10 Habits of Brilliant Leaders

Zuckerberg quote
I recently shared a drink with a friend who runs a small company. He told me a secret that I’ve never heard him discuss before.

He talked with me about his employees’ moods and how they can fluctuate in such a broad way, which really affects the quality of their work.

“A few years ago I caught one of my employees sleeping at his desk. He wasn’t a bad employee, but he wasn’t great either. He was never late, but there were times he didn’t seem interested in his work at all. Then there were other times he was fantastic. It would fluctuate like this all the time. I didn’t know what to do.”

Shortly after finding his employee asleep he decided he had to make some changes. He told me he took my advice from a conversation over a couple beers last year. He began to explain his vision and why he made certain decisions. He opened up his thought process to all his employees every month. He explained the companies income and costs, what direction the company was trying to go in and why. This also opened up a dialog with his employees that he never knew was possible.

His employees responded better than he thought they would. He even got ideas from his employees of how the company could save money and how to improve the customer experience.

“It was like someone flipped a little switch on in our company. I wished I had done it sooner. Almost everyone was happier and much more engaged. It’s funny though. I never got through to the guy that sparked it all. I eventually had to let him go. Hope he’s at a job he enjoys. I still think about him and feel grateful for the idea he sparked.”

People often stop looking at the larger picture because they get comfortable. This comfortable feeling reduces their desire to go above and beyond. They coast along, slowly disengaging and disliking their work.

A study at the University of Alberta showed that people need a sense of purpose in order to feel engaged with their work. A ‘Spirit at Work’ intervention program for a group of long-term health-care workers boosted morale and job retention. This program urged employees to rethink their job, which reduced absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%.

“We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees,” said Val Kinjerski, a University of Alberta PhD graduate who co-authored the study in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

By helping your people understand why they do what they do – you can increase happiness and productivity.

I’m going to give you a few ideas that should help your employees feel more engaged with their work.

Are you interested in bringing more fun and happiness to your team? I’m creating a beta program to help you improve employee engagement. I would like to help a small group of leaders grow a happier culture and improve communication at work. If you are a team leader, manager, HR, or CEO then reach out to me. The program will be extremely affordable (big discount) in exchange for your help in making the program better. If you are interested please fill out this short form and I’ll get back to you right away.

1. Empower employees to improve the company

When a leader listens and empowers his employees to fix the small things, there are more people responsible for creating a great customer experience. Each small improvement quickly adds up, improving innovation and helping keep customers happy.

“We try to have as many channels for expression as we can, recognizing that different people, and different ideas, will percolate up in different ways,” Laszlo Bock, VP of Google

When employees believe that their voices matter, they are more likely to feel appreciated by the company. This feeling then encourages each employee to do better work.

Your organization employs smart people, otherwise they probably wouldn’t hold the positions that they do. They just need a chance to unleash that creativity and wow their co-workers and customers.

2. Share positive stories

Your organization has many stories of how employees solved problems, helped others in need, and other ways in which they went above and beyond to make someone happy. However, a lot of companies like to play the modesty card. They hesitate to flaunt their achievements.

Great leaders understand the power of positive stories when they show the value that they bring to the customer.

A client recently told me about how I helped her feel happier. She explained that medication that she took to keep her emotionally balanced didn’t help, but I did. She thanked me profusely. (I put her quote on my Happy Employees page.) I sent the email to my editor. I think she got a better understanding of who I’m trying to help and why I work so hard to create great content. Since she edits many of my articles, I need her to feel engaged with the work, so we keep putting out the best content to help the readers of this blog.

You need to flaunt your greatness!

You have to share similar stories with each other. Talk about how a customer gushed over your attention to detail. It shows the rest of your co-workers why you do what you do. Most of you aren’t working just for the paycheck. You are also working because you make a difference in people’s lives.

The more stories an organization can compile the more powerful it becomes. If your organization is huge, then break it down into departments. Even departments such as marketing and accounting need to compile stories. Many of these stories may be more internal, but it’s still important to document what is happening so you can share with your people why you do what you do.

