I’ve always believed that happy people have the ability to achieve extraordinary things. And in the business world, happy employees equal happy clients, and that’s not just good for business, it’s good for personal well-being, too.
Call it the Happiness Effect.
When I became CEO of MEC in October 2011, I had the opportunity to influence change and drive a deeper connection to our people. My vision was to develop an agency culture that other organizations would want to emulate. The hottest talent would want to join and that would make existing talent feel engaged, committed and proud. Many companies begin with these good intentions, but as they grow, their focus narrows to the bottom line, often forgetting that it’s their people who drive success.
Excellent leaders ultimately know they’ve got it right when people enjoy coming to work and feel part of a team that “gets it,” an organization where people lead, rather than manage, and everyone feels connected to a common vision and a shared goal of delivering innovative and inspired work.
It doesn’t happen overnight.
As a first step, we took a deeper look at employees’ personal and professional happiness, which led us to pilot Inspiring Happiness, a six-week training course led by life coach Helen Mumford Sole, to teach our talent skills and techniques to increase their happiness levels. Together with Helen, MEC developed a curriculum that explores various facets of happiness from positive psychology, medical research, quantum physics and Eastern mysticism to the self-help movement. The course has been well-received and has inspired employees to stretch beyond the call of duty and motivate others around them to do the same.
Companies both large and small have an obligation to ensure that happiness is woven into the very fabric of their organizations.
Managers must realize that work enables most people to obtain something that fulfills them personally, thus impacting morale, motivation and quality of life. For each employee this fulfillment means something different. To some, happiness may come from a promotion or the ability to participate in a senior-client meeting. For others, fulfillment may mean ending a productive day at 5 p.m. so there’s more time to spend with spouses and children.
It is also crucial to remind employees they matter. Every single person plays a role in the company’s success, and therefore everyone deserves acknowledgment that what they do makes a difference. Recently, MEC launched an Inspire Awards program, allowing employees to nominate colleagues who inspire them professionally or personally—in turn, helping to establish a culture where anyone can thrive. Companies and teams should also celebrate personal and professional successes. A great campaign or presentation can be as important as finishing one’s first marathon. Remembering personal details about others is an important quality. It shows you listened to that individual, understand and appreciate what is going on in their lives, and look at them as much more than just their defined employee title.
Actively listening pays big benefits, too. If you’re blindsided by a series of complaints or sudden lack of productivity, then you’re out of touch. I host breakfasts with our junior and midlevel talent, providing a forum for them to ask questions, share concerns or simply enjoy a nice morning discussion.
Managers and executives also must acknowledge that work is often hard and not belittle struggles. In our business, delivering for clients is the No. 1 key to success. Long days, late nights and stressful deadlines are inevitable. Let your employees know you realize it’s not ideal, but that you are in it with them. Schedule a spontaneous social gathering (or Flash Party as we call them at MEC), arrange for an inspirational speaker or take the work off site. Make it about the collective.
Happiness is not an intangible; it is an essential component to driving business success. With it as a core value, you can create a culture that puts talent first and fosters highly engaged and resilient people that clients and partners appreciate and enjoy working with. MEC has committed to forging an emotional connection that inspires our people and, in turn, our clients.
How will you inspire yours?
Illustration: Davor Pavelic