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.


About Talent and Prejudice… and a bit of Happiness

May 11, 2009

Today, out of curiosity, I went on YouTube to watch Susan Boyle. I had heard about her singing performance, but I had no idea what it was and whether she was good indeed.
What I have watched and heard on the video is simply amazing! Moreover, it immediately inspired me the title of this article.

First, about prejudice: When she introduces herself on the stage to the jury panel, all she met was skepticism, smirks and disbelief. Can you imagine? An unemployed 47 year-old who is not particularly blessed by her looks and does not wear fancy clothes. In the audience, you can hear giggles and laughter at her, as well as eyes rolling. The general thinking probably was “What a loser!”. Her slightly cheeky attitude was just adding to the comic perception. And yet…

Now about talent: It did not take Susan Boyle more than 3 notes to make them all shut up. The eyebrows rose, the jaws dropped and the mouths went silent. Just 3 notes to realize that all that her looks made people think were simply irrelevant, because that lady on the stage is simply something else. She has an amazing voice and she can sing. A whole bunch of pop divas who are all about cute and sexy should simply ponder about what their talent is about, because they not even remotely can compete with Susan Boyle.

Click here to view the video

Finally, about happiness: Her performance not only stunned the audience, but you could see on the faces, by watching at the throats and by the final ovation, that Susan stirred some really strong emotions. The listeners really experienced something deep and very positive. When you listen to her, you cannot keep on thinking about the little worries in your life. No, all the rest goes on stand-by, because her voice is too beautiful to be missed by insignificant details that can wait for later. Susan makes us happy because she is happy herself.

The great lesson that comes from this is that she did not doubt her abilities, even if she probably had to deal with people who judge her on the wrong parameters. She shows that when you have a dream (no pun intended with the title of the song), you must keep chasing it, regardless of what others might think or say, because if you persist long enough, it will come true. It also shows that talent is inside, that too many criteria used to judge are irrelevant because not aimed at the right thing, and that the critics should not jump to conclusions. One can only wonder how it is possible that people supposed to spot talent have been able to not notice her for so long!
Her performance truly touched me and this article is dedicated to her.

Thank you Susan!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Maslow’s pyramid and happiness

May 11, 2009

Happiness is a subjective feeling. What works with one person, does not necessarily work with another person. The answer to this “mystery” can be found in Maslow’s pyramid of needs […] Click here to read the entire article.


The shift from negativity to positivity

May 11, 2009

Unfortunately, negativity takes quite a toll on too many people.
It brings an array of feelings and emotions that are eventually destructive. Yet, there are simple ways of dealing with negativity and move towards a much more positive approach of life.

 

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Negativity is used with different meanings. In many cases, someone will be labeled as negative, just for being critical, which annoys the person who is challenged. This is why calling the “challenger” negative is an easy way to dodge what may be a difficult discussion.
This is not what I mean by negativity in this article.
What I mean is the attitude that reduces anything and everything to an almost impossibility to do and achieve anything, a systematic refusal to even consider undertaking. It is the preference of the unsatisfying status quo above the potentially riskier change. It is loaded with negative experiences, such fear of failure and of rejection.
Negativity does not bring anything good in life. It leads to inaction, frustration, even sickness and depression.

Nonetheless, negativity is not a final condition and it can be turned around without to much difficulty. This, however, does not mean without effort…
The first step is to recognize that you have landed into negativity, and to have the desire to change this. Very often, this where most of us can feel “stuck”. How to make the switch to positivity?
A very important aspect of turning things around is to not isolate yourself, which is common when you do not feel too happy about yourself. Let the people that you trust that you are willing to change for the best will bring you more support than you would think, and for a simple reason: people who like you suffer of your negative mindset, too, and they will be more than willing to help you become more positive. So, do not hesitate to let your closest friends and relatives know what you are doing and have them get involved.

A really good way to deal with negativity is to increase your level of self-awareness. Every time you realize that you have a negative thought or reaction, just say “stop!” and rephrase your thought in positive language. For instance, instead of saying “that won’t work” ask yourself “how could I make this work?”.
Also, have your friends participate in this and allow, even mandate them to be the ones saying “stop” and ask you what you think you should have said instead. This method can actually quickly become a very playful experience and stimulate you to do more of it. After a while, you will already realize how much better you feel and how more optimistic you have become. This exercise is like gymnastics of the mind and brings good results.
What also works very well is to focus on the successes and not spend too much time on failures. By celebrating the victories, you will create a dynamics of enthusiasm and success, which very quickly will by far outweigh the attempts that went wrong. This will grow your appetite for more victories, as well as your refusal to accept defeat and fight harder next time to achieve your next success. There again, support and help from trusted friends and family makes this process faster and more effective.