3. Focus on great culture

Great results are the bottom line of every company. The only way to get great results is to have support at every level. If one domino falls short the customer experience weakens. You can’t have great marketing and bad customer service. That’s why empowering employees to create their own happiness systems, we’ll discuss more in #5, is vital to improving every aspect of your company culture.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Simon Sinek

When a leader makes the company’s culture a top priority it ripples throughout the whole organization. They want create as many avenues for employee happiness that their resources will allow. It’s this habit that helps an employee feel engaged with their work and deliver great results.

4. Explain the vision again and again

A great leader has vision that guides everyone in the organization. They are able to plan for next year like it’s next month. They know how they want to get there and help explain what he wants done to make it happen.

It’s this vision that helps put into focus every action an employee makes within the company. Without explaining this vision many employees become lost, unable to see what is truly important.

“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” – Larry Page, CEO of Google

Every company helps someone. It’s up to the leaders in your company to bring clarity to who you serve and how you will make it happen. The more ways you can explain your visions the clearer it becomes.

5. Allow employees to design their work systems

Your employees know their strengths. They know whether they enjoy certain projects and which ones drive them crazy. Utilizing this information is vital to getting great results out of your employees.

Allow your employees the freedom to design how they would get the task done. They will own the project and work harder to make sure it succeeds.

6. Listen to Feedback

In order to stay engaged in our work, we have to recognize our mistakes and understand how to fix them. By listening to employee, customer, and vendor feedback, an organization is taking the time to understand their mistakes and correct them.

I have known many people who like to solve problems. They get an energy boost from making a solution happen. I worked at K-Mart in my teenage years and I’ll never forget a look on one customer’s face because of what one of my co-workers was able to do for her.

A woman came into the store asking for a patio umbrella that wasn’t in stock. The salesperson called 4 different stores before she found the lady’s umbrella. He asked the store to transfer it and he would call the lady as soon as it came in.

I remember when the lady came into the store to pick up the umbrella. She was gushing because it was the only one that fit her patio furniture.

You could see the manager of the employee beaming with pride.

I’ve seen and been on the receiving end of an employee just not caring. They can hear and/or see that I’m upset and they choose not to help.

You need to give your people a chance to create solutions so they can feel like they are a superhero.

7. Encourage employees to fix mistakes

Yaro Starak wrote a blog post about his experience at Starbucks. It made great advertising for Starbucks. Starbucks empowers their employees to make good decisions, which leads to the best type of advertising in the world: word of mouth.

Yaro ordered a tea and an oat brownie. He waited for it to arrive on the counter. After a few minutes he told the barista that he was still waiting for his tea. The Starbucks employee had forgotten about his order. He quickly made the tea, apologized and handed him a piece of cardboard that said…

We apologize if your Starbucks experience was anything but wonderful. We want to know how we can make things better and always invite you to share your thoughts with us. The next time we see you, please enjoy a beverage, on us. We hope your next visit is better.

Yaro might bring a friend in with him the next time he goes to Starbucks. Now that extra expenditure almost balanced itself out.

Yaro explained how he felt…

I waited about an extra minute longer for my tea than I should have. That is definitely not long enough for me to get angry and I was served very quickly once I notified them that my tea was missing.

Yet, despite this, the Starbucks policy is to offer a complimentary beverage even if their system is slightly out of whack. I walked away impressed that I scored a free beverage voucher, but not really because of the beverage itself, I was impressed with the customer service policy I just witnessed (hence I’m writing a blog post about it!).

Starbucks did not diminish in my eyes as a result of this incident. In fact they impressed me, so much so that I’m now writing a blog post that will be read by thousands of people proclaiming good things about Starbucks service (that’s some good word of mouth). Of course not every Starbucks customer has a blog they can rave to when something happens, but every person has friends and people they talk to, and this one policy of Starbucks will encourage word of mouth through normal social interaction too.

