Feel Successful to Be Successful

Happy singers

Everybody knows that happy people do good work.

It might be true but it’s misleading too. Happy people and good work are correlated but they aren’t cause and effect. In fact, research shows that it actually works the other way around, people who do good work are happy.

Any manager who believes that to get good work out of their staff means making them happy first is looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Managers should focus first on making their staff successful — helping them grow, appreciating their work, making them feel responsible — and they’ll be happy.

Not an end it itself

But neither happy staff or good work are ends in themselves.

The result of all this good work and happiness is better experiences for customers.

Happy people doing good work put more effort into creating better products and providing better service. It doesn’t take Sherlock to work out that customers love the results: products that sing, beautiful design, effortless functionality, smiling service, attention to detail, total presence, focus. You name the measure, anything positive scores more highly with a happy, successful, engaged, and motivated workforce.

Which is good, but still it isn’t the nub — happy customers aren’t an end in themselves either.

All the happiness that’s floating around is useless without the success and sustainability of the business itself.

Start the ball rolling

Leaders shouldn’t challenge themselves just to make customers and staff happy (I’m sure you can do both if you try. Every time). The real challenge is to do it whilst making more money than you spend — which, by the way, lights up owners with success and happiness too.

So here at last is the point: successful sustainable businesses are made with happy and successful customers benefiting from happy and successful staff.

How to start the ball rolling? Make your staff feel successful.

Of course you have to pick your moments, but in general the trick is to do whatever it takes. You might have to set the bar a little low in the beginning, give praise for even the smallest thing and highlight effort rather than results. Whatever it takes.

But when the ball is rolling, use its momentum to climb those hills.

Neatly filed under Leading,Skippiness on December 16, 2010
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6 cracking comments

Adrian Swinscoe on December 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hi Nick,
I completely endorse this approach and think it will increasingly be the way of successful companies. One way to approach it might be to bring back Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. What do you think? Would that be a good starting point?


Wendy Kier on December 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hi Nick,

I am probably stating the obvious; it would be good to get an understanding of what people’s perception of success means to them as we all perceive it differently a really great way to move any team forward.

Do you think success is longer lived than happiness just a thought!


Nick on December 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Hi Wendy, thanks for commenting.

Is success longer lived than happiness? Hmmm. Who knows. Success is certainly a much longer lived and powerful motivator than happiness. And motivation is a big contributor to future success.

Nick on December 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Hi Adrian

I’m not sure Maslow ever went away :) but the idea here is to start the “be successful” ball rolling with little successes that can lead on to greater gains.

It’s possible to argue that the little successes I’m talking about here can help fulfil Maslow’s third and fourth level needs, belonging and self-esteem, and that once fulfilled there will be more opportunity for everyone involved to create more success and rise towards self-actualisation.

Michael on January 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

Hi Nick

This point is so well made. Happiness is nice but is not the wooma that gets us up and going.

In the past i was unhappy in my job as we were focused on efficiency and serious strategic navel gazing that we were completely unaware what was happening in the market.

what made me unhappy about this was the complete lack of meaning and purpose to what we were doing. It really felt like we were just running on the treadmill and the thought of having that for the rest of my life was not an option.

I know its a bit etherial but if you get the meaning and purpose right, the happiness, money and all else just follows.


Marc Sokol on January 31, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Robert Greanleaf said it all so well in his classic book on Servant Leadership. In this case leaders commit themselves to be serve the ideal of customer experience and carry themselves in accord. This easy translates to paying closer attention to how employees delight customers and how to remove obstacles.

I guess you can quick spot these leaders by the way they skip happily around the business!!

What do you think? ...