Helping staff to be happy

Henry Stewart – Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd – writes about the simple, day-to-day steps line managers can do to help their staff feel listed to and supported.

“How do we help people be happy?

One of my key beliefs is that if your people are happy, everything else will follow. That just about sums it up for me. Are you doing enough, especially if you are a manager, to help your people be happy?

“What can I do to make people happy?” is a question I am regularly asked. My first response is simple: “ask them”, because people are different.

I often talk of the big motivators: doing something you are good at, having the freedom to do it well and feeling you make a difference. New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Dan Pink summarised these in his book “Drive” as Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.

But interviewing Dan recently, he talked about the need to find advice for a middle manager in an organisation, who can’t change the whole culture but needs something “actionable” to do. So what can anybody do to create a happier workplace?

First, smile. Yes, it helps.

Next, say thank you. Sincerely, but regularly. I remember one person who told me her boss made her happy. “She thanks me every day. Every single day.”

Show interest in your people. At Timpsons – the shoe repair company – I am told that a test of a manager is whether they know the names and birthdays of the children of the people who work for them.

One GP, who had moved her surgery from one on the point of failure to a rating of Outstanding, explained that she makes sure she talks to every person in the surgery every day. That includes coming in early to chat with the cleaners.

Ensure your people feel listened to. I remember hearing management speaker Dave Ulrich explain that you have listened well when people feel understood, not when you feel you have understood. It was a light bulb moment for me. Too often I assume I’ve understood the point somebody is making and start to respond. However, even if I am right, and don’t give them a chance to explain themselves, they will not feel listened to.

And next time you are tempted to tell somebody how to do something or offer a solution, pause for a moment. This may seem helpful, but try assuming they are capable of figuring it out. Ask questions and help them find their own solution.

At Happy, a core overall principle is that every interaction should leave the other person feeling good, even when dealing with a performance issue. People think best when they feel supported and valued, not when they feel under pressure.

What can you do to help your colleagues be happy, and feel valued today?”

This article was first published in Training Journal, September 2017 and has been adapted for the Business Healthy blog

Xenia Koumi

Xenia is a Public Health Specialist at the City of London Corporation and leads the Business Healthy programme