It all started because Starbucks empowers their employees to make the customer feel good. That’s the benefit to happiness at work. The employee corrects a mistake, and the customer is happy after receiving a free voucher for something of such little inconvenience. Everyone feels good. The drinks that Starbucks make don’t cost them that much, so in reality they are probably losing less than a dollar on the whole transaction.

Gaining a loyal customer.

8. Recharge internal battery every single day

When you run a company you can’t go 9 hours straight without stopping. You probably can’t even go 4 hours without recharging. That’s why smart leaders take the time to recharge their mind and body.

Listening to your body instead of powering through, it’s vital to making quality decisions.

“Manage your energy, not your time.” – Tony Schwartz

Next time you feel sluggish try going for a walk or taking 10 deep breaths. The idea is to do something that gets you away from thinking about work and allows you to let go of your tension loop. You’ll feel refreshed, happier, and make better decisions.

9. Celebrate hard work and great results

The number one reason people leave their job is because they don’t feel appreciated. If you are ho hum about showing your appreciation then your people may stop trying.

You can do something simple like walk up to them and just thank them for their hard work.

People want to know that what they do matters. That means celebrating all the good things.

This should be done in large and small groups. The larger gatherings can occur about 1-4 times a year, while the smaller groups (celebrations within a department) should be done more often.

Making your celebration a regular routine is the key, because you want to make a habit out of celebrating your successes. Try celebrating once a quarter to start. If you overload people and celebrate too often, they will get bored and also be unable to find reasons to rejoice in their hard work.

To avoid allowing this practice to fall away, it’s important to make the celebration fun. That might mean bringing food, let people play a game, and finding other ideas that get people excited about attending your party.

10. Develop company core values 

Making the values visible for the employees to read and hear every day helps each employee connect to a larger vision. We all need to believe that our work means more than just completing our tasks.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”
― Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

I suggest to my clients that they encourage their teams to come up with core values as well. What truly matters to the company is important, but team values are just as important. They will help guide daily decisions.

Help your people connect to a larger purpose. Ask them what they believe are the core values of the organization. You may be surprised by the responses.

Good Habits Build a Better Company

After implementing just one of these habits, assess how these changes affect your organization. You will probably notice that people are more engaged and willing to try a little harder.

“I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

I know one of these ideas will help make a big impact in your company. The companies that succeed are the ones that make these ideas a regular habit. It needs to become part of the culture, so when something difficult happens there are good habits to fall back on. And when something great happens everyone can celebrate together.

* Do you want your employees be happier and encourage them to become more engaged? Then check out our Happy Employees Beta program and see how the Work Happy Now 10 step process can help your company retain it’s great people, improve their focus, and deliver a great customer experience.

How to Create a Better Job for Yourself

Free Training Photo

This might mean that you must learn to get creative…or think outside the box…but you can use your current job to provide yourself with free training and new skills to beef up your resume in order to get a pay raise or better career position, or simply to enhance your present workplace and your relationships with your coworkers.

Here are some of the ideas I have used to successfully create a better job for myself:

I became a notary public in just a few hours online, and I did it with my boss’s permission — on company time!  He even let me pay for it on the company credit card because it would be so useful to him to have a notary on the premises.

Pitch Your Boss

The point here is to try to think of an idea you can pitch to your boss that will help him or her or the company, and therefore make you a more valuable employee.   You will have more job security and confidence, management will love you, and you can grow your resume for the future.

My most recent pitch to my boss was not for myself.  I learned that a coworker who is also a friend has a small hobby/side business that requires a lot of social media, so she is very experienced in that field.  We pay our advertising company an astronomical amount of money to have them manage our social media in addition to running our website and designing our ads.  Their contract is up next month.

I talked to my boss and presented my idea to save the company tons of money by having one of our own employees take over the social media portion of the advertising contract for next year.  We could even give my coworker a nice pay raise, but it would be SO much less than we currently spend.   The company would come out MUCH better off financially, and so would my friend.

