Be Happy! To Be Successful And Productive In Retail

Be Happy! To Be Successful And Productive In Retail

Shawn Anchor, author of “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work“, gave an incredible Ted Talk in 2011, “The Happy Secret To Better Work”:

Shawn Anchor is a great presenter and delivers a truly compelling reason why we need to focus on our happiness and happy things in order to be successful and productive in the workplace. This psychology philosophy is directly counter with what we typically believe and what we are fed, daily, in life. If you don’t have time to watch the presentation – here are some of my favorite parts:

  • If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. Positive psychology posits that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why? Why are some of you high above the curve in terms of intellectual, athletic, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, resiliency in the face of challenge, sense of humor? Instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information, not just how to move people up to the average, but move the entire average up in our companies.
  • Only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75% 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.
  • Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.
  • 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. 
  • Dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.
  • In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. We’ve done these things in research now in every company that I’ve worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they’re grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day. And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.
  • Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand. And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness.

So, by consciously looking for the good in our day-to-day life and our work experiences we can become more successful and more productive within it.  I was throughly fascinated by the comment about ‘dopamine’ reference so I decided to do a bit of poking around about how these natural chemicals and neurotransmitters found in our bodies effect our brains. Here is what I found out about “How Happy Happens In Your Brain” from The Best Brain Possible:

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  • Dopamine: Dopamine motivates you to take action and encourages the persistence required to meet your needs, seek reward, or approach a goal – whether it’s a college degree, a sugar fix, the next level in a video game, or money to pay the bills. The anticipation of the reward is actually what triggers a dopamine good feeling in your brain causing it to release the energy you need to move towards the reward. Then, you get another pleasure hit when you successfully meet the need. You can stimulate the good feeling of dopamine by embracing a new goal and breaking it down into achievable steps, rather than only allowing your brain to celebrate when you hit the finish line. The idea is to create a series of  small successes which keeps the dopamine flowing in your brain. And it’s important to actually celebrate every accomplishment – buy that gadget you’ve been wanting or head to your favorite restaurant whenever you meet an interim goal. To avoid letting your dopamine lag, set new goals before achieving your current one.
  • Oxytocin: Oxytocin helps to create intimacy and trust and build healthy relationships. TThis is why workplace relationships and connecting with your colleagues is so important to workplace happiness.
  • Serotonin: You enjoy the good feeling of serotonin when you feel respected by others.

When these neurotransmitters are flowing freely, it becomes easier for us to organize new information, retain information for longer periods of time, and retrieve older information. The chemicals also improve our cognitive functions, problem-solving capabilities and make it easier for us to analyze complex data.

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We own our happiness as individuals. But – there are some things that our retail organizations can do to help support the perception of value and the ability to drive the happiness of their employees that will help businesses to drive success and productivity of the team members, thus increasing the bottom line and customer experience.

  • Invest in their development and their career path: According to TinyPulse’s Employee Engagement Report, only 25% of employees feel as though their organizations offer adequate professional development opportunities. Yet many retail employees — and millennials in particular — are very much drawn to such chances to develop more skills and improve. If you want a happier workforce, you need to invest in your employees’ success. Professional development is one such investment which should generate goodwill for your company and it creates a huge benefit for the employee.
  • Articulate your appreciation: Tell your employees in-the-moment what they did right and why you’re grateful to them and for them. There’s something genuine about spontaneous and face-to-face recognition that trumps all other forms. People like their work contributions and results to be acknowledged — it provides them a sense of validation that they’re doing something well.
  • Trust & Empower employees to leave their comfort zones: This will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization. And it will help avoid the bigger risk of people becoming complacent, burned out, and bored by doing the same thing each day.
  • Eliminate things that don’t add value to the business: There is nothing worse that having employees perform tasks and duties that have no measurable meaning to the business because “you’ve always done it that way”. People want to make a difference and do work with purpose. According to TinyPulse, nearly 70% of employees today feel as though they aren’t able to take care of their job responsibilities each week.  If you want your employees to be happier — and therefore better positioned to do all of their work each week — you need to equip them with the tools they need to succeed. Who wouldn’t be happier being able to use cutting-edge platforms every day at work that help support collaboration and productivity?
  • Engage in dialogs with your team members frequently: Get to know your team through a high-level of involvement, this way you will know how to inspire and motivate them. You can help them identify successes and work through obstacles with them. Your organization is made up of diverse and interesting high-productivity and high-potential talent [or at least it should be]. To lead them effectively you need to understand how they work as individuals and how they work as an aggregate.
  • Pay Fairly: According to a study connected by TinyPulse, almost 25% of employees would take another job for a 10% raise. Since it’s considerably cheaper to retain employees than hire new ones, make sure you’re paying your employees competitively from the outset. They’ll be happy with their paychecks and won’t be looking to move jobs for a raise that you can afford to give them yourself. According to Leonard J. Glick, Northeastern University’s senior academic specialist and executive professor of management and organizational development, “Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. The motivation comes from—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute.”

As a leader in retail I understand so very well that you can’t control your employees’ chosen moods. But retail organizations can try to infuse happiness and shape a workplace culture that promotes happiness by creating a workplace that is super conducive to positivity, trust, transparency, and support. As retail leaders, we can help create and develop high-leverage habits and career capital in our employees by modeling behaviors and helping to develop them in our team members that are aligned with the fact that “Only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75% of job successes are predicted by our optimism levels, our social support and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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