So how can leaders create happier organizations?
Perhaps the first step is to clarify what we mean by "happy". Psychologists typically identify happiness by three distinct pathways. The first is the pleasant life, which involves positive experiences including contentment, hope, and sensory enjoyment. This kind of well-being is often referred to as hedonia, based on the Greek term for pleasure. The second is the engaged life, or eudaimonia. The ancient Greeks believed in a "daimon", or guardian spirit, that would guide you toward your destiny; the word also means genius. The engaged life thus refers to a person's ability to deploy his personal genius — to use his unique strengths and talents in a way that engages and absorbs him. The third pathway is the meaningful life, which relates to the desire to be part of something bigger than oneself — to belong and contribute to an institution that has purpose.
All three of these pathways — pleasure, engagement, and meaning — are important. And business leaders can use this knowledge to ask some important questions about their organizations:
- Do my employees enjoy their relationships and their environment at work?
- Do they laugh?
- Are my people in the right roles — ones that fit their skill sets and offer appropriate challenge?
- Do they get to use their genius?
- Do they understand the purpose of the organization?
- Do they feel they're a part of something that matters?