It is a common fallacy among managers that they want their staff to be happy because happy people are more productive. This may be true, but it is only part of the story. Of course, as a manager, you do not want your people to feel unhappy about coming to work. People who are miserable at work will most likely be unproductive and sooner or later they will leave. But that does not mean that your number one objective should be to make them happy.
Let’s look at the happiness issue. What if people like to work in your organization because it is comfortable, easy work and a friendly environment where they can chat with their friends, drink a cup of coffee and browse the internet? Under these circumstances they would be contented and glad to come in to work but what are they motivated to achieve there?
Instead of happy people, what you want are passionate people. You want your staff to come into work because they believe that what they are doing is really worthwhile; they believe in the goals and mission of the organization. In this way they will be motivated to work harder, to find better ways to help customers and to be more entrepreneurial in their approach. The ideal is when people are committed to the vision of the organization and can see how they can contribute to reaching that goal.
It follows that as the leader you should focus on two things. First, you should clearly communicate the vision and objectives for the organization and discuss with each individual how their role fits in and why it is important. This should be a dialogue in which you assess whether they are really committed to the vision and where you ask for their ideas about how they, you and the team can work together to make it happen. Secondly you should try to remove all the issues, great and small, which make their work more difficult or make them unhappy Eliminate the obstacles and give them the support they need so that they can achieve their objectives.
Is summary, you do not want unhappy staff but you do not want happy and complacent staff either. You want people working for you who are satisfied with the day to day aspects of their work environment and who are passionate about achieving the long-term goals of the business because they agree that they are worthwhile. You should work with them to help them clearly see how their work contributes to reaching these goals.
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.