The secrets of a happy team

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At the time of writing, almost 13 million people had viewed a TED talk given in 2011 by psychologist Shawn Achor about the secret to better work.

In his 12-minute presentation, Achor says it is happiness – not money, not fancy offices, not a mahogany desk – that inspires us to be more productive.

If you’re running a business, no matter how small it is, the wellbeing of your team is as instrumental to your continued existence as your networking skills, the service you provide and all the other things you measure success by. A happy team will stay late for you when the computers are on the blink, they’ll arrive in the office with a spring in their step, and they’ll remember their time under your wing as a truly rewarding experience.

So how do you set about creating one?

The modern workplace is light years away from the office environment of the 1970s, where worker drones were expected to dress a certain way, keep their heads down and perform tasks that were necessary to the greater good of the company but rarely offered little personal satisfaction. As a result, work could be humdrum and uninspiring – a state of affairs that can very easily become the norm even now if the people in charge don’t take action.

To help point you in the direction, we scoured the internet in search of some golden nuggets that collectively form the backbone of a happy working environment.

Only hire great people

It sounds so obvious – and yet we’ve all worked with or know of someone who makes office life miserable for everyone. Pay close attention to interview performance, references, gaps in CVs, and yes, even Facebook profiles before hiring. “Make sure you’re hiring people who are professional, can work in a team and can contribute to a positive work environment, because one bad apple can spoil the bunch,” Jazmin Truesdale, CEO of Mino Enterprises, told Business News Daily.

Action point: don’t hire anyone on a whim and make sure you’re actively involved in the final decision about new team members.

Actively encourage a friendly team

Cheryl Stein, a business coach at employment website, says you should “Make a point of encouraging people to say, ‘hi’ to each other. It sounds simple but it is actually an incredible way to build a sense of workplace community and something that busy focused people forget.” Cheryl suggests that you begin by getting senior employees onside and having them make an effort to be friendly and communicative with the rest of the team.

Action point: practice your best 1,000-watt smile and think about what would make the team feel upbeat and included. Group events could be a good place to start.

Talk to the team

On a related note, Jill Geisler, author of the book Work Happy, told in 2013 that an obvious but oft-overlooked aspect of management is that bosses should know a little about the team. “Go out there and talk to your employees. Ask them what it’s like to work there,” she says.

Action point: if this sounds utterly alien to your current working environment, don’t rush in with 20 probing questions about the kids/cat/grandma, instead remind yourself daily that your colleagues are people too. Slowly try to develop a conversational attitude that makes everyone feel part of a caring and united team.

Allow the team to progress

The Harvard Business Review asked 600 managers to put the things that motivated employees in order of importance: the list contained “incentives”, “interpersonal support”, “clear goals”, “recognition” and “support for making progress”.

When recognition came out on top, Harvard writers Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer argued that the managers were actually wrong and that the true answer, according to years of study, was progress.

“On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs,” they write, “or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak.”

Conversely, those days on which employees felt that meaningful accomplishment eluded them, their “moods and motivation are lowest.”

Action point: work with each team member to devise a series of professional goals – then develop a strategy to get there.

Make staff comfortable

Quoted in Forbes, Sherry Ways, an interior designer and colour therapist, states that “noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control, or inadequate sanitary facilities can create a stressful work environment.” Pretty obvious, really!

Action point: do a walk-through of the office from the point of view of a new employee or, better style, as if you were seeing it through the eyes of the director of ‘Britain’s Worst Offices’. Then fix everything that needs doing.

Be open

“Our employee engagement survey found that the No. 1 contributor to employee happiness is transparency,” said B.J. Shannon, manager of customer happiness at, in an interview with Business News Daily. Money and promotions are important, she says, but what people want to know is the truth about the state of the company. “The cost of improving transparency is almost zero,” she points out.

Action point: there’s no point being transparent with a hostile team, so first work on improving harmony and then start involving them more.

Give a vote of confidence

Andrew Jensen, a business growth and marketing consultant in the US, says that staff really notice and appreciate it when they feel you have faith in them. “Show that you trust your employees to make the right decisions, and to an extent, allow the employee to be creative in their job tasks,” he advises.

Action point: think about ways you can ease off the “rules” that govern daily office life so that the team have certain liberties to perform things with a touch more freedom.

Be true to your word

“Employees want to know that they can trust their managers,” says Sharlyn Lauby, author of Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers. She told that employees don’t want sugar-coated responses, nor does a smart manager always tell his team exactly what they want to hear. “But employees do want you to straight up communicate with them,” she says.

Action point: be as honest and forthright as you can, without being brusque or rude. An employee who knows exactly where he/she stands with you is more likely to take you seriously and respond well to both praise and criticism.

Mike Peake is a journalist and has written for the Sunday Times, Harrods magazine, the Daily Telegraph, Reader’s Digest and Country Life.

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