Tag Archives: Leadership

Leadership for the Many, Not the Few

By Beth Zimmerman

Leadership. In the organizational context, this phrase typically refers to a select group of people with titles such as CEO, vice president, director, and manager.

At Evans, we embrace a broader concept of leadership, one that asserts that leadership is for the many, not the few. Continue reading

Does Investment in Happiness Have an ROI?



Should You Invest In Happiness?

By Emad Elias, PMP

Can a management consulting firm be in the business of making happiness? Evans Incorporated specializes in managing change effectively.  It’s no secret that, for most people, and for most organizations, change is difficult, and in the short term causes feelings other than happiness.


Thomas Jefferson is the one who inserted into the US Constitution that we have unalienable rights that include ‘the pursuit of happiness’, but he also said, “Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.”

Have we forgotten how to be happy?  Is it like any other skill that we can cultivate like playing piano or driving a car?  The following strives to answer these questions!

What Do the Experts Say?

Dr. Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., professor at Harvard and author of Stumbling on Happiness says that “people overestimate the extent to which both good and bad events will have on them in the future.”  They believe that if good things happen they will be ecstatic and that joy will last for a very long time.  And it works in the reverse as well.  In fact, people who go through severe trauma report they are more connected and integrated with other people, their surroundings, and their environment.  Experts say the key ingredients to happiness are being able to appropriately respond to adversity and a close and supportive family and/or friends.

Tim Kasser, Professor of Psychology at University of Tennessee, provides data that says in the last 50 years, growth in incomes in the U.S. has grown quite a lot and we are now about twice as wealthy as we were.  National surveys show, however, that over that same period of time, we are no any happier now than we were in 1950.  Once basic needs are met, no amount of money will cause happiness.

Take a look at the concept of the Hedonic Treadmill.  According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.  Does this mean we should not give raises to employees?  No, certainly not but perhaps we should think about how we might persuade people to find happiness with their work using things other than money.

We can break down peoples’ goals into two basic groups: Intrinsic goals and Extrinsic goals.  They are in opposition to each other.  People focused on extrinsic goals like rewards, making more money or attaining status report being less satisfied, feeling less purposeful, more depressed, more anxious, and having less vitality.  People focused on the intrinsic on the other hand, those goals that are inherently satisfying, and feed their psychological needs, break down this way: 1. Involves Personal Growth in a way that satisfies internal needs, 2. Involves relationships with people that allow them to feel valued, and, 3. Involves a desire to help others.

Are We a Happy World?

According to international happiness research, Japan is the least happy of the current industrialized nations.  Since World War II, they emphasized economic growth and prosperity so much that they forgot how to be happy.  In fact, they have a name for this: Karoshi.  Contrast Japan with the county of Bhutan. The government in this country to the south and west of China, has taken it upon themselves to create an environment where people can pursue happiness.  In fact, prosperity there is not measured as GDP or GNP, but GNH – Gross National Happiness.  People are encouraged to think rationally, holistically, and spiritually about each decision they make.  This is an experiment we can now follow to see the result.

Denmark, on the other hand, consistently ranks as the happiest nation on earth with its rich social life and high standard of living.  Why is this?  It seems to have much to do with more people living in ‘co-housing communities’ than in any other nation in the world.  Conclusions here might be that if people live and work more communally, they are more likely to switch from thinking more about what they don’t have, to thinking about what they DO have and how they can share it.

Does happiness lead to creativity?  Does it lead to higher productivity?  Does it lead to higher functioning?  Research indicates the answer to all of these questions is Yes according to a documentary called Happy directed by Roko Belic.

The happy secret to better work, according to Shawn Achor, is Positive Psychology.  According to Achor’s research at Harvard, much of the above is worthy of investment by today’s corporations worldwide.  For example, focus on extrinsic goals is predictive of only 10% of our long term happiness while focus on intrinsic goals is predictive of 90% of our long term happiness BUT is dependent on the way we process the world or the ‘lens’ through which we perceive things.  Why is this important?  Because every employer wants to know that each employee can consistently be successful and will provide a return on their investment.  Again, Achor’s research says that only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ, while 75% is predicted by the following:

  1. High levels of optimism,
  2. Strong social support, and;
  3. An ability to see stress as challenges vs. threats

Following this line of thinking then, in most countries, there is an accepted formula for happiness that goes something like this: Hard Work = Success = Happiness.  But the Hedonic Treadmill disputes this pervasively accepted formula we all seem to live by.  Happiness gets pushed over the cognitive horizon.  So what if the formula actually works in reverse?  What if investment in developing the skills to be happy leads to more creativity, more positivity?  Research from Achor shows that our brains are 31% more productive ‘at positive’.  Presumably, this would lead to Success, which would probably lead to Working Hard (except it might feel more like fun than work).

