Why do great employees leave?

May 21, 2009

That is a question that I have found on the LinkedIn group “Executive Suite”.
I love those questions, because there is an army of consultants and specialists and experts showing off all they know, and their comments are incredibly detailed.
But the reality is much simpler. Employees, especially the great ones, do not leave the company, they leave their boss.
High turnover, especially of great employees, is the best indicator of poor management!
Many companies use the “grandfather” principle, but in reality, when there is a problem between the “father” and the “grand child”, grandpa almost always backs daddy, while the departure of great employees should tell him that daddy is being naughty, and daddy should be reprimanded. But that rarely happens, and the grandfather principle is kind of a joke, really.
But one thing is sure: when great employees leave, the average quality of what is left decreases, and the company is heading towards the ground.
I have seen that just too many times, in color, 3D and Dolby stereo.
The good thing about it is that companies who appreciate talent always win in the end!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Tip: Make their day, they will make yours!

May 11, 2009
Here is a simple way to make yourself happy. If you do it only once, you will be happy for a little while. If you do it on a regular basis, the feeling will get much more permanent.

All you need to do is to give positive feedback or a compliment to someone when they do something that you appreciate. Of course, this works only if there is a genuine reason and if the compliment is genuine as well.
Flattery or hypocritical compliments will not have the same effect. Although it probably makes the person who receives it happy, it will not provide you with as much fulfillment as it does when it is meant.
For instance, this week I wrote a recommendation on LinkedIn about a former colleague. His reaction was quite positive and a few good things have happened since then.
An other example was yesterday: I went to a drugstore to buy something that I had seen on ad in their flyer. I could not find it and I asked an employee for help. He went in the back to see if they had any in inventory, which they did not and he offered me to write a rain check. He did this with so much professionalism that I was quite impressed. When I left, I had to compliment him on how helpful he had been. The smile on his face just made me feel really good about myself, too.
I made their day, and their response made mine as well. Even if it was about rather mundane stuff, the return was above any expectation.

So, go ahead! Give good people around you the genuine positive feedback they deserve when they do something right! It does not matter if it is in your private life or at work. You will feel great about it, and I bet that you will repeat it in the future.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


How to be happy

May 11, 2009
A few days ago, I saw on CNN the title of one of the topics of the day: “What really makes people happy”. A whole program!
Of course, this being a dear topic of mine, I clicked on the link and read this article, written by a collaborator at the Oprah Magazine. If it is linked to Oprah, it has to be true.

Well, I read it, and like most article on the subject, it gives a number of examples of what makes some people happy. It also refers to some professor and some science about hormones, since we have to try to explain everything. It mentions the connectedness between people, and being involved in something bigger than yourself. To that, I yawned and said blah blah blah, because once you are finished with that article, you honestly have not learned much, if anything.

So here we are, with a bit of science, a bit of spiritualism, a bit of humanism, a bit of metaphysics trying to find the absolute recipe for happiness, the ultimate quick fix. And out there, you can find an army of people who try to sell exactly that. This is just like the get-rich-fast-and-safely non-sense. It does not really exist, and that is a good thing, because that feeling of earning what you have is so much more satisfying!

Happiness simply does not come to you that way!
In my life, I have helped many people to express their potential, I have opened their eyes, I have transformed their lives for the best, and I have made them achieve things that they did not even think they could ever do. And I have developed all those “techniques” on myself as well. Therefore, I know firsthand what works and what does not.
And here is the simple truth about happiness: there is no universal or absolute method on how to be happy. However, there are a few truths about the process of becoming happier.

Happiness is being in balance with yourself and your environment
balanceIn order to be happy, you need to know yourself. This sounds obvious, and yet because of lack of self-awareness, many people look for answers in all the wrong places, and can spend their whole lives being unhappy.
Then, you also need to know your environment. Who are your friends, your relatives, your colleagues, your neighbours. Do you really want them? Are they bringing you what you are looking for? Are you in the right place or do need to consider a change? And is that change about your environment or about you?

You must incrementally meet your needs and your values through action and objectives
Everyone has his/her very own and very specific cocktail of values, needs, desires, goals and dreams. It comes from their personality, their upbringing, their education, their social circle, you name it. This is why what makes one person happy does not necessarily bring any satisfaction to someone else.j0438395[1]The first step to increase your level of happiness is to identify the ingredients of that cocktail. The following steps are about setting targets on how to meet those values and needs more as time goes by. Trying to satisfy needs you do not really have, will not work on the long-term. Just look at a child at Christmas: the new toys are exciting the first day, a bit less the next day and soon they will be boring. The toys met a short-term desire, in most cases inspired by outsiders, especially marketers, but did not answer a true deep wish. And I am sure that you can find many similar examples of meeting the wrong needs. It might bring short-term satisfaction, because a nice surprise is always nice, but it will not last because it is not the right answer.
Having objectives, or you can call them wishes, desires, dreams, is of utmost importance to be happy. It gives a feeling of purpose to your life, and therefore to you! Objectives are powerful drivers to grow and gain wisdom. If you doubt this, just try to imagine having to spend the rest of your life with no goal at all. How does that idea make you feel?

