Long Live the Chief Happiness Officer

Written in collaboration with Ellen Sebregts

At long last, focused attention for Mastery, Autonomy and Connection!

Do you know what’s so great? For years we’ve been writing about the three needs which when fulfilled make a person happy – at home and even more so at work: Mastery, Autonomy, and Connection. It’s so simple. Yet not easy. That’s why many organizations who have understood this message realize how difficult it is to truly live up to this challenge and appoint a Chief Happiness Officer.

A hype? Rubbish? We think not.

These three such simple happiness factors are darn difficult to implement and even more difficult to live up to as an organization. At home it’s easier, yet especially in the work environment, constant and unabated attention is essential. So: long live the Chief Happiness Officer!

It’s Not Chief-of-Doing-Fun-Things

Importantly, the Chief Happiness Officer shouldn’t fall into the trap of being nothing more than the Chief-of-Doing-Fun-Things: a party here, a happening there, some personal attention now and then, and an event from time to time to “really engage coworkers.”

Previously, the focus in our blogs has been implementing Deci and Ryan’s three needs of mastery, autonomy, and connection (MAC) from the manager’s or the leader’s perspective: what you should do to really listen to your coworker so that they feel themselves heard and to engage in a meaningful dialog with them. In this blog, the focus is more on the organization: a happy coworker makes for a healthy organization and better performance (both individually and for the organization as a whole). The Chief Happiness Officer therefore needs to develop a strategic plan encompassing all three aspects of MAC. What would such a strategic plan need to include?

A Strategy for Mastery

Coworkers prefer to do things that have purpose. This includes doing things they are capable of and also being able to utilize opportunities to get better at what they do. As Chief Happiness Officer, your strategy on this factor includes a plan for continual development and for the sustainable employability of the coworker. That doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable employability only within your organization (though it would be nice if that happens to be the case). You want your coworkers to feel valuable as they continue to master fast-changing technical and societal developments. Your plan also includes training opportunities for leaders so that they become excellent transformational leaders who give their team members adequate performance feedback.

A Strategy for Autonomy

A part of your strategic plan includes facilitation: how to enable coworkers to design their work environment in a way that fits their expertise. The organization also facilitates autonomy by using the principles of stepped decision-making. In terms of organizational culture, a core value expressing coworkers’ respect for the competency of their colleagues will remain a point of continued attention: it offers coworkers room to do their work largely in the way they see fit.

A Strategy for Connection

Coworkers want to have meaningful and pleasant interactions with their colleagues and with their (team)leader – their need for connection. Part of your strategic plan needs to pay explicit attention to creating a safe environment (an order of more magnitude if you’re dealing with a neglected organization characterized by negativity, complaining, gossiping, and political games). Coworkers need to feel safe enough to speak up, without the fear of having their heads chopped off. Safety also means prevention of bullying on the work floor.

The Plan

It’s quite a list! What makes it even more complex is that all the aspects need to be addressed simultaneously as they’re interrelated: each need is dependent on the other two also being addressed. And if that’s really too much, start with connection and especially with the focus on creating a safe (psychological) environment.

Don’t know where to begin? Two tips:

  • Read all the blogs mentioned in this post, as each post contains valuable tips on what to do and how to do it.
  • Contact us and we can work out how to get you a thorough plan worked out on the basis of an analysis of your organization.

With a strategic plan, your Chief Happiness Officer can get cracking!

Note: This post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on the 9th of May, 2019.

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