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach defines radical acceptance as “the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is.” Accepting reality and facing it head-on will deepen your authenticity and ultimately happiness.

2) Embrace Failure (or, as I like to frame it: fail forward)

Learning to embrace our failures with levity, humor and ingenuity helps us leap over speed bumps that could easily become obstacles. When we feel shame for our shortcomings, when we lament failing to meet a goal, or when we succumb to feelings of defeat, we lose the precious opportunity to glean wisdom from our failures. By accepting and even celebrating our failures—as in the invaluable Museum of Failed Products created by retired marketer Robert McMath—we can stumble upon the kind of happy accidents that lead to scientific breakthroughs and galvanizing creative sparks. Robert McMath and Thom Forbes write about this phenomenon in What Were They Thinking? Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Products That Flopped.

3) Let Go

The control freaks among us will have difficulty with this lesson, but once we recognize that it is beyond our power to control the universe, our anxiety will drift away like a leaf on a stream. Attempting to make ourselves secure escalates our feelings of insecurity. Countercultural philosopher Alan Watts calls this the law of reverse effort or the backwards law: trying to make everything right often causes things to go wrong. Watts writes, “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float.” Security is an illusion. It is only when we acknowledge that insecurity is an inevitable aspect of life that we cease to fear it.

4) Practice Calm Indifference

Stoicism, Buddhism and mindfulness meditation all call us to examine our circumstances with calm indifference. According to the Stoics, it is not certain people, events or situations that cause suffering and distress but rather our beliefs about them. When we judge a person irritating, an event tragic or a situation stressful, we make ourselves angry, sad or anxious. If we suspend judgment, we can respond more objectively to the situation. Guided by reason (Stoicism), compassionate detachment (Buddhism) and intentional focusing of our attention (mindfulness meditation), we can gain an inner tranquility amidst life’s vicissitudes. Philosopher and scholar of Stoicism William Irvine describes this inner tranquility as a “state of mind … marked by the absence of negative emotions, such as grief, anger and anxiety, and the presence of positive emotions, such as joy.”

5) Contemplate Death

We spend 99.99% of our waking lives trying to ignore it. We tuck the thought of it away into our subconscious, pushing it down every time it bulges through the carpet of our consciousness. We practice systematic denial of it until the moment when it is no longer possible to deny: one day, we will die. As we know from our initial post on The Antidote, suppressing our fear of death only makes it more prevalent. So how are we to cope with the terrifying inevitability of death? Meditate on it. From the medieval tradition of memento mori to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, cultures that reflect on death—both their own and that of their loved ones—feel less fear and anxiety around the subject. If you live your life with a tender awareness that it is fleeting, you will make decisions with greater wisdom and purpose. You will have fewer regrets at the end, and such a life will have been a richer, more fulfilling and ultimately happier one.

10 Ways to Practice the Negative Approach to Happiness: Part 1

Making Grass Angels


“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” —Leo Tolstoy


Living the Negative Approach to Happiness

Our last post explored the counterintuitive notion that the path to happiness may be more circuitous than we think. As we try to grasp the vision of happiness before us, it vanishes before our eyes. According to Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, we may have better luck achieving happiness if we tiptoe up to it from behind.

Below are the first five of 10 ways you can begin to practice the negative approach to happiness in your everyday life.

1) Be Vulnerable

People who brace themselves against vulnerability not only shut off their painful emotions but also their joyful ones. To open ourselves to the possibility of happiness, we have to become vulnerable to the full spectrum of emotions.

Shame researcher Brené Brown writes, “In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity and love.”

In the course of her interviews with hundreds of subjects, Brown discovered one of the distinguishing characteristics of the happier people was their willingness to be vulnerable. Learn more about how to put this principle into practice in Brown’s audiobook The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage.

2) Humiliate Yourself

“Excuse me, I just got out of a lunatic asylum. Can you tell me what year this is?” This is one example of a shame-attacking exercise clinical psychologist Albert Ellis used to send his clients onto the streets of Manhattan to practice.

Ellis, voted the second-most influential psychotherapist in history (after Carl Rogers and ahead of Sigmund Freud), also proposed an exercise in which the subject would call out the names of each station as the subway passed through them.

People terrified of public humiliation (pretty much everyone) find these exercises frightful, but those who practice them come out feeling surprisingly liberated. What they discover is the reality isn’t nearly as awful as they expected, and this empowers them to overcome fear in other aspects of their lives.

3) Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario

Ellis contended that nothing could ever be absolutely terrible because it could always conceivably be worse. By encouraging his patients to imagine the worst possible scenario, he enabled them to transform infinite fears into finite ones.

This is precisely the sort of negative visualization that has been practiced by Stoics since the third century BC, when Zeno of Citium founded Stoicism in Athens shortly after Aristotle’s death.

Stoics call this act “the premeditation of evils.” By continually acknowledging the possibility that we may lose all that we cherish, we magnify our appreciation for those very people and things.

This practice reverses the hedonic adaptation effect that causes us to lose pleasure in things we have become acclimated to (one reason the wealthy are not as happy as we might think).

It makes us treasure our loved ones all the more deeply and buffers the shock should the terrible scenario we imagine come to pass. Negative visualization also induces calm and robs anxiety of its power over us.

4) Don’t Think Positively

We already know from the research presented in our last post that positive thinking can backfire and cause lower self-esteem.

Anxiously hoping for the best outcome also requires constant reassurance that this positive outcome will occur. It tells your subconscious that its failure to occur would be disastrous, thus intensifying your anxiety.

When you expect the positive, you are not prepared when bad things happen, and this makes a bad situation worse.

5) Give up Hope

When you hope, you cease to act. This is why environmental activist Derrick Jensen rails against hope. It wasn’t until he gave up false hopes of a magical cure for the impending destruction of the planet that he was finally freed from the paralyzing fear that prevented him from acting.

By accepting responsibility and taking action, we play a role in effecting the change we once hoped for. This is crucial to our sense of living authentic, happy lives.

Stay Tuned

In our next post, we will share five more secrets to practicing the negative approach to happiness.

As always, you can reach Chris at 541.601.0114 and chris@capiche.us.