Engaged and happy people are the secret ingredient in every success story. Imagine an unhappy entrepreneur or employee setting the world on fire with a new idea and an enthusiastic team of followers – not happening.
A global Gallup survey found that only 13 percent of employees feel engaged at work. And this unhappiness is impacting the bottom line. Companies in the top quartile for engaged employees generated 22 percent greater profitability than those in the bottom.
But what’s the key to happiness? Why aren’t we making it a priority at work? According to the groundbreaking 75-year Harvard study, we already know the answer to long-term happiness and fulfillment. It’s our relationships.
Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development reported, “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Just knowing a lot of people or working around a lot of people isn’t enough. True relationships have genuine connections. Consider how we grow close to our colleagues while working on challenging projects or our cohort while participating in a business boot camp or accelerator – and feel a letdown when the team splits up at the end.
One of the most powerful ways to forge strong connections is by creating micro-experiences that cause an emotional uplifting in others. Cue the well-planned team-building retreat!
Unfortunately, in business, we don’t often take the time to invest in deepening the professional relationships that could provide the connections and support that would make us feel happier and more productive in our careers. As entrepreneurs, we’re willing to work 60 hours a week, but somehow can’t find the time for keeping up with friends or making new ones. We’re just too busy.
But think about this…according to another Gallup survey, those who feel they have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being and are even less likely to get injured on the job.
Think about at what's happening in today’s workforce. We’re now in an era where many employees seek out and stay with organizations that have exceptional workplace cultures. And while there are numerous components to these cultures, they are often characterized by feelings of trust, belonging, and inclusion.
We spend most of our waking hours at work, and it's only natural that we want to build connections with our team members. It feels good to have work friends when we want to celebrate or commiserate. Without that outlet, work can seem lonely and isolating.
I tell my entrepreneurship students to get ready to be both lonely and social. They’ll be heads-down struggling to build a business – and networking like crazy to build the relationships needed to grow it.
Make it one of your New Year’s Resolutions to recognize your positive feelings and express them. Create those micro-experiences. Drop off thank you notes, take 30 seconds to express appreciation, bring in flowers or treats, stay in touch with friends, and remember…your happiness and success, and everyone else’s, depends on it. Grow the “happy” in this Happy New Year.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.
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