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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Is Happiness Becoming an Industry? No Government Interference Please!

A little homespun philosophy this week.

There seem to be a number of relatively new concepts currently going the rounds and some of them are becoming almost an industry.  For example Mindfulness is gaining adherents as is Thought Leadership and the indications are that there is a move towards self-examination, even introspection.

However, the one that has sparked my interest is that of Happiness which for fairly obvious reasons is an objective worth the pursuit.  For starters could we have a Brexit-free day on radio and TV?  That would certainly make me happy.

I do have some concern about it however, that when Governments start to latch on to a fashionable idea they can latch on with a heavy hand (if that isn’t a very mixed metaphor) and drain all the life out if it.

How on earth can Government affect or even try to affect the happiness of the people?  Government is there to legislate and as the majority of legislation is there to prevent us from doing something (if you don’t believe me just check it out) then hoping to bring happiness to us is a fallacy.

Please just get the economy right and accept that is the best you can achieve.

Happiness is a feeling; it is not measurable as some academics and psychologists would have us believe. Indeed it is probably an absolute in the same way as “unique” in that we are either happy or not.

It is not the same as contentment, enjoyment or pleasure; all of those can contribute to our happiness but they are not happiness in themselves.

It is an intensely personal and transient feeling.  What makes each of us happy does not necessarily do so for anyone else.  It is transient because external influences can affect us both positively and negatively and often quickly.

Contributors to personal happiness are many and varied and again are appropriate to different interpretations.  For example, the acquisition of a new possession, a walk in the park, good friends and family relationships, animals, good conversation, spirituality, meditation, the list is endless.

It is worth examining how each of us achieves happiness.  Is it through one of the situations above or do you have something in your life that really makes you happy to the exclusion of everything else?

I heard a piece on the radio recently when a Buddhist monk was interviewed having been described as “the happiest man in the world”.  Who made this decision wasn’t mentioned except that it appeared that someone had managed to evolve a technique that they claimed could measure happiness.

Neuroscience would have it that finding which parts of the brain are stimulated positively and monitoring those parts would enable a measurement of happiness to be defined. 

I am extremely sceptical about this possibility.  Because of the transient nature of happiness it would seem very unlikely that it would occur during a brain scan.  It’s a laudable attempt but please, leave us to be happy without the burden of scientific analysis.

Business leaders would always claim that they “have a happy workforce”.  Do they mean contented (apathetic) or perhaps the people exhibit a positive attitude?

Recent statistics would lead us to believe that productivity in UK industry is the lowest in Europe, being defined as the value produced per hour of work.

There must be a correlation; I would have thought that if the workforce is happy then there should be a high level of productivity or am I being naïve?

Perhaps the answer is to implant a culture into the business which encourages people, which gives then the freedom to act positively, that doesn’t weight them down with unnecessary bureaucracy and with a leadership that show concern for their wellbeing.

Those are the sorts of criteria that will lead to a happy workforce.

In my case it would be a comfortable chair, the dog asleep on my lap, listing to great music (me not the dog) and getting outside of a large bowl of ice cream (again, me not the dog)

Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.      
Email me me for a discussion via ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Like I said, it’s intensely personal and very transient but it’s great while it lasts.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

How Far Do You Trust Your People? How Far Do They Trust You!

                                Ivan’s Blog

Perhaps the most emotive word in the whole leadership lexicon is trust.  The number of times that I have heard people say, for example, “A good worker but I’m not sure whether I can trust them to make a decision”.

Where there is mistrust in either direction very little of worth will be accomplished.  On the other hand in a trusting environment anything can be achieved.

This was brought to mind recently with one of my consultancy clients who has recently taken a new job and is looking around the people to see what talent can be uncovered.

He found two, both 24/25 years old, one with six years service and the other a recently employed graduate.  Both had been working in a directive environment, “do as I say and don’t make any mistakes” and were not happy.

In the new atmosphere of inclusivity now being brought into the business, both are now being trusted and encouraged to analyse situations, make decisions, and get on with the action.

The result?  Two happier, involved and engaged young women who are starting to make a significant difference in the business.

A simple tale perhaps but a very important lesson. It is a matter of culture; the difference between the authoritarian approach and the inclusive approach.

A wise sage once said that leaders are not there to lead people.  They are there to grow people to enable them to perform.

It all starts with the values espoused by the leader and hence the business.  It is essential to articulate them at every opportunity so that the values become a vital part of “this is the way that we do things around here”.

From there it is the vision of what can be accomplished and where the leader intends the business to be in the next few years.  Once again this must be driven into the business on every occasion.

It is not just a matter of objectives for the next stated financial period although those form vital part of the plan.  Even more important are the values, the culture and above all the purpose of the business, not necessarily measurable but at the heart of everything that we do and achieve.

Finally the people must be given the freedom to perform and that for some may be difficult.  When people have been exposed to an authoritarian organising their (working) lives at every touch and turn some find freedom a trifle daunting and don’t know what to do with it.

It can take time but with effort, most of the people will react positively.  It all demands from the leadership an absolute dedication to a no-blame culture; no-blame because if we give people the responsibility of making decisions, then we cannot reprimand them for making mistakes.

Any problems must be looked on as a learning experience, at least once.  More than once may result in something more than just learning experience.

It all devolves on trust.  Trust is a fragile flower and needs to be cared for.  Trust must be bi-directional and, in some ways, cannot be anything else.

With trust comes accountability for performance and that implies reward (not necessarily financial), growth, achievement and success.

All these features are the most motivating aspects of anyone’s working life and when they are in place and available, anything can be achieved.

Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.      
Email me me for a discussion via ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk