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Don't just talk about happiness!

Peter Switzer
13 August 2018

Last week I argued, and I think convincingly, that happiness is not just a nice goal to pursue but it leads to personal, as well as business, success and also raises productivity. A University of Warwick study measured the productivity pay off of happiness at 12%!

As I pointed out, Kelly Venus writing on leadingteams.net.au, revealed that “happy team members have 65% more energy than unhappy employees.” And more importantly, happiness and smiles are infectious if you can get them happening.

In 2008, a study of complex social networks of more than 5,000 people reinforced the point that having happy people around you is a huge plus for you. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper looked at the survey and this is what it reported: “Professor Nicholas Christakis from Harvard Medical School and Professor James Fowler from the University of California, San Diego, found that a person’s proximity to happy people – specifically partners, siblings and neighbours – could make them happy too.

What surprised me was that the depth of a relationship was not as important as I would’ve thought. The findings of the survey “suggest having frequent contact with other people is more important for the spread of happiness rather than the depth of the relationship, the authors said, because the closer people were physically, the more likely the happiness was to be passed on.”

I guess if you can have depth with a few close friends and lots of happy workmates and social associates, then you’re living the dream!

In my story last week I also said that adopting a business plan approach to making your personal dreams/goals come true might be a sound idea but one of my wonderful employees who reads my Weekend Switzer story each week wanted to know how she could actually create her version of a business plan for her life. Why? She rationally wants to boost her happiness!

Remember my thinking was based on the idea that a business plan doesn’t just say what a business owner wants to achieve, but also how they’re going to do it. I argued many businesses have frustrations, like many of us have in life, and the business way of killing frustrations is to create systems. So if your business is frustration free, imagine how well it could do.

A few years ago, I put forward my business coach to a leading telco as a prize for some of their customers. A fast-growing plumbing business was one of the first winners. The coach got the co-owners of the operation to list all their frustrations, then designed systems to beat them out of the business.

One big problem was that many of their plumbers would leave valuable gear on building sites. This resulted in expensive losses, or workers being forced to drive back to sites to pick up the stuff. This ate into work time for the business or meant the employee was frustrated finishing work late. The whole picture wasn’t a happy one.

So the coach suggested preparing a checklist of actions for all employees working off-site that had to be ticked off before the staff member left a site. This led to no big equipment losses, a better use of work time and employees were not frustrated at having to go back to sites on their own time.

So how would someone create a You or a Me Plan?

There are a number of ways to skin this cat but I like the idea of preparing a list of frustrations and designing systems to kill them out of your life. I know I never lose my car keys because I have a system I introduced many years ago and that’s one frustration that has been dead and buried.

Another great business trick to boost a business, which can be applied to you, is to do a SWOT on your life. I know Neil Perry’s business mentor made him do this when he was small and growing with his Rockpool business. The result was fast growth, as he stopped doing jobs he was average at (such as administration and bookkeeping) so he could concentrate on marketing the business. And boy didn’t he do a great job with that!

With a SWOT, you should list your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your strengths should be used for success and happiness while you should try to eliminate your weaknesses, even if you have to get expert help. The opportunities should show you where your plans should be aimed at, while you have to take steps to ensure that threats don’t ruin the dream.

Let me try to give you an example of how this could work for you as a human being striving for success and happiness.

Your SWOT says you’re great a communicator one-on-one but your weakness is that you are terrified of public speaking. The opportunity is that if you can beat this weakness you could get a promotion, higher pay, your kids can go to a private school (if that was your goal) and you’d be a great role model for your children and fellow employees. But to have this ideal outcome you will need to beat your big threat, that you are a tightwad and you won’t pay to get expert help to learn how to beat your fear of speaking to a big audience.

This example underlines what you really need to do to lift your personal achievement results and put yourself in a position to put your happiness on steroids!

Last week, I noted how high-performing businesses actually set big measurable goals (or BMGs) and my employee wondered how she could do that in a family setting. I can’t see how a family member survey on how happy they feel about life on a scale of one to 10 would be sellable to a modern family but I guess it wouldn’t hurt and could be insightful, maybe helping you see an elephant in the room you’d been ignoring!

Others might link success and happiness to money in the bank and where the annual holiday is spent as a consequence of the implementation of your You Plan. For example, the post-Christmas holiday might generate more happiness if your plan, and the related changes, meant you holidayed at Disneyland rather than in a mosquito-ridden caravan park at the back of Bourke!

Your plan might mean that you regularly visualize you and your family’s future improvements and the hoped for pay-offs and this very action itself actually increases the chances of making it happen. And your plan might actually direct you to read more self-improvement books.

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Liz Wiseman was a former Vice-President of Oracle and wrote a book called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and she used what she learnt from business to beat a family frustration.

She lectured us that great leaders ask a lot of questions and give their team free reins to take actions.

Business was easy for Liz but the family hour from bath time to getting her kids into bed was described as madness, so she tried her business approach and the results shocked her!

One night after dinner, she asked he kids, what do we do now? The answer was we have a bath. And rather than doing it herself and forcing her kids to do as they were told, she found that they led themselves to the bath and then to bed and even tried to read themselves stories. 

A frustration was killed by applying business methods to a family challenge.

The respected business thinker, American Verne Harnish, who wrote the book, Mastering The Rockefeller Habits, once told me he thinks the best way to lead people in your business was like the way you lead your kids — “you give them a handful of rules and you repeat them all of the time.”

A business plan, in its simple form, outlines the goals of the business and how it will achieve those goals and I’d argue that your You or Me Plan should be based on the same principles.

I often joke when it comes to trying outlandish and outside the square innovations that whatever is worth doing is worth doing for money, however, I think there’s a very good case for arguing that anything worth doing is worth doing for happiness!

Peter Switzer's book Join the Rich Club is on sale for 30% off from the Switzer Store until the end of Easter. Click here to pick up a copy today!

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