Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happiness is Good for the Bottom Line

Should we bring our emotions to work? I was asked this question by a finance manager when delivering a leadership programme recently. Part of my answer was to ask “Is it possible to leave them at the door on the way in?” We then went on to discuss a more fruitful question - how can we actually harness our emotions productively at work? 

At around the same time, I read a magazine where the whole issue was devoted to the emotion of happiness. What is surprising is the magazine was Harvard Business Review. Being happy at work makes people more productive and more creative, says the Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert.  New research suggests that happiness depends more on our day to day experiences – our routine interactions with colleagues, the projects we work on and our daily contributions - than on the stable conditions previously thought to promote happiness, such as high salary or a prestigious title.

My experience from coaching conversations with people at all levels has shown me that people become happier and more fulfilled when they:
  1. Build challenging yet achievable goals with clear and measurable targets – seeing progress towards a well-visualised desired improvement is one way my coaching clients build their self-confidence and become more innovative as well as fulfilled.
  2. Become more positive with themselves and those around them – one of my clients was quite startled when he compared the amount of poorly phrased, critical feedback he was giving himself versus the positive, carefully constructed feedback he gave others and so switched to giving himself higher quality, respectful, positive feedback
  3. Build strong networks where they can both give and receive support – using time away from the “task” to network can seem like a luxury but interestingly many clients who are strong networkers seem to embrace high workloads with less stress, often by getting more things done for them. 
I was very interested to see that the latest research supports this approach, reinforcing the positive link between a happy working environment and the bottom line.

Like it or not emotions exist regardless of whether we are at work or not. Some people are managed by their emotions; others try to bury them. Learning how to use emotions effectively is a skill that gets results and, the Harvard research shows, impacts on the bottom line. How much more effective could you and the people around you be if tackling your work in ways that result in happiness and fulfilment?

So are emotions appropriate in the workplace? Yes – and not just happiness. There are a number of emotions that effective leaders and managers should be developing proactively. One really powerful secret emotion stands out to me. I have seen used to great effect by those in the know..... but you’ll have to wait for my next article to find out more !

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