BY JIM SMITH
“Are They Happy Because They Are Successful . . . . “ “Or are they successful because they are happy?” This was the question asked by Chris Redgrave of Zions Bank at the recent Entrepreneurial Summit organized by the Davis Applied Technology College. Those in attendance had their eyes opened to the fact that having a happy team is more important to success than we had realized.
The presentation was entitled “The Power of Positivity” and was filled with scientific research that supported the findings. “Happiness is a precursor to success,” taught Redgrave. “I’m not just being silly, this is serious science!”
Part of the key to positivity is understanding what happiness is. She defined it as “an enduring level of well-being” and made sure we understood that this happiness is not a frivolous, passing contentment, but more of an internalized sense of value that allows us to work optimistically toward meaningful goals. This kind of happiness is based on the fact that we can be more than we are today. She said “it is not the belief that we don’t need to change, but rather the realization that we can” that makes this kind of happiness a precursor to success.
Under pressure, the human brain tends to shut down and lose creativity. How many times have you come up with great ideas AFTER the crisis is over? Our brains think best when we are happy. We may be limiting our team’s effectiveness if we constantly bombard them with high pressure deadlines designed to “motivate” them. Their contribution actually improves when they are allowed to be creative without outside stress and pressure.
One point that stood out to me was that naturally happy people have a “search mentality,” meaning that they always have a goal, are always looking for something, and optimistically trying to improve themselves. That translates into business success for you if these people are on your team.
In fact, studies of project teams in industry showed that teams with “encouraging managers” performed 31 percent better than the test group. The opposite is true too. There is a phenomenon called the Tetris Effect that allows the brain to get stuck in patterns. If the focus is constantly on stress, the brain follows with negativity and failure.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples of studies that opened my eyes, shared by Redgrave from the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor:
• A group of housekeepers were told when they were hired that their new job would “help them lose weight and be healthier.” The control group was not given that positive message. After three months of doing the exact same work, the “positive” group had lost an average of 10 pounds more than the control group.
• In another study, “happy” nuns from the Midwestern U.S. outlived “unhappy” nuns by an average of 10 years.
• A study was done on baseball cards. The players who smiled on their cards lived an average of seven years more than their teammates.
• 75-year-old-men were asked to reflect back on what their lives were like when they were 55. When they did, their blood pressure dropped and their eyesight improved by 10 percent.
I can’t explain why those phenomena occurred. But the observations were statistically and scientifically measured. It should help managers realize that their management style really does make a difference. It enforces the existence of the “Losada Line” that states we need a minimum of three positive interactions for every negative one if we are to sustain positivity and productivity. According to Redgrave, “the ideal is more like six to one.”
Next time you hire a new manager, try this approach in your interviews. Ask them to describe what makes them happy in the workplace. If their answers focus on the feeling of success and happiness they experience when their team succeeds, you probably have the right candidate.
I firmly believe what Redgrave taught us. “The smallest moment of positivity gives us a burst of energy, enhances efficiency, motivates us, and promotes creativity, productivity, and health.” That is the “Power of Positivity!”