Believe it or not, being kind and offering to help others can also be an opportunity for you to create a better job for yourself at work.  Because I volunteered to do extra work filling in for someone on maternity leave so that her boss could cope, when she decided not to come back to work after having her baby, the position was given to me…with a pay raise!

Look for Training Opportunities

Another potential way to improve your career options is to sign up for any relevant training programs offered by your employer  You can also find out if they would pay for certifications or classes.  By taking advantage of any learning opportunities available, you can become a more valuable asset to your company while also growing and improving yourself and your capacity to earn more money in the future.

For example, I learned of a fabulous program in my state offered by Workplace Development.  I discovered it through an email sent by our local Chamber of Commerce.  It is a grant offered by the state to pay for employees’ continuing education or to improve or build job skills.

I presented it to my boss and told him I would do all the work involved if he would let me apply for the grant.  (Full disclosure: If I’d realized how much work would be involved in the grant process, I’m not sure I would have been so eager to volunteer for this project!)

With the grant, I am getting approval for over a dozen of my coworkers and myself to take classes on company time for two hours, twice a week.  With our new knowledge and skills, we will then be able to get pay raises, but the company will benefit financially as we apply the new knowledge and skills.

For example, our maintenance staff will learn more intensive plumbing, air conditioning and electrical skills.  They will be able to do more of the big jobs that usually require hiring outside contractors.  Therefore, even with giving the maintenance staff pay raises, the company will come out ahead by saving money spent on contracted services.  Win-win!

For myself, I am taking accounting and Quickbooks classes so I can cover for our bookkeeper when she goes on vacation, rather than having to wait for her return every time she takes a few days off.  Perhaps one day, I’ll even want to change my career from administrative assistant to accounting. In the meantime, I have a pretty good thing going with the present job I created for myself.

Frame Your Idea in Positive Way

The first time I asked my boss if he had a few minutes to talk to me, I felt him cringe as he assumed I was going to ask for a raise.  (There was no money in the budget for that.)  I learned to ask instead, “Do you have a few minutes so I can run an idea by you?”  Now when I approach with a big grin asking if he has time to talk about a new idea, my boss is eager to hear what I have to say.

Have you ever pitched a new or creative idea to your boss that changed your job or experience?  Please share your ideas or comments!

Contributed by Deborah Shelby of Prayerful Mom.

Top Reasons to Provide a Catered Lunch for Your Employees

IMG_3047I know what you’re thinking! With the economy as bad as it is you’re probably asking yourself, “It’s an employer’s market, so why would I spend the extra money to give my employees a free lunch when I can pocket it instead?” and you know, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that. But you may also be costing yourself money in ways unseen.

Give a Boost to Employee Morale

When employee’s love their job and morale is high, employees feel the most loyal to the company they work for. This means the grass doesn’t look quite as green on the other side of the fence, and they stop looking for a job with better benefits or higher pay. This results in a lower turnover of your core workforce. When employees are good at what they do, they make you money, when they’re not, they cost you. If providing lunch everyday can boost employee morale and build company loyalty it may end up saving you money in the long run.
[Read more…]

Top 15 Business Building Quotes and Research

Companies that put an emphasis on employee happiness are rewarded. Every company has a culture that either supports or detracts from their productivity and bottom line. Figuring out how to create a more supportive culture should be at the top of every company’s “to do” list.

Here are some of the best quotes and research that I have on the importance of work happiness.
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Hire Happy People and Teach Them the Rest

happy-employeesWhen I first started this blog in 2008, I was  prone to depression. I literally felt like I had those huge ankle weights holding me down. Those days don’t happen very much any more. Over the years of studying work happiness, I’ve learned about life happiness, too.

I still feel sad like everyone else. No one can avoid sadness, but my sadness doesn’t last as long as it used to.

Core Happiness

The more work I’ve put into my core happiness, the more resilient I feel. When I fail, I don’t take it as hard as I used to. I shake it off and try something else. It’s this trait that all happy people seem to possess. They never let things bring them so far down that they just give up.

