On January 1st 2013, I made a New Year’s resolution and sticking to it has been one of the best decisions of my life. Today I’m going to share this resolution with you, explain why it works, and explore how it could radically improve productivity and culture at the workplace.
But before that, I want to talk about happiness.
Shaun Anchor talks about the power of happiness in his blockbuster TED talk, “The happy secret to better work” . In it, Shaun challenges the traditional formula for happiness - that working harder will lead to greater success, which will lead to happiness - by positing that:
“..it's not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality…if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”
Thanks to our advancement in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, a causal connection has been identified between happiness and performance. This means the biggest obstacle in your career and personal life could just be your mood. As Shaun explains:
“If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we've found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You're 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”
Shaun makes an extremely compelling case for the happiness advantage, but how can you make yourself happy and sustain that feeling in the long-term?
No, I’m not talking about actual radiators. Radiators are people that emit positive energy and, for whatever reason, make you feel good. They are happy, uplifting and compassionate, and they’re stable. At the other end of the spectrum are drains, those who siphon your energy away and leave you with negative emotions.
Two years ago, I made a resolution to surround myself with radiators and minimise the amount of time I spend with drains. Consciously spending more time with the people that I see as radiators consistently results in a happier outlook on life, greater confidence and higher energy levels. I’m less scared of what other people think. I speak up more. I laugh more. And I credit my "radiators" for driving my career progress. Without them I might have become more insecure and resentful, worn out by life and struggling to climb the ladder.
The exercise has also made me more self-aware. I want to be a radiator for others, but that means I can’t slip into bad habits and catch myself moaning about something - or someone - without good reason.
Translating the "radiator principle" into the workplace
What's beautiful and exciting about the "radiator principle" is that its application goes far beyond guiding individuals in their choice of who to hang out with. In the world of business, culture fit and personality are typically key criteria in the recruitment process, but it's not always easy to tell who will be a good fit or not. Sometimes different interviewers will have completely different view of the same candidate.
What if a company added “Is a radiator” to their list of criteria? A radiator is easily identifiable, likely to be a high performer and - being a mood-boosting agent - likely to enhance the performance and productivity of those around them. Just think of what could be achieved by a team of radiators!
Negative emotions are not in themselves bad: it’s important to feel and accept these emotions when they come and turn to friends and family for support. It’s important to help others when they are low, too, but stay mindful of how much time you are spending with them.
Secondly, our emotions aren’t just the result of significant events. It’s often shaped by the environment we are in. Toxic cultures nurture negativity, and if we want to create a positive cultures we need to stand against excessive gossip, negativity and self-deprecation. But the physical space plays an important part too. We don't have to become experts in feng shui, but we can modify our offices or homes with an awareness of how natural light, furniture arrangement, sound, colour and tidiness affects mood and productivity.
The happiness advantage has shown that it is in our collective interest to be happy, but sometimes happiness seems beyond our grasp. We can get so wrapped up in our unique challenges that we forget that we not only deserve to feel happy, but that happiness itself can dramatically improve our performance and productivity (and maybe solve the problem). This is where the "radiator principle" comes in - choosing to surround yourself with radiators will not only make you happier and more successful, it could transform you into a radiator for others. Now that's an idea worth talking about.
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