Make your employees happy, make money

Happy employees are more productive and that translates to better bottom-line, say a slew of research studies

Do happy employees translate into healthier bottomlines? Economists have established a link between workers' happiness and their performance, and say employers should take note. Research conducted by a team led by Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School, states, “Happy workers are 12 per cent more productive than the average employee while unhappy workers are 10 per cent less.”

But then what constitutes happiness for an employee? Is it fat pay cheques? Or work-life balance? Or is it endless vacations? According a new Gallup poll, what correlates most closely with happy employees is engaging work. In her book, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, Dr. Noelle Nelson says, “When employees feel that the company has their interests at heart, they will take the company interests to heart.” Gallup quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement cost more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually.

So, should employers and managers hire people that are more positive and happy?

Studies conducted by psychologists point out that, if happier on a given day, people were not only more likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem that same day, but also do so the next day. This is further corroborated by a separate Gallup study (2010) by researcher James Harter and his colleagues, which found that business unit sales and profits at a given point in time can be predicted by employees’ feelings about the organization at earlier points in time.

In his book Happy Hour is 9 to 5, author Alexander Kjerulf says, “Happy employees make the customers happy.” He puts forth the point that when employees like their jobs, customers get better service, and are more satisfied. The correlation makes sense when you consider that employees are usually seen as the face of the company. It is but common sense that a worker who is happy and engaged projects positivity, which customers can detect, whereas someone who is negative, or even just disaffected, can just as easily turn customers away.

So, what can organisations do to make employees happy?

In her book Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, author Jill Geisler suggests four measures: a supervisor who cares (happy employees believe their boss listens to them and actually takes their input seriously); sincere and specific praise and feedback; supportive and fair workplace culture; ways to put new employees off on the right foot.

Geisler further adds in her book that hiring well is also a part of the equation. She suggests that organisations should look for people who are positive in nature, hard-working, and will add to the team.

In the fight for competitive advantage where employees are the differentiator, creating an environment where employees feel happy to be associated with the organisation should be the ultimate goal.

Six Inspirational Quotes For the New Year

Quotes are a great way to breathe new life into old truisms. Quotes tend to inspire me to strive further, work harder, and see beyond. With many daunting projects on everyone’s plate for the new year, here are a few quotes that I found particularly inspiring.

1. Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. – Truman Capote

So many visionaries and remarkably successful people think of failure as a positive experience. Truman Capote, Dale Carnegie, Michael Jordan, and Thomas Edison, among others, all argue that failure is a necessary ingredient for success. To these extraordinary people, each failure brings them closer to a future success. Tap into the spirit of these men, and treat your failures with the same attitude. Don’t be afraid to push new boundaries in 2013.

2. Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers

Being on the right track isn’t good enough. You need to continually work towards your goals and keep the train moving. When you find your resolve waning, tap into sources that motivate and inspire you. This could be an energizing friend, an encouraging colleague, an inspiring movie, or anything else that helps you recharge.

3. People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. – Apple Computers

Be crazy. Think big. And follow through on your vision. You can make profound changes in your life, your work, and the world, but you have to believe first.

4. I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me. – Dudley Field Malone

Agreement only affirms your belief. It doesn’t challenge it. In order to make sure your idea is a good one, you need to see different viewpoints and hear the opinions of others who can bring a unique perspective. You should seek out those who can poke holes in your beliefs or ideas, because then perhaps you can approach more closely to the correct and true answer. Before undertaking a big project, or a executing a grand idea, test it out first on a few people who think differently than you. They may bring up some surprising blind spots.

5. Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. – General George S. Patton

This is the best way to tap into each individual’s unique creativity and ability to solve problems. Chances are, they may understand the job better than you and therefore they may see more potential ways to solve the problem. By mandating how the job must be done, you severely limit their effectiveness. More importantly, by giving others more latitude in how they solve a particular problem, you not only tap into their creativity, but also boost their engagement and let them know that their ideas and creative solutions are highly valued—and everyone wants to feel valued.

6. Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible”! – Audrey Hepburn

This last one is a favorite. Often our limitations are merely self-constructed. If only we realize them as such, then they hold no power over us and we can brush them aside as nothing more than a figment of our imagination.

10 Common Leadership and Management Mistakes

Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. – Oscar Wilde

It's often said that mistakes provide great learning opportunities. However, it's much better not to make mistakes in the first place! In this article, we're looking at 10 of the most common leadership and management errors, and highlighting what you can do to avoid them. If you can learn about these here, rather than through experience, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble!