This is not a passive process; you must have a plan, practice and train regularly
To do the above, nothing beats making a plan. It has to be a plan shaped around your values, in which you will determine your needs and set up a number of steps and set time lines to achieve them.happy
Happiness will not fall upon you per accident. If you want to be happy, you need to want to be happy. Nothing nice will happen to you unless you initiate the process and keep its momentum going.
Happiness will not stay with you, unless you nurture it. You have to work on being happy on an ongoing basis. If you stop your efforts, you will see your level of fulfillment drop over time. Being happy is an active process, and just like sport, your performance at it will decrease if you become complacent. And this is where so many fail at happiness: it takes discipline and persistence.
Happiness is not about being in a state of permanent bliss. It has its ups and downs. Being happy does not mean that you never experience negative feelings like disappointment or frustration. This happens, and it happens to all of us. But truly happy people know how to find the resources to overcome such negative feelings, to refocus on what will make them feel good, and take the proper action to correct that temporary setback.

So, now you know how it works. Have you noticed that I do not bring any explanation that involve money, religion, spiritualism, love, friendship, meditation, science or any of the so many terms that usually are used when talking about happiness. That is simply because they are all valid, but they are not all valid for all of us. Everyone must choose what works for them!

For those of you interested in the CNN link here it is: What really makes people happy

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Signs of a good company culture

May 11, 2009

You know what they say to job candidates: you have only one chance to make a good first impression! This is valid for a company, too.
Regardless of any PR work done or how well crafted their website might be, nothing compares with just the possibility of walking around and watching.

First, take a good look at the surroundings. Are they inviting? Is this a place where you would like to spend half the time that you are awake? If the place reminds you of a hospital or a prison, you probably do not want to work there, unless of course the place is a hospital or a prison.
Nothing spells sadness more than empty silent corridors with closed doors. A high-energy high performance place is alive. It is buzzing with people and communication, and generally most doors are open.
Another thing that catches my attention is the presence of those business posters on the wall. You know, the type that will celebrate the virtues of teamwork or of customer service. Unless they have been placed by the employees themselves, it might be a good indicator of the management style and communication style. Instead of leadership by walking around and frequent contacts, the company probably prefers totalitarian regime-like propaganda. Some of those posters are really pretty, though.

In Good CompanySecondly, just observe the people. In the great places to work for, people exude happiness. They will smile at you in the corridors and they will say hello. Beware of the workplaces where you will not even get eye contact, forget about a smile.
A good place to go for a quick assessment of the culture is the water cooler/kitchen/coffee machine. When you pop in, watch what happens! In a good company culture, you can be sure that the employees present will look at you and greet you with a smile. If, instead, your arrival causes the voices to turn down or simply stop, with straight faces and an awkward silence, then you can be pretty sure that the discussion topic is not about how to beat last month’s results.
A brief chat with the employees will show you the company culture. In a good company, people are genuine and enthusiastic; when they talk about their workplace, you can see their eyes and faces come alive and do not be surprise if you have the feeling that they try to convince you that you should work there, too.

In a good company culture, everyone makes sure that the workplace is friendly and inviting. The main signs of a good company culture are happiness and absence of fear! And this describe exactly the “happy” (using vicious would be inappropriate) circle. Fostering happiness and fulfillment increases the commitment of the employees and their performance. They will go the extra mile for the company without asking anything (well not much) in return. They will not watch the clock to decide when to go home. They will leave when they have that sense of completed work. The absence of fear allows the employees to be more entrepreneurial and to dare more. This increases the performance of the company, reinforces its competitiveness and, success breeding success, this creates more happiness and fulfillment in the workplace. Full circle.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Energizing frustrated employees

May 11, 2009

Here is one of my favorite ways to help the staff focused on work, and not get distracted for too long by the frustrations that their work sometimes causes them.

Tensed

We had two main rules:
1) There had to be a good reason, as I had no interest to be disturbed for insignificant problems. After all, my staff had to be able to deal with most issues themselves.
2) They would make sure that I would be available at that very moment and, if not then, we would agree on a time to review the matter. “Can I come in and vent?” would be the password.

This technique has delivered wonders, and the funny thing about it is that in most cases I hardly had to say much at all. I just would ask a few questions about what, who, how, when or why and they would tell me all about the issue.
In most cases, they would know how to solve the problem that had arisen, but they actually were looking more for support and confirmation that they had the right solution in mind.

Back to SerenityThis is just an example of how important presence and availability are in managing people. If you have done your hiring properly and brought in the right people in the right jobs, they will understand very quickly how to do what is expected from them and deliver the performance that meets, and in most cases exceeds the targets. The role of the manager in such a situation is a little comparable with a shepherd. You keep a good oversight of your troops, but if any one wanders in the wrong direction, you just bring him/her back on the right track.

Further, once people have vented, they can “breathe” normally again and they will get back to work, not only happier than before the session, but actually energized to go out there and deliver more results.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Success and happiness: which came first?

