The Happiness Questions

It happens this week. The first World Happiness Summit in Miami.

When I tell cherished friends that I’m participating as learner and tribe leader, I am often met with a pained roll of the eyes. A moment of polite silence. And attempts at containing the happiness quest.

Well you can’t be happy all the time.

Don’t you think being fulfilled is more important than being happy?

Happiness, I read between the lines, is deemed fluffy and fleeting. Not robust enough. I mean, really, a whole summit of touchy-feely happiness fluff?

Meet a business leader who gets it. Cedric Bru, the CEO of Taulia, a maker of invoicing software for the likes of Coca Cola, Halliburton, Pitney Bowes, PayPal, Agilent Technologies, Hallmark and many many others. Taulia has a 100% customer retention rate since launching in 2009. Order rates in Q2 of 2016 doubled compared to order rates in the same quarter, 2015. Taulia is doing something right.

How do you hire people? Cedric Bru is asked by Adam Bryant, the inveterate curator of the New York Times Corner Office column (NY Times, 2/5/2017).

I believe that people overperform when they are happy. And I don’t believe that companies make people happy. People find happiness in a company, in their life. It’s not external. People have to be happy with themselves.

For Bru, the notion of happiness is more than a fanciful leadership idea. It’s an explicit part of the workplace conversation.

Happiness is personal; the way you find happiness in a company is different from mine. So I ask questions that are tailored to understanding how they will find happiness here. It becomes a shared assessment.

I will ask you how you will find happiness at Taulia, and I want you to think how feasible it is. Because if you don’t think you can find happiness here, I don’t want to work with you. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for everyone else.

We tend to hire folks for skill and culture fit. Cedric Bru hits a deeper animator. Business volatility and interpersonal challenges notwithstanding, do we know how to be happy at work?

This week, as I mingle with corporate Chief Happiness Officers and happiness researchers and official happiness emissaries from far-flung places like Dubai and Bhutan, I will contemplate my own happiness questions:

  1. How do I experience happiness?

  2. What makes me truly, deeply happy about the work I do?

  3. How do I contribute to the happiness of my colleagues and clients at work?

  4. What could I do more of/less of to invoke a happier work experience for me and those I serve?

These are not nice-to-have questions. They are my I-want-to-overperform questions.

Wanna overperform, too? Instead of working harder, faster, better, contemplate your own happiness questions. It’s the gentler and less obvious place to start, and the most potent one.

I mean, really. Why not?