There has been a lot of noise about a recent report on Global Happiness and it has gotten me thinking.  I read the piece and noted their conclusion, that in developed countries where there is an adequate level of wealth, so that the basic needs are adequately met, increased income does not lead to increased happiness.  I guess the old saying, “money can’t buy happiness” may still be relevant.  It is interesting how important sense of community and mental health come up when determining happiness.

The report got me wondering how this would apply to our industry.  After 30 plus years, I have observed some consistent patterns.  First, clearly money is not a motivator, but getting too little is definitely a demotivating factor.  Happiness comes from so many other things.  People seem to want a challenging assignment that may even border on what they feel they can manage.  They like to be stretched.  They appreciate when people take a chance by putting them into big jobs or on highly visible task forces.

Recognition is huge, especially in today’s environment where brand teams have so many members.  In marketing, it is very difficult to self evaluate and without feedback, especially positive, it is tough to stay motivated.  This is especially true in that a lot of product managers come from the sales organization where they are being constantly ranked against their peers.  This doesn’t happen in marketing.

The biggest factor for happiness is whether people are driven for goals beyond just market share.  Those who understand the benefits they are bringing to patients seem happier than those who are not connected to their customers.  Those that are engaged in a monster launch seem happier than those just maintaining business somebody else started.  Those who totally buy in to the corporate vision seem happier than those who don’t know or understand the vision.

The January/February 2012 Harvard Business Review issue with the $50 million yellow smiley face on the cover, dedicated over 30 pages to the happiness issue.  Spritzer and Porath have an intriguing piece where they conclude that happy employees  produce much more than unhappy ones.  They use the concept of “thriving” to describe the happiest of employees.  There are a couple components to thriving, vitality and learning.  Vitality, they define, is a sense of being alive, passionate and excited about what is being done.  Learning is about growth and that constant cycle of developing new skills that leads to learning even more.  The key for leaders is to determine how to build a thriving organization.  The authors propose that giving people decision making discretion, sharing information, minimizing incivility and offering performance feedback goes a long way to helping employees thrive.

In a second piece, Shawn Achor talks about three things individuals can do for themselves to build up their own happiness.  He talks about changing your relationship to stress, developing new habits and most interesting to me, helping co-workers.  Being engaged with and working to help others, it turns out, is a huge factor for one’s happiness.  He shows that those who tend to provide the most support to others have a 40% greater chance of being promoted in the following year.  He also shows that happy employees are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales and are 3 times more creative.  Having happy people helping others seems to be very important.

Take a few minutes to think about happiness and then notice how much it is in the popular and business literature.  Given the impact it has on both personal and business development it might be worth further exploration.

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