Just so we are clear, I’m not talking about hiring people who aren’t phased by failure. I’m talking about hiring the resilient people who can get knocked down and find a way to see a positive and build on it.
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How to Use Performance Reviews to Make Employees Happier at Work

dwight-reviewEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Sean Conrad of the Halogen blog

A lot of employees and managers experience performance appraisals as a negative process. This is true even for employees who are generally good performers. At the core, the reason why we experience performance appraisals negatively is because we are being judged and rated by another.

But you could change the whole experience and improve the business value of performance appraisals simply by changing their focus. What if the goal of your performance appraisal process was to find way to encourage and inspire people to be happy at work and to be their best, rather than to critique, rate and rank them?

There are several things an individual manager or better yet an entire organization can do to make performance appraisals a positive experience that encourages and inspires:
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Freedom – Rehumanize Business Part 3

twitter-symbolWhen a business stops trying to control their employees, the employees begin to feel free at work. This freedom will allow them to feel more comfortable and happy.

Let’s say you have 50 employees who each have 100 Facebook and 100 Twitter friends. That’s 10,000 people that your employees are interacting with. They are talking about you to their friends.

What are they really saying?

Employee Outreach

You should be encouraging your employees to talk about their company, but never force them to use social media. Your employees will share the company’s story with their friends when you treat your employees like the superstars that they are.

This is where freedom comes in. If your people feel that they are free to do what is best for them and the company, they will use this freedom to make both themselves and the company happy.
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Unleash Employees’ Inner Creative Marketing Talents – Rehumanize Business Part 2

Zappos-interiorYou may have read that title and thought, “What does my company’s marketing have to do with work happiness?”

A lot.

70% of business is transacted because your friend told you about a product or service. You probably own an iPod because your friends wouldn’t stop raving about their iPod. You trust your friends to recommend good stuff.

Zappos let’s their employees Twitter on the job. They trust their people to connect with the customer.

I love Zappos, not because they have every kind of shoe on the planet, but because they ship for free, have a 360 day return policy and pay for shipping back to the company if you want to return a purchase. Now that’s worth spreading.

People want to share stuff that makes them happy. It’s up to companies to encourage their people to share their story.
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Work Happiness Tip – Tag Your Co-Worker

I posted on Twitter about the importance of rewarding your co-workers. I love Twitter, by the way. The ability to connect with fun, smart and quirky people is brilliant.

A friend on Twitter told me that she likes to create tags for her co-workers.

I asked her what she meant and she explained that she likes to give out random acts of kindness to the people she works with. She draws beautiful pictures on pricing tags. She sent me these photos so I could share them with you.
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The Secrets to Workplace Leadership

shh-leadershipI shared a drink with a friend who manages a team of five people. He was wondering how people’s moods can fluctuate in such a broad range, which affects the quality of their work. One of his employees is always up and down. He is engaged with his work one week and then he seems to lose interest. His interest fluctuates and he isn’t sure why.

We all have this problem it’s just that most of us force ourselves to stay focused. My friend told me that he has tried giving this employee various kinds of work to see what interests him, but that didn’t work either.

I asked him if he ever sits down with his staff to explain the reasoning behind the work.

He said he didn’t. He never really thought of that because it’s pretty obvious to him. They need to design websites that exceed the customer’s expectations.

He was losing out on a huge opportunity. People often stop looking at the larger picture because they get comfortable. This comfortable feeling reduces their desire to go above and beyond the normal effort.

A study at the University of Alberta showed that people need a sense of purpose in order to feel engaged with their work. A ‘Spirit at Work’ intervention program for a group of long-term health-care workers boosted morale and job retention. This program urged employees to rethink their job, which reduced absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%.

“We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees,” said Val Kinjerski, a University of Alberta PhD graduate who co-authored the study.
– E-science news gathered this information from the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

By helping your people understand why they do what they do – you can increase happiness and productivity.

I’m going to give you a few ideas that might help your employees/coworkers to connect with their work.
[Read more…]

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