Photography by Ben Winkler
Happiness. Some people are afraid to say that word in the same sentence as the word Business. I’m not. I know better. Happiness has great value in business. Even the Harvard Business Review agrees.
Hello, I’m JoAnna Brandi. Since 1990 I’ve been teaching organizations how to create happy, loyal customers. I’ve interviewed thousands of people, studied with some of the best leaders in the business world and now, some of the best minds in the field of Positive Psychology. I’ve written over 500 articles, three books and have worked with some of the most highly regarded organizations in the country. I am a graduate of Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program and a founding member of the Positive Workplace International. I’ve studied with Dr. Barbara Frederickson and completed the Berkeley “Science of Happiness” course. I say this only so you will put some “weight” on what I am about to say next.
Businesses, non-profits, educational institutions – are all at a crossroads now. The “old guard,” leadership models that have served us for thousands of years are simply no longer effective. Just look around.
If you want to attract and retain the brightest and the best employees and customers today, you’d better be looking at how leadership operates in your organization.
If you’re stuck in some version of the “Power Over” model you’ll eventually lose to a competitor who has the wisdom to adopt a “Power With” way of doing business. Power Over is about control. Power With is about inclusion, co-creation and valuing everyone’s contribution.
Our bright, enthusiastic, technologically advanced young people want to work in a place where they feel valued and appreciated and where they can make a significant contribution – before they move on, that is. They want to feel good at work. Don’t you?
Got Commitment? Got Engagement? Got Passion? Got Happiness? You could.
Here’s my manifesto:
The only way you can consistently and reliably create happy, engaged, committed and loyal customers is by creating and nourishing a work environment where the employees feel valued, appreciated, connected, cared about, and challenged to be the best of who they can be. An employee who feels these things would most likely say that they are happy or fulfilled at work.
Employees that like their jobs, where they work and who they work with, represent their company in a positive way. Whether or not they’re at work or at a school picnic when they say, “I work for ABC Co.”, when they say it with pride it speaks volumes about the commitment of your company to the customer experience. Companies that take good care of their employees also take good care of their customers.
Positive customer experiences are directly related to positive employee practices. Happy customers and happy employees are inextricably linked.
Employees who feel underappreciated, uninspired, and disconnected don’t have the emotional or psychic energy necessary to consistently deliver positive customer experiences except at the expense of their own health and well-being, so they usually don’t.
Employers who ignore these facts put their future profitability at stake. The talented young people entering the workforce today refuse to tolerate workplaces that don’t value them and their contribution. They want to work in places where they can experience happiness at work. Over 90% tell us that they do better work when they’re feeling good about work.
Today, if you want to create value in the marketplace, you MUST create value in the workplace.
Companies who are great to do business with and great to work for will be the companies that thrive into the future.
It’s time for old outdated “Power Over” leadership practices to change. The people that have the answers are the people that do the work. Given the opportunity to be creative (creativity thrives in a positive environment) the people who touch the work day in and day out are usually the ones who can create the solution. Today’s brightest people want to participate in the creation of their future. When they can’t they check out emotionally or leave. Either way, you’ve lost your investment in them.
The organizations that thrive will be those who develop a “Power With” practice that builds on employees’ strengths, intelligences, and creates a place where people are happy and excited to come to work. It’s an evolutionary impulse to keep growing.
People who feel good at work outperform those who don’t. Period.
According to the latest information from the Gallup Organization (who interviewed over 4 million people) only 30% of the American workforce is actually “engaged” in their jobs. Less than one-third are passionate about and connected to the work they do. What a pity.
Is it any wonder that most people think that service “stinks” today?
In a world where almost any product or service can become a commodity overnight, what differentiates one company from another is the quality of the customer’s felt experience. If workers feel alienated, negated, not appreciated, disconnected or disengaged they are unlikely to deliver the kind of service that has the power to make you stand out – positively – in the marketplace.
Positive emotional work environments inspire more of your workforce to get on board and be present to the job at hand. When positivity outnumbers negativity five to one, high performance is the norm. Conversely, negative work environments suck the life out of people, customer relationships and your bottom line.
Few people trust companies anymore, they rely on friends and networks to deliver the word-of-mouth on how you stack up. If your employees aren’t happy and committed to creating value, your customers won’t be committed to coming back and bringing friends. It’s pretty simple.
My definition for the “Customer Experience” is this – It’s the sum total of the feelings evoked as a result of any interaction that takes place at any touch point in your organization. The customer’s experience is based on their perception of the value you deliver, whether tangible or intangible.
It’s time for organizations to wake up and shake up outdated thinking on what good leadership is. The deep-seated you-ought-to-be-grateful-you-have-a-job belief systems still exist and hold dysfunctional leadership habits in place. It’s evidenced everywhere. Let’s change that!
Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It’s time to look at the belief systems that hold our old habits in place and shake them up a bit. Negative customer experiences don’t just come from the people touching the customers – they come from leadership mindsets that focus more on the profit and not enough on the people who produce it.
Maybe it’s time to take a look at what you need to grow and attract the kind of passionate people that contribute discretionary effort will help your company take exquisite care of customers.
Maybe it’s the perfect time to look at what you need to do to create a culture that innovates and creates the kinds of products and services that will put you heads above the competition and make you a great place to work.
I encourage leaders to the do the simple math of “positivity to negativity ratio” of 5:1. I want to see them deliver five times more acknowledgement, affirmation, praise, good will, recognition, compliments and focus on strengths than on sarcasm, criticism, cynicism or corrective actions related to someone’s weaknesses. I want them to ask five times more questions that are focused on what’s strong rather than what’s wrong. I want them to shine the light on what is right and what they want to create rather than on what needs to be fixed and what they don’t want.
I hope that leaders at all levels will see that they can take small, deliberate, mindful positive actions to create an environment conducive to creativity, wholeness and happiness. People spend most of their waking hours at work. My dream is that we can make the workplace an enriching and enlivening experience where people get to express their best selves and go home at night energized and ready to share their positivity with their families. My dream is to turn leaders into “Positive Energizers”!
Is there a Return on Happiness? You bet there is!
A meta analysis of 225 studies shows that happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales are three times more creative. They show up for work more often, they solve problems quicker; they are healthier and safer than their negative counterparts. Every business outcome improves when there is happiness at work. Shaun Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage says, “Happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy”. Oh yes it is! Even the Harvard Business Review ran a cover story on the Value of Happiness and how employee well-being drives profits. The world is beginning to notice. Happy customers are linked to happy work environments and employees.
My programs are specifically designed to help leaders and service providers create consistently “Exquisite Customer Experiences,” ones that are positive enough to keep the customers happy, loyal and coming back with friends and money.
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Thanks for taking time to read my Manifesto,