May 11, 2009

I have heard and read about this question quite a few times, without getting a very clear answer, though.
Probably, this is because the question as such does not really address the core of the issue it wants to raise.
In my view, both success and happiness originate from the same, and grow in a very similar way.
In order to be successful and happy, you must start with shaping your life around your core values, and not around those that your environment imposes on you. Only by doing so, you will be able to choose and develop activities that, both professionally and personally, can bring the fulfillment and the enthusiasm that are required in any successful endeavor.

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Success can be a rather difficult concept to formalize, as its definition depends greatly on what you consider important for you in life. For some, this will be making lots of money, for others it will mean have a family, it also could be gaining a position of power or reach a certain social status; it could be becoming famous, and so on.
If you try to eliminate the subjectivity that goes together with the variety of values, a good definition of success that I have heard is that “success is to bring what you start to its completion”. I personally like this definition, because it describes very well the whole process that is necessary to reach the required satisfaction to feel successful.
What, to me, reinforces my conviction that success and happiness go in parallel is that you can write the same paragraph above, just by replacing success by happiness and the text will make just as much sense.
It is quite difficult to try to see a relation of cause and effect between the two concepts. Indeed, if you are not happy, can you feel successful? In the same line of thought, can you feel happy if you are not successful? You probably cannot.
Next to engaging in activities that match your values and working on bringing them to completion, a very important aspect for both success and happiness is to get others involved as well. Never hesitate to ask for help, for support and for feedback. You will never have enough of those. Other people’s input is very valuable to stay motivated and determined, as well as to avoid losing track.
A great way of increasing your level of happiness and success in life is to first envision what the ideal world would be. What would you do if you were the one who could make things “perfect” for yourself? Once you have defined this ideal world, you can start developing your own plan. Although in some cases, a drastic change could work, I would recommend having a step-by-step approach, as a drastic change all of a sudden could bring a lot of uncertainty and chances of failure that not everyone can handle. Set your targets to go from point A (where you are today) to point B (your ideal world). Define each step clearly and set realistic and rigorous timelines to this plan. Timelines are quite important because they will force you to keep taking action. Not doing so will always end up in inaction, because we are all very good and finding excuses to postpone what we prefer not to do. Another important part in the execution of this plan is to designate someone (friend, coach, family member, etc…) to remind you, to enforce these timelines and if needed to reprimand you, because there again, if you can get away with procrastination, chances are that you will indeed.
To sum up, the way to happiness and success requires the following: build your life around your values and choose the environment in which they can flourish. Have a plan to improve your level of fulfillment. Share the enthusiasm with others. Celebrate every success along the way. Do not forget to ask for assistance to make sure that you will not divert and give up on your plan.
This last point is actually quite important: many people feel unhappy because they have given up on their dreams.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Everyone has potential, just allow them to show you!

May 11, 2009

j0414117[1]To illustrate this, I cannot think of a better example than one of my employees when I was in the aquaculture business.
She used to work for the accounting department of a different division, and her performance was not great. At that time, I needed someone to help us out with administrative tasks and with the processing of information.
I was offered to hire her, although all the negative feedback I had heard was not encouraging. Fortunately for her, the manager under which she was working, was not exactly an example of trustworthiness or integrity, and I decided to meet her and see for myself who she really was.
I remember meeting her on a ferry to one of the islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. She was sitting in her car and did not expect much good from me, as I am known as quite straight forward and decisive.
Anyway, we had our meeting, which went rather well, and I decided to have her meet further with the rest of my team to discuss the operational needs a bit more in details. As there still was some hesitation about her real abilities, I decided to give her a chance, under the condition that we would review her performance after 3 months and then decide. If the performance was satisfactory, she would stay; if not she would go.
And what a transformation! From an unmotivated and dull person, she turned into a dynamic and resourceful collaborator. She did an amazing work, had a great productivity and came with many great ideas on how to process and present the information we gathered.
Later, the person to whom she was reporting (who reported to me) surprised us with a change of attitude for the worst, and unfortunately, I could not have her to tell me what the reasons of that change were. After several attempts to get her getting back to her former self, it appeared that this would not work, and I fired her, which left a hole in a rather sensitive position. I went to the other lady, and asked her if she felt she could take over from her supervisor. She was a little hesitant about a fairly big step forward, but as I guaranteed her that I would fill in temporarily for the areas that she did not master, yet, she agreed to take the plunge.
It was a position with much more responsibility and that needed decisiveness and authority, as she basically had the mandate to stop the plant if production was not in order. And once again, what a beautiful transformation it was!
She not only adapted to a higher position, but delivered a quality of work that I rarely had seen elsewhere, and I had been in quite a few many places!
She became the best QA Manager in the seafood business that I have met in British Columbia, and she has survived 2 mergers where I am sure she was in competition with people who had a much more solid academic background. She now is in charge of Food Safety for the largest salmon farming company in BC (and in the world)
All that was needed, was for her to have the chance to be able what she really was made of, and that would have never showed up on her resume. It was selection on the job, in the real world!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.