Now consider the work of Dan Ariely in Predictably Irrational where he makes the point that social contracts are stronger than market contracts.  For example, a daycare center decided to impose a $3 fine when parents were late picking up their children. Instead of encouraging them to be punctual, it had the opposite effect. Late pickups went through the roof. Why? Before the fine was imposed, there was a social contract between daycare staff and parents, who tried hard to be prompt and felt guilty if they weren’t. By imposing a fine, the center had inadvertently replaced social norms with market norms. Freed from feelings of guilt, parents frequently chose to be late and pay the fine — which was certainly not what the center had intended.

Change Management Approach to Happiness

At Evans Incorporated, change is our specialty. We have a deep appreciation for the challenges facing our clients, and a long track record of providing the tailored, people-centered solutions they need to achieve their change missions.  We have expertise across a wide variety of issues involving organizations, their people, processes and technology — and in particular, in the high stakes, complex field of change management that can impact any or all of these elements.  We have the experience and special mix of talent to know what to do be it a Results Only Work Environment or Theory X environment.

Leaders working in organizations need to focus more attention on developing practical happiness-enhancing practices to assist managers AND the front line to become more engaged in their work, experience meaning in their work, and experience positive emotions, thoughts, and images in relation to the work and work environment.  Traditional change management approaches (CAARMA) really do work to communicate the benefit of change and achieve organizational goals with the least risk.  These approaches, combined with effective performance management systems, will cause Happy High performers to grow in numbers.

Are Your People Happy?

Nobility of management

by Tip Fallon

When I think of noble professions – teachers, social workers, and other care-giving roles have usually come to mind.  I didn’t think of a business person in a pin-stripe suit, i.e., a manager, as a noble profession until recently.

From my perspective, managers and the role of management in organizations often get a bad reputation.  We accuse managers of being out of touch, creating unnecessary work and complexity, and have come up with endearing terms for them like “micromanagers,” “bureaucrats” or even “the Man”.  Despite the frustrations managers can create though, they also have the opportunity to do work that I believe is as noble as any other profession.

Maya Angelou advised that people don’t remember what you do or say, they remember how you make them feel.  That is, while our tasks at work may be important, the quality of our life isn’t determined by how many deadlines we meet; it’s about the state of our well-being: emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  When we feel good, we are happier, more productive, enjoy better relationships, and more likely to help others feel good.  Our experience at work greatly impacts how we feel.  140 million people are employed in the U.S and spend half of their waking hours at work on weekdays.  And what directly impacts one’s experience at work?  His or her manager.    Regardless of the line of work, or person’s level in the organization, the manager can create a culture, relationship, team dynamic, and task assignment that can make all the difference in the experience of that individual’s day.

The impact doesn’t end when the employee leaves work.  Whether someone has a positive or negative experience at work then impacts their lives when they return home to their friends, family, and community. This impact compounds over time – people can have good weeks, months and years at work, or bad ones.  And the effects are consequential to the individual’s personal life as well as to his or her family, community, and society.   Thus, managers directly impact the lives of people and the depth of that impact carries over into other dimensions of that person’s life.

What do you think?  Do you view management as a noble profession?

“Why is My Organization Not Winning, Displaying Confidence!?!” – Part 1: What is Confidence?

Author: Emad Elias, MBA, PMP

This post is a part of a 4-part series on confidence by Emad Elias.

To be sure, as leaders, every one of us has done analysis time and time again on why our teams are not performing as we would expect.  We have all used multiple techniques and tools to try and determine what patterns lead to success and which ones do not.  A Harvard Business Professor by the name of Rosabeth Moss Kanter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosabeth_Moss_Kanter) has posited that winning teams all display the following three things: Initiative, Collaboration, and Accountability.

Using examples such as Target, IBM, Seagate, Gillette, Continental Airlines, BBC, Verizon and sports teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (70 game winning streak), the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, and De La Salle’s high school football team that won every single game for twelve years, Kanter shows that failure AND success are not episodes, they are trajectories.  They are tendencies, directions, and pathways.

