How does happiness lead to better performance?
Positive mindset is the precursor to greater levels of success. If we can raise the levels of positivity in the midst of challenges, we find productivity and engagement rises and creativity triples. Every business outcome improves when an employee feels positive. We started to see that when it wasn’t working. We assumed employees at successful companies would be happy. We thought we could work harder and then we would be successful and happier and that is how we manage, how we see and even how we think in a down economy. We found the formula was backwards. Happiness led to higher success rates, but higher success rates did not necessarily lead to happiness.
What is leadership? Eight of the 2011 Service to America award winners answer the question.
How do you know if you’re the right kind of optimist?
If you are only seeing the good things, you’ve got a distorted view of the world. If you recognize both strengths and weaknesses of your team and yourself, you are starting in a rational place. The trouble is when a manager thinks that a person is negative or underperforms and will never change. That can create problems. We’ve found that hospitals that report the greatest number of medical errors have some of the lowest malpractice rates. It’s completely counterintuitive, but the positive leaders created the psychological thinking to bring up problems that could fixed. On teams without the psychological safety, people felt they couldn’t make mistakes or bring up negatives—and problems never got fixed and even got worse.
If you had one more hour a day, how would you use it?
I’d make it completely altruistic. It’s actually selfish. If I wrote emails or called friends, I’d feel like I’m spreading positivity and happiness. When you do kind things for other people, it creates a longer happiness effect than if you do something for yourself. Eating a chocolate bar makes us happy for five minutes. Donating money to charity keeps that cycle of feeling good going because you’re making positive change in the world.
We found that people who gave social support at work and asked friends to lunch or helped someone with their work are far and away the happiest people. They were 40 percent more likely to receive a promotion and had significantly less burnout. The more you give, the more you get in terms of meaning, happiness and success rates.
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