There’s little that makes a company more successful than a highly motivated, externally focused team that’s stress-free and humming well.
Everyone deserves to be happy at work. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s good for business. Your company will become the best version of itself when team members feel great about working for you. There’s science to back me up here — research has shown that happy employees make better decisions and are more productive and creative. In other words, team happiness is good for the bottom line!
Here are my three favorite ways of taking a team’s “happiness” temperature, followed by what you can do as a leader to cultivate that happiness.
Sign 1: Team members are comfortable with passionate debate.
People should not only be comfortable with debate, but energized by it.
Respectful debate drives innovation. People who challenge their teammates’ ideas improve each other and the company as a whole. Here are some signs that the team isn’t wrangling the very best ideas: People are either too nice to confront and challenge each other, or too competitive and eager to look smart.
Teams that are too nice are stymied by fear offending each other. When competition and eagerness kick in, people can be hesitant to share valuable ideas for fear of being put down.
With intention, you can create a culture where people embrace healthy disagreement.
At my startup, NakedPoppy, we have a rule that debate and challenging each other are encouraged — but it should never, ever be taken or intended personally. Our team members can disagree intensely, but the feeling should always be, “She makes me better,” not, “She makes me feel bad.”
A happy team is comfortable with themselves and each other. They enjoy friendly, productive, potentially eye-opening exchanges. And people leave meetings feeling enlightened and challenged, not disrespected or defeated.
Sign 2: People are externally focused.
I call team members who worry too much about themselves at work “internally focused.” An internally focused person might be thinking about how and when to ask for a raise, dwelling on office politics, or wondering if someone else is getting credit for their work.
But internal focus isn’t necessarily the team’s fault.
A great manager knows it’s up to them to proactively reward their people for their achievements — so the team is freed up to focus on the customer instead of thinking about recognition and rewards from the company. A happy team member spends far less time worrying about themselves and far more time doing great work for the customer.
Sign 3: People are excited to come to work every day.
Here’s my definition of being happy on the job.
First, you don’t get “the Sunday blues.” You know, that feeling of anxiety — or even dread — that sets in Sunday evening when you think about going to work the next morning. Happy employees don’t feel that way, because they enjoy Monday, Friday, and every day in between.
Second, you genuinely fall in love with your job, because your work energizes and inspires you.
Finally, work no longer even feels like work. You love your workplace, solving problems, and collaborating with your coworkers. You even look forward to returning to work if you’ve been away for a while!
For example, on New Year’s Day, I found myself feeling giddy about the thought of walking into my office at NakedPoppy the following morning. I couldn’t wait to get back. And, as I later found out, my co-founder Kimberly felt the same way.
I’ve seen throughout my 30-plus-year career that when you can assemble a team of people who love their jobs and are enthusiastic about coming to work every day, your team can be unstoppable.
These are just a few of the characteristics I look for in a healthy team. But these qualities don’t just develop organically. It takes intentional effort to bring together a team of motivated, productive people.
While there are many things you can do to boost happiness at your company, here are a few that come to mind:
- Articulate a simple, inspiring vision, or “north star”
People are wired to want their work to matter. Every team member should understand how what they do every day contributes to your larger mission. When it comes to your company’s north star, err on the side of over-communication. What feels repetitive to you is often a wonderfully consistent and motivating reminder for your team. Describe the impact your company has on the world, and your team will have purpose and direction.
- Help your team focus — and use the 80/20 rule. Don’t overload people with more than they can handle. And when they feel overwhelmed, help them prioritize, or in other words, focus on the uber-important 20% of effort that gives you 80% of your results.
- Be intentional about “depersonalizing” success and failure. At NakedPoppy, we’ve instituted “blame-free retrospectives,” where we dissect how we can improve without anyone having to feel guilty or defensive. We also avoid using names as much possible. For example, if I say “Nancy’s idea”, and Nancy got the idea from Matt, Matt may expend energy to ensure he gets credit. The truth is, it doesn’t even matter, because we all build on each other’s ideas anyway. You win as a team, so focus on the team.
- Nip issues in the bud. When you notice an issue that may threaten your culture, address it quickly. No matter how great your team is or how well your company is doing, relationships among people can get messy, so the best and kindest strategy is to deal with them swiftly.
- Be curious about your people. Remember their kids’ names. Ask your junior salesperson how their post-surgery shoulder therapy is going. Establishing a personal connection can make all the difference in demonstrating that you care. It may seem like common sense, but it can be easy to overlook. Never be too busy to show you care.
- Don’t tolerate people who hurt your culture — no matter how talented they are. A single person can threaten a good culture, and even throw into doubt your commitment to it. So don’t let “bozos” (or bullies) continue. Make no exceptions, no matter how talented someone is.
- Beam your own happiness. Team members are hypersensitive to their manager’s demeanor. Even when something goes wrong, it’s important to make an effort to remain positive for the sake of team morale.
Now for a personal note. I do everything I can to orchestrate happy teams because I enjoy being surrounded by people who love their jobs. 🙂
So, I see a happy team as a triple win: It’s good for business and productivity, good for the team, and nice for you as well!