I get asked a bunch of questions about… you know… stuff. And in the early morning hours I enjoy responding (hopefully) thoughtfully and thoroughly. A couple members of my team suggested I start sharing my advice. Previous AMA’s are here. So, without further ado, please enjoy this installment of Ask MilEs Anything:
A reader asked me: “How can I make everyone around me happy and satisfied – if only for a moment?”
You can’t. You simply can’t. You may want to – but you can’t. You can’t make other people be happy. I’m so sorry, and I so admire your desire to find and bring good to the surface of your company. Truly, we need more people like you, and I love you dreaming the impossible dream.
The limiting factor—in this case—has nothing to do with your abilities. In fact, your limiting factor is your co-workers capacity for seeing the world through your beautiful eyes.
I’d like to dunk a basketball, but I’m 45 years old and can’t jump anymore. My limiting factor isn’t my want-to—or my very own beautiful eyes—but a scientific mixture of gravity, birthdays, cupcakes and pizza.
But, dude, I have great news. You still can make a difference if you’re willing to be patient and keep your expectations chill.
What you can do is start by looking at the things that are in your control.
What can you do for others?
- You can be an example.
- You can model the behavior you want to see in others.
- You can point out what people do well.
- You can treat others with gratitude.
- You can handwrite cards for no reason at all.
- You can be a source of joy for others.
In the deep seas of hell that are many modern workplaces, be the lighthouse. Give them little glimmers into seeing the world through your eyes.
Lead. You can suggest exercise as a group or lunches together or send a morning video of the day (Laura and Paulette on our team do this!) to everyone that’s inspirational or funny. You can suggest to management (assuming you’re not in management) a plan to reward the behaviors you’d like to see in others: In your case, finding ways to notice and reward the kinds of things listed above.
And you can be the best listener and learner on your team. Always make time to listen and give people the gift of your presence. Over time, your behaviors and actions will most certainly have a positive net-effect on your organization (I’m guessing you’re already doing some of these things, or you wouldn’t have asked the question. People of awesomeness are like that.)
But you can’t make other people be happy.
Happiness and joy are intrinsic… something that is mostly out of your control.
There are some problems that you will be able to fix. If there’s a culture of negativity inside your office, then the fact that they are unhappy is a symptom of something deeper – and this is an issue you can work on. If there are issues in an employees personal life and you have the resources to help them – do it. Are you a religious or spiritual person? May I suggest inviting someone to coffee and talking about Jesus and His Kingdom? Or invite them to church on Sunday? You might feel that’s inappropriate or not your jam. I understand, but if you simply needed a sign to do this: Hi. I’m your sign.
Are you in management?
If you’re the manager, are there things inside your culture that could be fixed or are there just things in their personal lives that need to be fixed?
You can focus on creating a culture inside your company of support and compassion. Follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated. But at the end of the day – you are not going to make everyone happy or be able to solve all of their problems and you need to be ok with that.
Now, happiness and satisfaction are not necessarily redundant. Employee satisfaction—really smart people have proven—has less to do with Money than three other really cool M words. I suggest you research those or pass them along to your owner/manager/supervisor.
You’re a good person, Anonymous-Wisher-Of-Happiness-And-Satisfaction. The world needs more people like you.
Oh, and PS – A great book I’d recommend to you is Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager. It’s a really interesting story about an overnight commercial cleaning business. Their employee turnover percentage was over 100%. So, they’d hire one and lose two. They had this terrible atmosphere and their people were unhappy. When they took the time to dig deeper they found out that a lot of times, what was really bothering people, were actually very simple problems. So they started to ask them, “Is there anything in your personal life we can help you with?” Sometimes, the answer was as simple as “I need help balancing a checkbook” or “I have car problems and it’s a real struggle for me.” In response to these issues, they invented a new position inside the company called Dream Manager who met with employees once a quarter to discuss how their lives were going.
A little company by the name of Zappos read this book and created this position inside their company – and look how it turned out for them.
Speaking of Zappos – another book I might recommend to you is Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness which is the story of Zappos and how their culture of service has really benefited them (obviously Amazon bought them for a hundred bazillion dollars and so they did something well while still continuing to delight customers).
Lastly, and I’m leaving this until the end so it helps form a lasting impression: There’s a distinct and sad possibility that your company culture is such that it stands little hope for recovery… which means you don’t belong there. Your natural gifts of light, grace, and kindness deserve a workplace that cherishes those values.
If you have a question you’d like to ask and don’t mind (a) replies in the wee, small hours of the morning, or (b) me sharing the answer with the rest of the class (removing any personal info, of course), please reach out to us. If you get our emails, just reply. If you’re reading this on our site or in your RSS feed, click me.