Success and Happiness At Work

by: Dean Fulford

Do  you remember the tech boom years?  Back in the day, Fast Company magazine tapped into the latest from Silicon Valley.  Many of us looked to it for ways to apply Silicon Valley thinking to our own workplaces.

Although the tech boom has faded, Fast Company remains relevant. A teaser headline from a recent article 3 Ways To Be Happier At Work grabbed my attention.  It read:  “There’s a common belief that you will be happy when you are successful, but the reverse is actually true.”  I had to read it a couple times to make sure I had it right.

I’ve spent much of my career encouraging practices that help employees be successful – modern performance management processes built upon mature feedback mechanisms between manager and employee. One key pillar of the high performing and highly engaged workplace is job clarity: knowing what you are being asked to do and how success in your role will be measured.  What the article, and its attention-grabbing headline, remind us is that for high achievers to be happy, we can’t just rely on goal achievement. There needs to be enjoyment in the work that gets them there.

Managers play a big role in helping employees achieve their goals AND enjoy the journey toward those successes. Here are three ways managers can build ‘happiness’ within their high achievers and build engagement capital with everyone in the organization.

  1. Structured goals. When creating goals, build in milestones along the way so that employees can enjoy successes while working toward the ultimate objective.
  2. Make goals meaningful. Build the connection between the individual’s work and the success of the work team and company to provide meaning at a personal level. Employees with high alignment to the mission and goals of the organization will provide discretionary effort and resolve in the face of challenges.
  3. Align goals with strengths. A personal strength is more than just a skill or talent.  It is the combination of something you are good at doing and enjoy doing. When employees excel in output, validate that they also liked the work.  The organization can benefit from these strengths to solve other business critical issues.

There is research that correlates goal achievement with the level of enjoyment people have doing their work, but it’s good to remember that it doesn’t always happen on its own.  Employee engagement practices like building job clarity will help contribute to the workplace enjoyment that leads to higher performance.  Give it a try – you, and your employees, will be happy that you did!

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