Understanding ‘happiness’ as the secret ingredient for successful teams

In the teams I lead, the happiness of individuals is something that matters to me and the reason it matters is because people spend a lot of time at work and I want that time to enhance their lives in some way. 

In a previous blog post, I wrote about helping people to experience ‘flow’ and I acknowledged that we would all probably prefer to be at home, in a sunny garden, with our friends and family, enjoying our time.  Instead, we probably all spend more time than we would like at work with many of us racing the clock to get everything done and the sad fact is that too many people have jobs and managers that make them miserable.

Figures show that ‘over half of the British workforce are unhappy at work which is both a tragedy and a waste of potential’.  The stress that unhappy workplaces create seeps into our personal lives, leaving us in a situation where, even at the weekend, that time with friends and family cannot truly be enjoyed.

So often, I have talked about the importance of happiness in the workplace and I know that many senior leaders misunderstand why this is important and think happiness is a ‘nice’ thing rather than something critical for success.  They see happiness as a concept that is too soft and fluffy for a serious working environment.

It’s understandable that they think this to a certain extent but if they fully understood the concept of happiness, they might well take a different view.

Happiness and Change Coach, Samantha Clarke, describes happiness in the workplace as being something which allows people to ‘bring their whole self to work’.  When I speak about the importance of people being happy at work, this is what I am referring to.  It isn’t happiness for happiness’ sake, it’s about making work satisfying so that they are not stressed and miserable for a start but more importantly because if they are happy at work, then they are likely to be loyal, committed and productive.

In measuring staff engagement, one of the indicators in the Gallup q12 index is whether people ‘have a best friend at work’.  This doesn’t seem like an important question for satisfaction at work but Gallup say their ‘research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort they expend in their job’.  Really, it’s about connection.  We spend so much time at work that when individuals feel a greater sense of belonging, it makes them feel more engaged.

What we need to realise to understand this fully is that happiness has two components:

Hedonic well-being is the feeling of pleasure in the moment.  It’s the kind of happiness you might get from going to a party.  It’s a feeling of heightened enjoyment which is sensory and short-lived.  It’s like a dopamine hit – a high that feels immediately satisfying but quickly fades away.

Lasting happiness is what we gain from having meaning and purpose in our lives. In positive psychology, this is known as eudaimonic well-being and is about fulfilling our potential and feeling we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  It’s about having a purpose and links to a range of work on leadership and motivation such as Dan Pink’s ‘Drive’ and Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’.

The key to understanding happiness is noticing the difference between pleasure and satisfaction.  Most probably, those who have been less convinced about the importance of happiness at work, connect the concept of happiness with that of pleasure.  The concept of satisfaction however, is what you need to consider for this to make sense.  For an engaged workforce, these feelings of happiness need to be encouraged.

If you are asking yourself now how you can create this in your organisations?  This blog is founded in positive psychology so if you look through, you will find lots of ideas for motivating and engaging individuals.  My top 3 articles to read next if you want to increase the levels of happiness in your teams would be the 80/20 balance, results-only working environment, how ‘warm and fuzzy’ motivates teams.

If you have successes to share or questions about how to raise the levels of happiness in your teams, please add them to the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Why putting people first pays dividends for employers

A few articles have come to my attention recently around flexible working and in particular the challenges for working parents in what can sometimes be a fight to get employers to recognise the value in supporting employees to achieve a good balance.

Beginning my career working for myself, I was able to see the benefits of flexible working, being able to fulfil my professional responsibilities at times that worked for me and also manage personal commitments. Since then, I have championed flexibility in the workplace and heard both employers and staff challenge this over the years.

One article that really spoke to me recently shared the story of a woman who had returned from maternity leave and requested flexible working arrangements. As part of a restructure, her line Manager decided that all roles needed to be full-time and her application was turned down. A legal case decided that the employer had made this decision without evidence and the tribunal resulted in a finding of Unfair Dismissal and Indirect Sex Discrimination.

Another article that I came across yesterday, shared the story of an employer who came into the office and found a woman crying at her desk. When he asked why, he discovered that she had been up all night with a sick child and had come into work because she had no leave that she could use and needed to be paid.

Now, I’m guessing that many employers feel wary of giving an inch in case people take a mile and before you know it, you are paying for staff who are never there. I do think though that parents especially can be in a difficult situation, trying to pay high costs of childcare, deliver for their employer and meet the needs of their offspring.

It reminds me of a quote I saw the other week: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” This isn’t exclusively women anymore but the pressure is still the same and I do hear strong opinion from other mums against women who choose to work full-time.

