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The Happiness factor

18 April 2021

Do you work for a ‘happy’ business! If not, is there something you could do about that? asks Michelle Hoskin, MD of Standards International  

In his book Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan describes how happiness can only be truly achieved when there is the perfect balance of purpose and pleasure!

In most cases, we of course know why we do what we do – and that includes our purpose and the reason we run our business and/or show up in our roles every day – but let’s be honest: I think it’s safe to say that at some point in the last 12 months one or more of us have felt at times like we have literally been hit by a bus.

Despite my positive disposition, I have many times been well and truly in that camp – much to my personal disappointment!

But – despite how I have and still feel personally – regardless of what is going on outside, I still have to show up every day as the leader of my business, on a wider scale to keep ensuring that we are acting as a ‘beacon’ in our profession, but most importantly I need to make sure that I have and continue to have a ‘happy business’.

It does, however, take a great deal of effort and energy – and sadly as I look around the profession, this energy is missing from many firms.

We know that when businesses are set up, everything is all very exciting – we love the good stuff! As business owners, we get excited about the freedom to make our own decisions, to do things our way and once and for all set our own standards and meet them! But why am I telling you this?

Well, if you looked around your own businesses or looked inside the business that you work for and with, you will see signs of this all over the place!

Sadly, what we see in these same businesses are the carcasses of projects started and not finished, a collection of good ideas and intentions that quite frankly went nowhere, and outstanding loose ends in both business- and client-related workflows. Why? Because we are human and in truth we only really like to do the things that we like to do. The rest we either give to someone else, closing our eyes and hoping that they disappear, or we grit our teeth and crack on with the job in hand!

Also, and let’s not forget that, regardless of any of the above, we certainly don’t expect to ever have to try and work through a pandemic. But this is the stark reality right now – and the repair and relaunch of the happiness within the business is something that we should all be thinking about… not just those who run the businesses!

So, if happiness is the key, then how do we create it and capture it so that it’s well and truly in place for the long haul?

1. A love for it! You love it, you work within a team that loves it, your boss loves it and you work with clients who love it! But what is IT? IT is your business, IT is their jobs, IT is what they do, IT is how they do it, IT is who they do it for and IT is financial services as a whole. Working in this profession is like a calling: you can’t do half measures! You have to be all in! In fact, you have to be so far in that you couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The result is… when you all LOVE IT, the business will ooze passion and enthusiasm for everything around it and we know that an all-round passionate business is a happy business. And that is a great place to be!

2. A rule of no compromise… ever! If something is not right, try to fix it. If something is not fixable, remove it – and if something needs finishing, finish it! It may seem harsh – and it will for sure be a painful and often drawn-out process – but I promise you it will be worth it as it’s amazing how things have a habit of all coming good in the end. If you make too many allowances and overcompensate for people and things that are not working or simply could take the job or leave it, it brings a detrimental level of unhappiness to the team and all those who come into contact with it.

3. Total and pure honesty! People often say that I have a rose-tinted view of our sector (like that’s a bad thing?!). Well, that may be the case, but I have no intention of changing my view any time soon. Why? Because, while I may see our profession in a unique way, I am honest – I say what I see, I hold no punches and I tell it like it is. If I see something wrong, I will speak out; if I think something could be done better, I make the suggestion; if I think standards are slipping, I’ll raise them; and if I don’t like how people are being treated, I will stand my ground. This – I believe – is a level of honesty that we could do with much more of in our profession. As a business owner but also as a member of my own team, I am 100% open and honest with all those around me. There are no secrets, no elephants in the room and no unspoken truths. I share how I feel and what I believe, and no one can argue or disagree with my feelings and beliefs. If one of your company values is honesty, then how can you ever fully commit to that if so many things are not said? When you have no secrets, people feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. This is a feeling we all crave, and which ultimately leads to creating a great place to work.

4. The strategy of seeking to understand before you seek to be understood! Understand those around you. I don’t mean how many sugars they take in their tea… I mean really understand them. Understand what makes them tick, why they work, what makes them jump out of bed in the morning, what they dream of, who they love and why, and not forgetting what makes them sad and what makes them happy. As professionals in your role, you will spend many hours collating the information to understand your clients at this level but feel that it is ‘inappropriate’ to understand your teams and colleagues in the same way. When people feel understood, they feel valued, they feel cared for and guess what… they feel a part of something that matters – because they know they matter!

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the doors will open and the shackles will be off! Social distancing will be a thing of the past and we can all get back to some much-missed face-to-face contact! When this chance arises, make happiness the vibe in your business and in your teams – and while I know we are still a little bit bruised and battered from the events of the last 12 months – we all need a little bit of something special for 2021!

A closing note: a happy team makes happy clients who make a happy business. It doesn’t work the other way round.

This article was first published in the April 2021 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

Professional Paraplanner