I wanted to continue from a post I wrote a few weeks ago about Is A Happy Employee Always An Engaged Employee?
Why? The numbers show it: if you sign up for business success, you must have motivated, happy and engaged employees.
Image Credit: Delivering Happiness
Now there’s a can of materials you can open up about Happiness of employees, many cans actually, too many probably. Let’s get to the grain. Employees are people, right? People are individuals, right? Thus investing in happiness, whether for employees, teams, leaders, managers, or executives, comes down to investing in individuals. Thus here’s an attempt to get things started about each and every one’s happiness in a slightly alternative manner: a book review!
When I saw Shawn Achor’s 12:20 minute TEDxBloomington talk – The happy secret to better work I was sold. It is one of the best TEDx talks I’ve seen so far. Needless to say it didn’t take me much time to buy and read the book as well: Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
And here’s the little problem I’ve been struggling with… In his book Shawn has been able to capture the essence of happiness at work (and outside of it), something many articles brag about but not always explain clearly and practically what it then is. Having it all in one book is great, though makes it very hard for me to “simply” write a book review. To not simply copy and paste the whole book page by page on my blog…
I know I’m probably going to do some damage to Shawn’s good work, but I have to compromise myself a little: I’ll share in this post some of what Shawn wrote on the science behind happiness, and then do a daily mini post on each of the seven principles next week. And mini, yes, that’s actually mini, but that also makes it easy to digest without having to spend a lot of time reading.
The (neuro) science behind the Happiness Advantage
Anyone can send ripples of positivity throughout their workplace, but that is even more true for leaders or people in a position of authority— mainly because (a) they determine company policies and shape the workplace culture; (b) they are often expected to set an example for their employees; and (c) they tend to interact with the most people over the course of the day. And that is important because in the last decade scientists found something called mirror neurons: specialized brain cells that can actually sense and then mimic the feelings, actions, and physical sensations of another person.
This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to physical sensations or actions— thanks to these same mirror neurons, our emotions, too, are enormously contagious. As we pass through the day, our brains are constantly processing the feelings of the people around us, taking note of the inflection in someone’s voice, the look behind their eyes, the stoop of their shoulders.
The power to spark positive emotional contagion multiplies if you are in a leadership position especially due to b) and c) mentioned earlier. Studies have found that when leaders are in a positive mood, their employees are more likely to be in a positive mood themselves, to exhibit prosocial helping behaviors toward one another, and to coordinate tasks more efficiently and with less effort.
Positive emotional contagion starts when people subconsciously mimic the body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions of those around them. Amazing as it might sound, once people mimic the physical behaviors tied to these emotions, it causes them to feel the emotion themselves. Smiling, for instance, tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy, so it starts producing the neurochemicals that actually do make you happy.
So just one positive team member— one person using the Happiness Advantage— can affect both the individual attitudes and performance of those around him, as well as the dynamic and accomplishments of the group as a whole. Of course, some people have a more powerful effect on a group’s emotional tone than others. For starters, the more genuinely expressive someone is, the more their mindset and feelings spread.
Keep this in mind! I’ve likely left out a bunch of very important details. However, the part above was to me the essence of what the science was all about!
Next week, the daily mini posts so that we can all start to Invest In Each And Everyone’s Happiness.