What I find in managing my team is that they want to be in work and do their jobs well. It’s a fact though that sometimes home and family commitments need more immediate attention in the same way that some days they need to work late or over the weekend. They don’t mind giving their own time for work commitments so why would I make it difficult for them when they have issues at home they need to deal with? If their car had broken down, I would let them take the time they need to fix it so why wouldn’t I let them have the flexibility they need when their child is sick?

Companies that have a flexi-time system can be useful in these situations but I still see so many of these systems based on initial theory from the model’s inception which fails to offer genuine flexibility. And I hear of even more employers that say ‘flexible working is great but it wouldn’t work here’. These are most likely the same employers that want their staff in the office late every night or working on demand.

What I’m saying here is that many people with caring responsibilities want to work and it’s often even more important for this group because they want balance but for very practical reasons, it needs to be both ways.

Also, I think that it pays dividends when employers put people first because it returns a level of loyalty and commitment that money can’t buy.

Do you manage people flexibly with positive results?  Do you have experience to share on flexible working requests? If so, please share in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

(Image by William Iven from Pixabay)

Barriers and benefits of Shared Parental Leave

On Monday, I will head to the office for the first time in six months as my maternity leave ends and my husband takes over at home as primary carer for our baby boy.

According to figures, take up of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is as low as 2% and with enhanced packages mostly reserved for mothers, it’s easy to understand why. Some of the large private sector companies that really want to do their bit for gender equality, offer generous packages for Dads but for many, SPL is a luxury they just can’t afford to take up.

As someone who campaigned for parents to have the right to share their leave in whatever way they see fit, it’s only right that I would swap with my husband and let him take the strain at home while I go back to work. Financially, it makes sense for us too which is what SPL has always been about – families being able to manage their responsibilities with the main earner able to continue to work and baby being cared for by a parent regardless of which one it is.

Looking back, I remember how many people said I would change my mind both about sharing my leave and about going back full time but I haven’t and I’m ready to go back to a job I love and let father and son have their own time to bond.

As the big day approaches, I’m excited at the prospect of a full nights’ sleep and freedom to just ‘pop to the shop’. Plus, actually, I think it makes sense to have three months to recover from so many sleepless nights before we both have to adjust to a new life in which we battle to balance work and family life.

In terms of Dad’s thoughts, it’s his last day at work tomorrow and he is looking forward to having lots of quality time with his son and continuing to show him the world. He is both excited and apprehensive about having three months away from work for the same reasons as many of us mums. Some of the things he has mentioned include concerns about a reduction in wages and how we will manage, missed career opportunities and a fear of being left behind at work.

I do feel a little sad that this special time is nearly over but I’m happy that my husband will also have the opportunity to care for our child and take an active role. I’ve known all along that I can’t do it all on my own and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share the care right from the beginning.

So what stops more Dads from taking the opportunity? Many mums don’t want to cut their maternity leave short to allow Dad to take a turn and many that are happy to do that can’t afford to. It seems to me that employers should offer the same enhanced package for Shared Parental Leave as they do for Maternity Leave but until they do, the uptake will remain low.

Only yesterday, a campaign to provide access to baby changing facilities for Dads was in the news, highlighting the role of fathers in raising their children. It’s right that the world should change to recognise that children have two parents. Traditional attitudes to gender roles still linger but during my leave, I have come into contact with lots of fathers who are at home caring for their little ones and think this is something that will become more and more common in the future.

Have you taken Shared Parental Leave? How did you find it and what were the benefits for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

3minuteleadership.org

5 ways to tackle the gender pay gap

If you didn’t know already, today is #EqualPayDay in Britain which means that effectively, women work the rest of the year for free given the stark difference in pay that women receive for their work.

According to figures published by the Fawcett Society, the pay gap for women working full-time is 13.7% which means women earn just £86.30 in every £100 received by men. The biggest gaps can be found in Construction (22.9%), Finance (22.3%) and Education (19.7%). And there is also a considerable difference in senior roles with women accounting for just 7% of CEOs in the top 100 companies.

Sadly, 1 in 3 people don’t realise that discriminatory pay is illegal and therefore provide no challenge to the status quo.

What causes the gender pay gap?

There are a number of factors that contribute to the pay gap between men and women with the main issue being a continuing perception of male and female roles. Research from the Welsh gender equality charity, Chwarae Teg (FairPlay), discovered that children develop their views of gender roles as early as 3 years old and these views ensure that the cycle of inequality continues despite legislation to level the playing field being introduced nearly 50 years ago. Basically, the continued view that women will look after the family ensures they earn less than men. Women might plan their whole career around this, choosing lower paid jobs such as hairdressing, childcare or admin because they think it will be more flexible when the time comes to start a family. Other women look to change later on when they know that babies are on the horizon.