1. Lack of Feedback

Sarah is a talented sales representative, but she has a habit of answering the phone in an unprofessional manner. Her boss is aware of this, but he's waiting for her performance review to tell her where she's going wrong. Unfortunately, until she's been alerted to the problem, she'll continue putting off potential customers. According to 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, failing to provide feedback is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don't provide prompt feedback to your people, you're depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance.

2. Not Making Time for Your Team

When you're a manager or leader, it's easy to get so wrapped up in your own workload that you don't make yourself available to your team. Yes, you have projects that you need to deliver. But your people must come first – without you being available when they need you, your people won't know what to do, and they won't have the support and guidance that they need to meet their objectives. Avoid this mistake by blocking out time in your schedule specifically for your people, and by learning how to listen actively to your team. Develop your emotional intelligence so that you can be more aware of your team and their needs, and have a regular time when "your door is always open", so that your people know when they can get your help. Once you're in a leadership or management role, your team should always come first - this is, at heart, what good leadership is all about!

3. Being Too "Hands-Off"

One of your team has just completed an important project. The problem is that he misunderstood the project's specification, and you didn't stay in touch with him as he was working on it. Now, he's completed the project in the wrong way, and you're faced with explaining this to an angry client. Many leaders want to avoid micromanagement. But going to the opposite extreme (with a hand-offs management style) isn't a good idea either – you need to get the balance right.

4. Being Too Friendly

Most of us want to be seen as friendly and approachable to people in our team. After all, people are happier working for a manager that they get on with. However, you'll sometimes have to make tough decisions regarding people in your team, and some people will be tempted to take advantage of your relationship if you're too friendly with them. This doesn't mean that you can't socialize with your people. But, you do need to get the balance right between being a friend and being the boss.

5. Failing to Define Goals

When your people don't have clear goals, they muddle through their day. They can't be productive if they have no idea what they're working for, or what their work means. They also can't prioritize their workload effectively, meaning that projects and tasks get completed in the wrong order. Avoid this mistake by learning how to set SMART goals for your team.

When your people don't have clear goals, they muddle through their day. They can't be productive if they have no idea what they're working for, or what their work means. They also can't prioritize their workload effectively, meaning that projects and tasks get completed in the wrong order. Avoid this mistake by learning how to set SMART goals for your team.

6. Misunderstanding Motivation

Do you know what truly motivates your team? Here's a hint: chances are, it's not just money! Many leaders make the mistake of assuming that their team is only working for monetary reward. However, it's unlikely that this will be the only thing that motivates them. For example, people seeking a greater work/life balance might be motivated by telecommuting days or flexible working. Others will be motivated by factors such as achievement, extra responsibility, praise, or a sense of camaraderie.

7. Hurrying Recruitment

When your team has a large workload, it's important to have a full team. But filling a vacant role too quickly can be a disastrous mistake. Hurrying recruitment can lead to recruiting the wrong people for your team: people who are uncooperative, ineffective or unproductive. They might also require additional training, and slow down others on your team. With the wrong person, you'll have wasted valuable time and resources if things don't work out and they leave. What's worse, other team members will be stressed and frustrated by having to "carry" the under-performer.

8. Not "Walking the Walk"

If you make personal telephone calls during work time, or speak negatively about your CEO, can you expect people on your team not to do this too? Probably not! As a leader, you need to be a role model for your team. This means that if they need to stay late, you should also stay late to help them. Or, if your organization has a rule that no one eats at their desk, then set the example and head to the break room every day for lunch. The same goes for your attitude – if you're negative some of the time, you can't expect your people not to be negative. So remember, your team is watching you all the time. If you want to shape their behavior, start with your own. They'll follow suit.

9. Not Delegating

Some managers don't delegate, because they feel that no-one apart from themselves can do key jobs properly. This can cause huge problems as work bottlenecks around them, and as they become stressed and burned out. Delegation does take a lot of effort up-front, and it can be hard to trust your team to do the work correctly. But unless you delegate tasks, you're never going to have time to focus on the "broader-view" that most leaders and managers are responsible for. What's more, you'll fail to develop your people so that they can take the pressure off you.

10. Misunderstanding Your Role

Once you become a leader or manager, your responsibilities are very different from those you had before. However, it's easy to forget that your job has changed, and that you now have to use a different set of skills to be effective. This leads to you not doing what you've been hired to do – leading and managing.