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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leadership is the Surest Route to Joy at Work

Here are some clues about the importance of happiness and joy at work. On a recent Gallup Healthways survey of 100,000 Americans, business owners outrank 10 other occupations in overall well-being, despite working longer hours and earning slightly less, on average, than professionals and managers/executives, who rank second and third. The surprising fourth is farming, fishing, and forestry, despite the lowest income of any group. (Maybe not surprising, given how many US leaders unwind by fishing or brush-cutting.) More confined service, clerical, transportation, and manufacturing workers are at the bottom, in the low 40s on Gallup's 100-point well-being index compared to over 70 for business owners.

Autonomy, influence, and a sense of meaning are associated with lower stress and fewer work-related illnesses, regardless of hours worked. Supervisors are better-off than the supervised, and entrepreneurs are the best-off of all.

This suggests that exerting leadership is the surest route to joy (other than going fishing). The key is setting the agenda and starting the pieces moving towards a purpose-driven goal. If 90% of success in life is just showing up, Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor advises that when you show up, you might as well run the meeting.

So here is our list of top ways to find joy at work.

10. Identify long-term personal purpose. Write a personal mission statement, to review often. 
9. Be an entrepreneur from anywhere. Even if you don't start a business (now), imagine starting a project that will improve your current job, workplace, or community. 
8. Discuss the idea informally to find others feeling the same way. Enlist them in the quest. Now they're counting on you not to let them down. Describe it as an experiment that will benefit others. Incorporate feedback so that others hear their ideas in yours. 
7. Get a ‘big name’ to endorse giving it a try.
6. Negotiate out of demands that don't contribute to the goal. Keep doing what you must to keep your job, but simplify. 
5. Find every supporter a task, however small. Show that you're working for their goals, too. 
4. Widen the circle of the informed. Involve people not usually included. 
3. Remain positive. Smiling takes fewer muscles than frowning and is contagious. Ignore sceptics unless easily converted. 
2. As the bits of the cube start moving, keep communicating and coordinating. 
1. Celebrate each ‘eureka’ moment of accomplishment. Share the joy to multiply it. More jobs with more joy - now that's an agenda the public should rally behind. Let's not wait for employers to make changes, necessary as those are. A few good ‘eureka’ moments can keep us going - and influence employers to see why joy matters.


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