Happiness leads to success

Many people think that growing their business will eventually lead to happiness, but surprisingly; it’s the other way around. Research over the past few years quantifies the link between happiness and corporate outcomes, reporting that unhappiness has a direct correlation with lower productivity.

While some managers and business owners still believe stress and fear are the best ways to motivate employees, the Gallup Poll Research and McKinsey Studies have proven otherwise. Happiness boosts performance.

Knowing happiness affects performance, leaders can be mindful of five positive contributors to happiness and growth: wellness, reward, employee engagement, divergent thinking, and fun.

Wellness not only cuts insurance costs, it gives us the vital energy needed to overcome obstacles. When we have energy to overcome obstacles, not only do we have higher self-esteem, we have happiness.

Of course we all know plenty of rest, exercise, eating right and drinking plenty of water is essential to staying well. But what many people do not know is how plenty of sleep, exercise and certain foods also produce hormones and chemical changes in our brain, which can change our happiness, and therefore our performance. Serotonin and endorphins are sometimes called the “happiness hormones” and regulate our mood, preventing depression. These hormones can be released by exercise. Phenylethamine is the hormone that results in that high we feel when we fall in love and can be reproduced with a little chocolate or cocoa beans! Ghrelin is a hormone that reduces stress and can help you be more relaxed. Allowing yourself to become a little hungry, not filling your stomach completely, rises the levels of Ghrelin to give us that extra dose of calm we need to get through the next obstacle.

When it comes to reward, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, explains how the neurotransmitter dopamine influences the pursuit of happiness when there is a reasonable, but somewhat uncertain chance for reward. Making rewards likely but not predictable creates an almost addictive response to pursue achievement, replacing what could otherwise mean a culture of entitlement or complacency to the profits. Therefore tying goals to specific and measureable behaviors and results, with a certainty of a reward but an anticipation of the exact amount, can send dopamine soaring high and growth following along the same upward curve.

Employee engagement, the kind that asks the employee what they would do to solve the problem at hand, not only raises an employee’s self-esteem but acts as a means of recognition for their valuable contribution, according to the McKinsey study. Understanding that this type of recognition is more valuable to employees than money is surprising to some leaders. The reason: their worth is being validated by giving them a voice in the problems they will be ultimately responsible to fix.

Divergent perspective is also associated with happiness and growth, and while it is a product of dopamine, it is also activated by divergent thinking. What we think about we bring about, and divergent thinking helps us feel empowered when obstacles appear, which is a daily occurrence in most businesses. Understanding this, leaders can ensure growth by teaching their employees the “How might we?” attitude to overcome unpleasant happenings. Instead of wasting time and energy fretting over who’s to blame, imagine the first question being, “How might we solve this issue at hand?” Then, when the problem is solved, there can be a process improvement approach to ensuring a new standard of behavior is set for the future, making the experience one to learn from and improve upon.

And last, but not least: we have a choice to approach any situation with either stress or a lightness that makes solving the issue at hand fun. When we make it fun, we breathe more deeply, entering the process of creativity versus dread. Holding onto anticipation that “together we will find an answer” is quite exhilarating and opens up the corpus callosum in the brain, allowing us to access higher brain thinking. As a result, we are more apt to find the solution we need, and enjoy the exploration as well.

When it comes to growth, while having a clear strategic plan is important to map out a destination, happiness is equally as important to fuel the engine that must drive the workforce to the desired outcome. If we wait to be happy until after we have met our growth goals, we are missing the opportunities to create happiness along the way, as well as greater results.

Challenge: What do you need to do to create more happiness in your workplace, so you can create more growth?

Susan K. Wehrley has been a business development coach and consultant for 25 years. She is president of Susan K. Wehrley & Associates Inc. (www.solutionsbysusan.com). Her online growth community, called BIZremedies, offers resources and tools for entrepreneurs (www.BIZremedies.com). She can be reached at (414) 581-0449 or Susan@solutionsbysusan.com.

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