So what is Confidence then? It’s the bridge connecting expectations and performance, investment and results.  Why is to so important to performance? Because it has tremendous influence on willingness to invest. This means to commit time, resources, reputation, or energy to something.  This investment shapes the ability to perform. But if people who must invest their time into something they believe is or will fail, they will withhold effort and investment and that deepens a state of decline.

As a simple example of what investment looks like, in your face investment like how a building is designed or maintained can deliver immeasurable results to boost peoples’ expectations of themselves and each other. If a building is bright, clean, and colorful and makes people proud of their workplace, it can also make them take the initiative to do work about which they are proud.  Kanter, in her book, offers the example of the difference between Target Corporation headquarters and Kmart headquarters.

What does confidence look like then as it relates to process improvement?  Take the example of Continental Airlines offered by Kanter.  They went from being in a major losing streak from 1989 to 1994 to winning numerous awards for customer service and workplace excellence ten years later.  What did this look like as people did their work?  From a process improvement perspective, this manifested itself in a transition from ad hoc processes and a culture of blame and disrespect to an environment where employees were reporting to management what they had done rather than asking permission to do things.  They had been empowered through years of collaboration, communication and responsibility.  This resulted in more standard processes that had become institutionalized and “everyone just knew their job and went to work”.

According to Kanter, there are four hierarchical levels of confidence when a team wins:

1) Self Confidence: an emotional climate of high expectations

2) Confidence in one another: positive, supportive, team oriented behavior

3) Confidence in the system: organizational structures and routines reinforcing accountability, collaboration, and innovation

4) External confidence: a network to provide resources

To learn more on the next part of this topic read Part 2: What does losing look like?

Leadership Is…

Nicole Morrow, PMP

Leadership:  It’s a word that gets thrown around quite a bit in the workplace.  Google it and you will receive over 159,000 results. Try to find a book on the topic and you will uncover more than 81,000 books on Amazon.com.   Ask your team or your colleagues to define it and you will get as many variations of an answer as the number of people you ask. With so many options, it might seem that this topic would be easy to define.  Unfortunately, all the sources add a different layer of complexity and can cause confusion for the person who wants to understand what practical leadership really means.

One definition of leadership is having willing followers.  Many people can coerce their team to do what is needed, but if people aren’t willingly following, than they are just following orders.  So what can you do to be a leader – to have willing followers?

It is helpful to remember that leadership is personal to your team.  Each individual has a different set of values that motivate them.  Understanding this factor helps to unfold the layers of the leadership onion and gives considerable insight into motivating the members on your team.  This factor alone is one of the most important keys to success when unlocking the mystery of the word, “leadership” and developing yourself as the strong leader you want to become.

Ask your team to put on a piece of paper what characteristics and actions they have seen in other leaders that were impactful to them and you begin to get farther along the path of leadership discovery.  The reason is that true leadership is a result of actions, not acting out a definition on a piece of paper.  ‘Tell with your actions’ has never been truer than with this word, “leadership”.

You might hear some people who consider themselves effective leaders if their team members do what they want them to do.  Others consider themselves good leaders if all deliverables are met and something is accomplished.  Today, I challenge you to consider that “getting things done” is not the same as being a good leader.   If the bottom line is successfully met, why doesn’t that equate to good leadership? Compliance is not the same as commitment. In compliance, the team will do what you say but then could be limited by only doing what you say. Lack of that commitment leads to shortcuts, rework, high turnover, and eventually the associated decrease of quality and increase of costs.

We started this message with “Leadership – It’s a word that gets thrown around in the workplace”. In future blogs in this leadership series, we’ll dive into the core characteristics of leadership and how to apply them to make them work for you.  For today, the takeaway is that leadership is not a Word; but rather leadership is most powerful as a display of thoughtful actions.  With that in mind, start thinking about what thoughtful actions you value from those you look up to as leaders. What characteristics of practical leadership have you seen in those that you admire? You may find that the results lay the foundation of your new leadership style.

ACG National Capital Spotlight Shines on Evans CEO

Recently, Evans CEO Sue Evans was featured in the ACG National Capital blog.  The article speaks to Sue’s background and accomplishments in the Human Factors and Ergonomics field, how she used her unique skills and expertise to drive cultural change, and her story of launching Evans Incorporated to help organizations get change right by focusing on the human element.

Read the full story here: http://acgcapitalblog.com/acg-national-capital-news/acg-national-capital-spotlight-shines-on-dr-sue-evans/