"If you're good to your staff when things are going well, they'll rally when times go bad." - Mary Kay Ash

"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” ~Aristotle

Do you want more productivity out of your team? Then you need look no further than their happiness. Gretchen Spreitzer of the Harvard Business Review, in her article Creating Sustainable Performance, notes that happy employees are not only more productive, but more creative and better team players as well.

When you think about organizations that are truly excelling in their field, you likely can find that they are bending over backwards to make their team feel happy and appreciated. But it isn’t just at the organizational level. When you look at high performing teams within your own organization, would you classify those teams as being “happier” than most others?

These organizations and leaders have discovered the clear link between happiness and better productivity. So what do you need to do to bring out the happiness in your team and reap the rewards? Well, it doesn’t start with money, it starts at a much deeper level of satisfaction. Here are the 10 most impactful ways to bring out the happiness in your team:

Treat them better than your customers – If you want to take care of the customer, take care of the people that take care of the customer. And it doesn’t usually take a complicated effort. First of all, just talk with them and find out about them as a person. Where did they grow up, what hobbies do they have, what motivates them about the job, how do they think the organization can approve? To sell to your customer you need to understand who they are, so why not do the same with your team? And before you say that you already know your team, can you answer this one question which is probably more important to them than anything, “How many children does each of your employees have?”

Once you get to know your team better, you’ll be better equipped to treat them well regardless of what situation arises.

Focus on how important their work is – One of the reasons that companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have grandiose Mission Statements like “Make the world more open and connected” is that it lights the fire of passion in their employees. Your team wants to do important work. Great leaders let their teams know just how critical their work is to the organization. If you’re in a department where this might seem difficult, there is another way to instill a sense of importance: Community service.

The act of giving and serving has enormous value in how people gauge their satisfaction with activities. If you can tie this feeling of serving with co-workers to work itself, then you’ve attached an importance to the job that wasn’t there before.

Give them ownership – Great employees crave ownership over their work. It gives them satisfaction of a job well done and forms their own self-identity about the work that they do. If you don’t empower an employee to do their job, you’ve robbed them of any chance to form this identity. This one thing goes a long way towards the productivity increases that happy employees produce. If you own your job, you want to do good at it because it is a reflection on you.

Treat them like adults – This may seem kind of rudimentary, but it affects some tough issues like work-life balance, trust, and understanding their motivation. Adults take care of their responsibilities, and so do great employees. Understanding that your team wants to do a good job, and backing up that understanding by trusting them to make the right decisions isn’t naïve, it builds trust. When you trust that they will make the right decisions it makes so many other issues easier for you to deal with. Do you let them leave early on Thursdays to go see their kid’s baseball game, or take a two hour lunch so they can go to the Dentist? Of course you do, because you trust that they will get the work done.

Now one thing to mention is that there will be times they come up short in their work. In these cases, STILL treat them like an adult and have a discussion about what happened, how to fix it, and what the expectations are going forward. DO NOT punish them, children get punished, adults discuss things reasonably.

Be OK with the right mistakes – Nobody likes to make mistakes. Fear of making a mistake is one of the biggest dis-satisfiers in the workplace and stifles innovation. The “right” mistakes are ones that aren’t negligent and that you learn from (and don’t repeat). Free your team to take risks and learn and you’ll see them develop much quicker.

Give them the big picture – People want to know what is going on with the direction of the organization. They just do. Part of it is simple curiosity and another part is vanity of being “in the know”. Sharing some big picture things about where the organization is headed can also make them feel more secure in their job since it eliminates some unknowns (even if it isn’t an entirely rosy picture) and is something that increases their feeling of value since you trusted them with the information and were willing to spend the time sharing it.

Care about their career – Do you know where each member of your team wants to be professionally in the next 1-2 years? If not, then you are missing an opportunity to drive motivation and happiness through your department. Happy people are fulfilled, and when we talk about fulfillment at work, career growth is a huge portion of that. Many members of your team will be striving for a promotion. Others are happy where they are, but would like to learn or at least be exposed to some new things. You don’t need to hand out promotions to everyone, you just need to set an environment where they are always learning with a purpose and a goal. A plan to teach and develop new skills amongst your team will not only lead to a better skilled workforce, but a happier one as well.  

Recognition – Is it fun to toil away on a project and not have anyone notice? Is it fun to have your best sales month of the year and have it treated like any other month? Does that sound like a recipe for happiness? Of course not. Recognition of success and effort is one of the keys to leadership and has an enormous impact on how happy your team will be. Great leaders look for any opportunity to celebrate a success because they believe in the saying by Tom Peters, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” They celebrate group success, individual success, and progress and learning as well. People want to know that you noticed the good things that they’ve done, so recognize them when it occurs.

Have fun – Everyone spends an awful lot of time at work. It’s important to break up the day to day routine with some fun from time to time. It could be anything from celebrating birthdays or holidays, hosting a pot-luck, random dress down days, or just a fun activity on a Friday afternoon. Making the association between fun and work helps ease stress and help people get through difficult tasks. It has also been shown that breaking up a day with a fun activity spurs creativity as well. So if you’re lacking some innovation, maybe it’s time to find a reason to throw a party.

Have goals – People like to have something to strive towards. Do you ever play games where there isn’t a means of tracking progress, keeping score, or another method of determining who is winning? Of course not, and you shouldn’t set up your department without goals either. The most effective have both public team goals and private personal goals for each of their staff members. Working towards something gives meaning to even mundane tasks as they can be recognized as a necessary means to an end.

Striving to make your team happier has little to no downside for a leader. Many of the principles listed above directly affect productivity and the others support it. So if you found that you may have had a few “holes” in the above recommendation, then look to address one of them this week, with another following the week after, and so on. And don’t forget; having a happy team helps the leader be happy as well.

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