Life is a constant challenger of your will, of your aptitude to dare and of your knowledge and abilities. This is how we grow, feel better, and achieve fulfillment. Take on the challenge and make your life fun and exciting!

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.


Too old to change. Or was he really?

May 11, 2009

As the Sales Director of the poultry plant, I also was managing our sales office in Germany.
The problem with that unit was that it had not generated any new significant customer for years, and as we were growing aggressively, we needed to grow in Germany as well as we were in our other markets.
Many discussions and meetings further, I came to the conclusion that the German sales office was simply useless and that we should sell to the German customers directly from our plants in The Netherlands and in Belgium.
Of course, this was a very bumpy situation. My superiors trusted my judgment, but were quite afraid of losing business in Germany (our largest market), which the General Manager of the sales office was of course not missing to tell them over and over. After all his job was on the line…
Anyway, the decision to shut the sales office was made and we had to figure out the next step.
Most customers were very old relationships, and this was important to take that into account when deciding who to appoint as the sales person for Germany. From the whole office in Germany, we decided that we should keep only one person for sales, the nine other employees would go.
There were two inside sales persons, and two sales reps. Quickly, the two inside sales persons did not make the cut and were eliminated. The 2 sales reps were very different. One was a young fellow, quite aggressive, well-connected and able to move large volumes, although quite a bit of a loose cannon, and with the tendency to yield to the customers when it came to price. Lots of volume but not much margin.
The other sales rep was in his early 50’s, a very good relationship manager, but with no track record of developing new accounts for a long time. General opinion was that he would get good prices but low volumes. General thinking was also that he was to old to change and adapt to the new strategy, and would be useless to the organization.
Yet, I chose the latter sales person, even though I shared the same worries as everyone else, but I knew one thing: he would listen and do as told, and he would bring a sense of continuity and trust to the existing customers.
We decided to keep him, and I would spend quite some time in Germany with him, visit all existing customers and accompany him in some new prospecting activities.
I presented him the sales plan, the objectives and the timelines and there we went. He simply became the best salesman we had. From a very apathetic and almost unproductive salesman, he turned into a dynamic, entrepreneurial and enthusiastic representative that brought new business, and lots of it. In the first year, our sales grew in Germany by 24%, while the industry average was only 2%. His performance was stimulating the other sales people, including me, to perform better in their respective markets.
He was not too old. He just had lost passion, because he had no clear idea of what was expected from him. In the new structure, this changed, and then he could do what he was good at: selling! And he did a great job, because by then he had become happy at work!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The hopeless rude guy from Planning

May 11, 2009

When I became Sales Director of the poultry processing plant, I also supervised the Inside Sales/Planning/Logistics Department.
One of the employee of that department was causing quite a few conflicts with the Production Department, mostly because of very poor communication skills. Requests sounded more like barking and politeness was a scarce commodity from his side.
That problem probably should have been addressed a long time ago, but OK, I had to deal with it now.
All I got was criticism about his conduct and “fire him!” kind of advice. Yet, he had many years of experience and had quite a lot of knowledge. That bothered me to just take the short cut and let him go.
So, I had a meeting first with him alone and later with his supervisor. In the first meeting, I addressed the problems and made him clear that I wanted to understand what caused him to act the way he did. With his supervisor, we reviewed his job description and analyzed what he liked and what he did not like about his tasks.
And bingo! We discovered that he felt very uncomfortable dealing with foreign customers having to speak in languages he did not master. The stress of the phone ringing and hear someone speaking German or English was just too much for him and he reacted his stress on his colleagues.
We decided to remove the customer contact from him, allocate that to another employee who actually enjoyed the sales side more than the production side, and dedicate our difficult friend more to the technical and planning side of production. Within days, I was receiving positive feedback from production people who were wondering what I had done to him, because now he was such a pleasure to work with.
And for him, as he was in his late 40’s, we also avoided a painful layoff that might have had severe personal consequences.
He was now doing what he liked and what he was best at. And he became very happy at work!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.