Satisfaction and Happiness

One topic has dominated my reading and conversations this past week. The topic is simply happiness. Happiness is a random, high level topic to consider when thinking about leadership, motivation, team building, or someone’s professional career.

From Lean Enterprise pg 10/11– In 2013, PuppetLabs, IT Revolution Press, and ThoughtWorks surveyed 9,200 technologists worldwide to find out what made high performing organizations successful….the headline result from the survey was that strong IT performance is a competitive advantage. Analysis showed that firms with high-performing IT organizations were twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share and productivity goals.

Two main points from that study really stuck out for me. First, a company with strong IT performance is an advantage in the marketplace. Two, companies with a high-performing IT organization are twice as likely to exceed a variety of expectations. A prominent St. Louis firm has spent the last ten years making substantial changes to how they deliver their services to their customers, and because of these changes they have stayed well above the competition and have been quick to find other market segments that they can provide value to. At a board meeting one of the board members said “It’s time we start thinking of ourselves as a technology company instead of just a distribution company. We have to understand and value that segment of our business more.” What the customer was realizing was that IT can have a much greater impact on the ability of the business to provide value if they are truly thought of as partners, rather than a cost center. I believe that most organizations in today’s landscape should view themselves as technology companies or at least value that segment of their business because software is either keeping their business running and organized or they are creating software for use by their customers. Today, software and technology touch and impact virtually every organization.

Continued from Lean Enterprise: The Survey also set out to examine the cultural factors that influenced organizational performance. The most important of these turned out to be whether people were satisfied with their jobs…The fact that job satisfaction was the top predictor of organizational performance demonstrates the importance of intrinsic motivation. Are these teams satisfied? Are these teams happy?

To summarize the content from Lean Enterprise – the most successful organizations have high functioning IT departments and high functioning IT departments are satisfied, or happy. As a colleague of mine and I talked on this topic over lunch, he stated something that I found really interesting: “Happiness…It’s simple, but profound.”

Friday when I got into work I struck up a conversation with Eric who sits behind me. Eric has been at this company for about a year as a consultant, and like other consultants has bounced around from company to company. I asked him how long he has been here, where he was before, what led to him leave the old company, what he liked about the new company. He went on for about ten minutes, repeating one phrase a few times as he struggled to articulate exactly what happened that led to him leaving his prior job. “I wasn’t happy, I don’t know how else to say it. I hated going into work, I started watching the clock at noon, started counting down the hours. My boss micromanaged everything. She made it so hard to work, I didn’t feel valued at all. I don’t know how to say it, I just wasn’t happy.” It’s simple, but profound.

Lean Enterprise identifies two factors that employees take into account when considering their job satisfaction:

  1. I have the tools to do my job well.
  2. My job makes good use of my skills and abilities.

When I work with teams, coaches and leaders at some point I will make the comment. “What does your team need and how can you help?” What do your employees need? What does your team need? They need the tools to do their job effectively and they want to use their skills and abilities effectively. I would also add that they want their skills to be stretched and challenged. How can you help? This is your challenge as a leader, each member of your team has to be reached differently. One of the main priorities of a leader is to put their people in positions to be successful and to improve. Evaluate, consider, discuss and establish roles that each member can excel at on your team given their different skills sets and abilities.

Ideas to Remember

  • Most successful organizations have high performing IT departments.
  • Cultural factors that influenced performance – job satisfaction
  • Satisfaction – top predictor of performance
  • Tools to do job well – and good use of skills and abilities.
  • “Happiness…It’s simple, but profound.”

Suggestions to Consider

  • Think about your team every day – each individual ask yourself “What do they need, how can I help” – Consider how you can provide VALUE to them.
  • Make sure each person understands how valuable their contribution is to the team’s mission and purpose.
  • Servant Leadership – shift mindset from “they need me” to one of “I need them much more than they need me”
  • Is each member of your team making use of their skills and how can you as a leader stretch their skills.

Humble, Jez and Molesky, Joanne and O’Reilly, Barry. Lean Enterprise, How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale. O’Reilly2015

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