BRINGING HAPPY BACK TO WORK
Let me begin with a story.
Somewhere in the world not too long ago, a consultant was tasked to improve the motivational level of the workers in a rubber glove factory. To do that, he met with a surgeon who was a customer of the factory’s gloves. During that meeting, the consultant found what he wanted to know – he had discovered “the secret to performance motivaton”.
The consultant returned to the factory with the surgeon and asked the surgeon to repeat what he had spoken about at their meeting to the now gathered factory workers. The surgeon shared, that when he had his hands in the body of a patent during an operation, he held a life in those hands.
For the surgeon, the rubber gloves he wore were what stood between life and death for the patent. The greatest danger was that the gloves might have micro holes which allowed germs to pass to the patent, thus prolonging post-surgery recovery and which might even cause death.
The rubber gloves that the factory made were of perfect quality and the surgeon remarked that he had every confidence when using their gloves. With that, one of the production operators stood up to proudly declare, “Yes, we do make very good gloves here.” The surgeon paused for a moment before he replied, “No, sir, you are wrong, you don’t just make good gloves. You are saving my patents͛ lives.”
The Best Kept Secret
While we use motivation as a means of increasing productivity, it is really not that well understood. There is actually a simpler secret to performance and that secret is… happiness.
Happiness comes from a simple formula of being proud of what you do, being appreciated for doing it and being able to share that joy with the people you are with.
Like the production operator in the story above, we must look at the bigger picture of the purpose in what we do and know deep inside us the true value of that purpose.
A New Age Of Emotional Sensitivity
Being mindful of emotions is the “new normal” as workplaces become more sensitive to the emotional aspect of the human being in the New Age. Traditional organizational design drives fear-based competitive behaviors which do not fit this new paradigm of emotional sensitivity.
Transforming an organization to one of a shared love and purpose moves the focus from achieving individual wins and securing individual “turf” to enabling positive emotions that lead to shared wins and collective ownership. Collaborative group behavior can mean only one thing: better organizational performance.
Creating Happiness At Work
Workplace design of some of the most successful and avant-garde workplaces today has let go of traditional structured thinking and is embracing the happiness culture. Generally, this means creating 3 levels of happiness at the workplace and here are some examples of how this can be done:
A Happy Physical Space
People are generally most productive when they are relaxed and connected to others. This understanding provides the first insight into creating a shift in your workplace, the shift from the Cathedral to the Café. The Cathedral workplace ensures control and compartmentalization; a system of hierarchy if you will.
Imagine now the Café workplace with a lot of space for people to connect and collaborate. The right conditions to make choices. We all have looked at pictures of Google, a very successful, profitable business and yet it builds office space like Disneyland, the theme park which is marketed as the “Happiest Place in the World”.
A Happy Cultural Space
Organizations can induce happiness in the most capacious space, otherwise known as the cultural space. For example, language has great impact on people. The language you use can create a space of freedom for people or it can create fear.
Continuously focusing and paying attention to a particular thought or activity strengthens the related circuitry and makes physical changes in the brain. Using the language of trust, transparency and inclusion strengthen these circuits of well-being and result in secure, happy workers.
A Happy Spiritual Space
Conventional theories of motivation have long centered on extrinsic stimulation. Contemporary research on motivation has shifted attention from an “engineering” approach to a spiritual approach, tapping into the ancient wisdom of intrinsic motivation. Submitting to something greater than oneself comes from a faith that cannot be sparked by the giving of extrinsic reward.
In the heydays of the Malaysian electronics industry in the 90s, there was very stiff competition in hiring production operators. To recruit people for my employer we went all over Malaysia, literally from village to village. I devised a model and a marketing plan for successful recruitment. We were proud of what we did because we were creating happier lives for the people that we hired for the plant. I produced a blitz campaign around the theme of “Join the Giant” and spent RM 100,000 (that was a lot of money to spend on recruitment in those days). In the first month I got 5 people! I was sure I was going to be fired but my Japanese boss said what I considered magical words, “Never mind, try again”.
The feeling of being trusted was more motivating for me than any other reward. I can still close my eyes and recall how I felt at that moment. My happiness was infectious and people who worked with me were equally motivated just by the power of my aura. It created a wave of energy which radiated through my team. Ultimately we were successful beyond our imagination. And all it took was, “Never mind, try again”.
Authenticity & Trust – The New Motivations
Many organizations have a desire to suppress diversity of views and seek conformance in the name of order. While this may work, for example, in an engineering environment, organizations are more complex than they think they are and depend not only on screw drivers but human intervention to resolve challenges.
Allowing people to embrace their authentic selves gives them the space to let go of inhibitions and reach for greater things which in the long run benefit the organization. The information age thrives not only on digital information but also human cognitive thinking and intuition.
Control and performance management systems activate and stimulate the very primal part of the brain; the amygdala which is the alarm system in all animals. The perceived negative consequences of not meeting performance expectations create fear and divert us from doing amazing things.
Control systems want us to plan the future but really that is just fantasy. We cannot control the future, but we can create it; and we embrace it safe in the knowledge that we trust ourselves to be able to face what comes.
Happy Can Be Back At Work – Just Allow It
Happiness stems from achieving the wonderful and the extraordinary. In my personal story above, “Never mind, try again” allowed authenticity to emerge without the fear of failure. It made my team try new things and drove us to discover the best that we could be. It made us believe that each team member was capable of more than what he delivered. It made us strive to master what we thought was not possible. The journey of allowing people in their jobs to discover the extraordinary in themselves ignites a happiness that is infectious.
Happiness seems a complex proposition to implement but in reality organizations have the power to make it happen. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, suspend what you “already know” and start to re-imagine your organization as the happiest place on earth.
Today’s Enlightened Workplaces
Happy workplaces have people who carry each other in their arms. We often lack the ability to listen mindfully in a powerful way due to a “me first” conditioning. We can increase our mindfulness by paying deeper attention to those around us. Attention without judgment. Lean back, then focus on your own breathing to relax your body and quiet your mind, so that you become mindful of what is happening. Pay attention not just to words but connect to the emotions as well.
The feudal-based concept of human systems of a thousand years ago does not reflect how humans live together today. We may have chosen in the past to control and manipulate people through organizational culture and processes. But we are now in a New Age of consciousness and the more enlightened organizations of today are putting humanity back into the workplace.
With the current level of emotional sophistication and awareness, we can come out of hiding behind authority, process and procedure, to interact with each other. Common sense, creativity, trust and empathy are far greater forces in getting things done. After one thousand years, it is finally time to bring Humanity and our Hearts back to work.
From The Editors: The Universe is currently moving towards a more feminine expression of itself. Most of us would have noticed things shifting around us, manifested as social and economic developments that are more attuned to the soft, gentle and feminine aspect of our collective psyche. To manifest effortlessly in this New Wave of Consciousness which marks another phase of our inner evolution͕, we are to align ourselves with the new energies and allow ourselves to flow with the great currents of this cosmic shift.