"Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof..."
Pharrell Williams, "Happy"
Welcome to almost autumn!

This month, This Call is Now Being Recorded features two takes on workplace happiness:  one individual, and the other more institutional.  In other segments:  employee engagement, and an article about a simple retention practice.

Emerging managers, want to beta test something new and low-tech? 

Thank you for inviting me to your inbox. 
It really isn't in your job description.
Some in my circle believe that it's their job -- as a manager -- to make people happy.  Confounding.

I started making a list of literary works featuring characters who try to "make" someone else happy.  Many don't exactly end well.  Protagonists whose failed attempts end in divorce seem to have brighter outcomes.  Ouch.  

The business press feeds us tales about workplace happiness efforts:  meditation rooms, beer, and nap pods. 

There's a better goal.  In This Call is Now Being Recorded, Juliette Austin talks about creating an engaging environment, where people want to do the work.  Yes.

This happens when your team members believe in the organization's purpose.  They also have clear individual goals, and the tools and support to meet them.  They're treated and compensated fairly.  You provide feedback that enables them to develop and grow -- and they feel like they fit into the social fabric.

These are basic conditions for what's commonly called "engagement." 

Most of the work around engagement seem to come from consulting firms -- each with proprietary definitions, metrics, and methodologies.

One model has emerged from Gallup's work around their Q12 engagement survey, 12 questions on whether managers are providing meaningful support to team members. 

Gallup guards this survey so hard that you can only find bootleg versions of the questions online.  Or by buying books -- their books -- that are good, but not classic.  The questions cover commonsensical ground:  are your expectations clear?  Are your people using their best talents?  Are you providing feedback? 

Answers to these questions are a good lens on your workplace, and if I were your CEO or People lead, I'd probably use the Q12.  (A recent, I think, development:  Gallup now offers the survey at a price that's accessible to smaller organizations. #notapaidpromotion)

What survey can measure "happiness?"  Happiness is an individual reaction to a messy set of conditions and factors, at work and elsewhere, that you don't control.  It's not your job to manage anyone's reaction. 

Own what you can:  be clear, be fair, and give a hoot about the people on your team and their development.   Create the environment where people want to do the work.

That's the stuff of management excellence.
This Call is Now Being Recorded:  Happiness at Work
It would be Awesome to join a company whose CEO is optimizing for Happiness and Positivity -- or would it?

Juliette Austin has extensive institutional experience around engagement.  Our July conversation on diversity and inclusion detoured briefly into happiness; this clip didn't make the earlier episode, and is included here.

Also, a software developer in my circle shares -- anonymously -- experience at a tech company with some interesting practices meant to create a positive environment. 

Like, being asked not to use certain words, like "hate."
"We don't say 'hate'," is something we actually say to my under-10 crew. 

I'm OK with tone-policing kids in my own family, and asking them not to be jerks on the internet.  I was gobsmacked to hear of this instruction being given to adults, as a tech firm's policy

You can read more on regulating speech at the office in the Knowledge@Wharton interview with Dan Lyons, on his recent tech culture memoir, Disrupted:  My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble.
Syllabus Spotlight:  Stay
A "Stay interview" is almost like an employee engagement survey, administered IRL.  "Stay" is one of my own brief blog posts.

Typically, Stay interviews happen during a transition.  When you're new to a team or a company, it's smart to sit down with every one of your team members and learn about their expectations.  HR/People leads may have Stay conversations when a manager leaves, after a layoff or major departure, or in a team that's not performing well.
  • Truth:  Losing someone who is doing well is the worst.  Stay interviews can help you to identify people who are flight risks.
  • Utility:  The article itself is not a how-to.  It's a reminder that you should never take a team member for granted.  And that it's your job to make sure that commitments made to your employees -- by you or someone else in management -- are revisited regularly, and kept.
  • Credibility:  I wrote the blog post.  I'll leave it at that.
  • Caveats or qualifications:  Stay interviews are a bit remedial.  Theoretically, your regular 1:1s are your opportunity to talk with your team members about their satisfaction, engagement -- and even happiness -- every week.
I don't know that there are best practices for Stay interviews.  Especially if you're in a transitional situation, your best bet is to prepare a couple of open ended questions, and then be prepared to listen. 

When you want to retain someone, respect their time and input.  Take notes, follow up, and let them know what actions you'll take.  This way, maybe your next conversation won't be an exit interview!

(The syllabus is currently here; I'm slowly moving it to a new website!)
Desperately Seeking Beta Testers
Are you an emerging manager -- someone in the first several years of managing people and teams?  I'd love for you to join me. 

I'm developing, and now beta-testing, an extremely-low-tech learning tool.  (No, it's not an app.  Never.)

For more info, and to sign up for the beta, check me here.  If a friend or colleague would like to join, please do invite them!
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Anne Libby
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