What can we do to tackle the gender pay gap? Here are 5 things that would make a difference:

1) Pay transparency – large employers are now being asked to publish their pay figures so discrepancies can be identified and eliminated. The BBC for example have published their figures to reveal some shocking truths about gender pay within the corporation.

2) Family friendly policies – employers should ensure flexibility for those with caring responsibilities and support them to make a full contribution at home and at work. Many employers think they are family friendly but are just blissfully unaware of the issues for their staff. For example, many organisations have different packages for mothers and fathers when it comes to maternity or paternity rights. This can make it very difficult to take up opportunities through policies such as shared parental leave because employers often have an enhanced package for mothers but not fathers so many families feel this is not an option.

3) Challenge stereotypes – organisations should make sure they are not reinforcing stereotypes but making industries such as Construction attractive to women as well as men. Women who are in male dominated industries should do all they can to support other women in their industry and support others to join them.

4) Women’s networks – women need to support each other so either create a network of your own with people who will support and inspire you or join one that is already out there. Many industries and employers have women’s networks so look them up and get involved.

5) Ask for a pay rise – if you think you are worth more than you are being laid, let your employer know about it. Figures show that women are less likely than men to ask for a pay rise and are worse off as a result. Sure, the answer might be no but you could be pleasantly surprised!

Do you have experience of gender pay issues or examples of good practice for levelling the playing field? Let us know in the comments below.

3minuteleadership.org

Why I think becoming a mum will enhance my leadership skills

Obviously having a baby is a huge event which changes your life forever but aside from the insane personal benefits, I’m convinced that there are professional advantages as well.  Of course there will be challenges to overcome around balancing work and family life which should not be under estimated but even this, once accepted, can help to develop a number of management and leadership skills.

A few years ago, I was doing some coaching with someone looking to take the first step into management and I encouraged her to consider how she would usually get her children to do things they don’t want to do.  At first, she couldn’t see what I was getting at but when she started talking me through, she could see how the techniques she used with her children could be adapted and used in the workplace.  Things like explaining the problem, what needs to change and how they are going to do that; making the children realise that this needs to happen quickly; checking their understanding of the situation; empowering them to take an active role in the process; and praising them when things go well all fit within Kotter’s 8 step process of successful change.

There are lots of other aspects of leadership that I believe will be strengthened too.  Here are just 5 things I think will be different when I get back:

1)      I’ll be a better role model – I know I’m already a role model within the organisation and in the industry, however, at the minute it’s a responsibility that I take seriously but maybe don’t demonstrate at all times in the way that I should.  From the second my baby is born, I can never be off duty, instead, I will be constantly be aware of how my behaviour impacts on those around me and the responsibility I have to live within my values at all times.

2)      My organisational skills will be second to none – my colleagues perceive me to already be very organised but whilst at the minute, I can add appointments into my calendar and make sure I’ve got the right paperwork, I manage to hide my inner chaos beneath a professional façade.  Once there’s a baby in the mix, I won’t be able to leave anything to chance.  Already, I’m making sure we’ve stocked up on essentials at home and all manner of bags are packed, ready for a multitude of eventualities.  In a blog published by Motherly on what new mothers want everyone in the office to know, they put it like this: ‘I now prioritise like nobody’s business, I will prove to be more efficient than anyone else in the team’.  If you thought I was efficient before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

3)      I’ll bring increased compassion & understanding – the Motherly article puts it as being able to ‘anticipate the needs of others’ which is certainly an aspect but there’s more.  I’ll understand pregnancy and maternity in a way that you can only if you’ve been through it and whilst I already make sure my staff prioritise the school play, swimming gala or sports day, I’ll understand even more why that matters.  I also think I’ll be even more kind and compassionate, noticing the subtle signs that tell me someone is not ok.

4)      I’ll be so much more resilient – I’ve kept going throughout this pregnancy, walking the dog twice a day, every day; flying to give a presentation at 35 weeks; ad making the most of the pregnancy insomnia to get ahead during a busy period – me and my baby already know resilience but I certainly am going to develop so much more!  In my Mumsnet group for August babies, I asked some of the already new and existing mums for any tips for sleep deprivation.  One mum offered two words ‘survival and endurance’.  It’s going to be tough but if I can get through this, I really can do anything.

5)      My perspective will change – over the years, I have learnt to put the challenges into perspective and try not to stress about the things that don’t matter overall.  If I haven’t mastered it already, this change will surely remind me that life is the main goal and that it is always rich in experiences, good and bad but all to be cherished and enjoyed as much as possible.

 

Do you notice any positive changes when you returned to work after having a baby?  Do you have further thoughts on my suggestions above?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

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