This week’s guest, JoAnna Brandi from Return On Happiness has the best job title ever - she’s a Chief Happiness Officer!

We’ve all experienced that when you’re happy and having some fun, life just looks different.

Your ability to solve problems, be creative and ultimately innovate, is directly related to how you feel.

Creating a happy team is the cornerstone to innovation.  Happiness energizes and empowers them while also keeping customers happy.  It’s a win-win.

Happiness is the ultimate competitive advantage. That will increase employee engagement, productivity and accuracy.

And a happy team creates a more customer-focused, positive workplace culture, which drives more revenue to your bottom line.

Since 1990, JoAnna has been driving cultural change to implement Positive Customer Experiences. For companies that want to thrive, not simply survive.

The result? Your employees are engaged, customers are loyal, and competitors are downright nervous.

JoAnna has lots of free material on her website 

For a quick teaser…check out this video

Listen to the full episode …


[00:03:39] Setting Your Intention

it's all got to do with what your intention is. You know, we are not, I've heard it said that we are not responsible for the first thought we have in the morning. Because that may come from what you were dreaming or the result of the whatever kind of night you have had. But the second thought in the morning is yours.

And so from the very moment you wake up in the morning, the very first thoughts you have in the morning, really sets the tone for your day. So if you are, uh, if you wake up in the morning and you're thinking, Oh my gosh, I've got to do this and I've gotta do that and I've gotta do, you know, and drag yourself down from the very beginning with the things you have to do that day, especially if they're not something you want to do, it can really make for a difficult day.

So if you wake up in a state of gratitude and, and for me that took a lot of training, but when you wake up and the first thoughts that you choose are thoughts of gratitude, our thoughts of, um, how can I make this a wonderful day? I get to do this rather than I have to do that and we begin thinking in such a way that turns on it turns the, what we think, everything we think turns into a feeling and that feeling turns into a chemical.

So when you are thinking thoughts of positivity if you will, I'm not even going to use the word happiness, because there are so many shades of happiness, there are so many positive emotions. And somebody asked me just earlier today, um, how do I define happiness? And I had to go to the place that is, you know, happiness is so subjective.  That what’s happiness for me may be very different from your definition of happiness, but it's subjective wellbeing. It's when you feel really good, no matter what makes you feel really good.  For me, it has a lot to do with connection. Whether I'm connecting to a person, connecting to an idea, connecting to a thought, connecting to a principle, connecting to the universe, connecting through prayer.

[00:14:00] What is Happiness at Work?

Well from, from the science, and I'm now affiliated with The Happiest Places to Work. So we actually do research on happiness because happiness is now being considered a KPI.

So when we measure happiness, what we're measuring is not what you would look at it and say, oh, she's happy. What we measure is how engaged they are in a healthy way. Whether or not they have autonomy and control over their job, whether or not they feel that sense of purpose. Whether or not they're having pleasure.

And I think that's what most people, when we look at happiness, most people think of pleasure, but it's so much more than pleasure. And I'll tell you in a moment what Marty's definition is, but the other things that we measure are, are they getting enough recognition? Are they having pleasant and positive experiences?

You know, is there some enjoyment to their day. Do they have social support, like friends at work and is their job oriented towards growth for them because according to the scientific research on unhappiness at work, these are the things that really matter to people. And in the end, if they have all these things, they go, yeah, I'm happy at work.

[00:16:01] The Role of Positive Leadership

Most of what I teach these days is positive leadership. Even though my background is from the customer experience angle, but working in customer experience for 30 years has given me the perspective of the fact that in companies that have great customer experiences and support great customer experiences, it always comes from the leadership.

So the skill that a leader has in those situations is, well, almost two-fold, but, uh, the first one is using questions skillfully. So instead of the what's wrong paradigm, it’s what's right about this? What can we learn from this? What can we take from this? Uh, where's the gift in this? The ability to frame a challenge with, with asset focused questions, with questions that are focused on what's good. What's strong instead of what's wrong.

[00:19:39] When You Are Feeling Good Your Brain Works Better

When we do research on it, when we we're actively working with companies to increase their happiness, innovation goes up as much as 300 or 400%. Well, what happens in the human body? When we are feeling a positive emotion, again, it could be happiness. It could be joy. It could be pleasure. It could be any one of a number of values. When we feel that way, it seems that the right side of the brain, the right hemisphere of the brain and the left hemisphere of the brain begin communicating better together.

thereby creating a holistic view of any situation. It's as if when you are feeling good, your brain literally works better. You start, you could say you're firing on all cylinders and when you're firing on all cylinders and you're able to take that upgraded, elevated look at the problem.

You come up with different solutions. Same thing happens when you, when you are, when a leader is faced with a problem and he or she is able to get the team into the same heart rate variability. So if we can get people into their hearts, the same kind of thing happens. You see people get to a deeper level inside themselves, thereby coming up with novel solutions to the problem, rather than just the same old, same old.

[00:25:04] The Importance of Affirming Strengths

Some of the things I teach are about a leader looking for, for everybody's strengths. To become a strength spotter, to train your brain to look for someone's strengths. For instance, if you say to somebody, tell me something about a time when you did something you were proud of, when someone is talking about something they're proud of.

They're always going to be telling you about their strengths. So just that simple turn of conversation, perhaps on a Monday morning, when you're talking to folks coming in the door and they tell you about their weekend and you say, wow, did you do anything over the weekend that you were really proud of?

Then listen, listen with a whole new set of ears to see what that person's strengths are. And then affirm those strengths, let them know what you heard, you know, give them words of appreciation, uh, anchor that by saying, Oh, you know, I noticed when you did this in the office, I guess that's the same thing. And we really have to listen to people differently and praise them.

What we do know from the scientific literature is that a high performance organization has five times more positivity than negativity. So a high performance leader is delivering praise and celebration and goodwill and recognition and all of those positive things, five times more than they are criticizing or trying to change someone because they're not doing things the right way.

When you are speaking to someone about their strengths, their performance goes up over 36%. So I'm telling you what a wonderful job you're doing and being specific about the wonderful things that you've done. You're you're gonna feel good about yourself. You're going to walk out of there feeling pumped, and you're going to do a better job. However, if I call you in there to tell you about your weaknesses, your performance is going to go down because you’re gonna walk out of that room, feeling like crap. Now, what I teach people is to build what I call a big, deep, gorgeous, emotional bank account.

So notice people doing stuff right. Comment about it. Let them know when they do something that you consider, quote unquote ‘right’. Um, tell them how they are adding to the success of the team by doing that. So, ‘when you do this, then the team benefits by’. And so people are connecting that behavior with that, with a certain type of, um, outcome.

And when you do that frequently, when you do it daily, or when you go to gratitude daily, and when you say to people, you know, I really appreciate how you worked on that project. Here are the things I really loved about it. Um, people feel good and it's almost as if we have a little checklist in our head and we're putting those little check marks down.

And when I know that you're more apt to see my strengths and you comment on them over time, when you do have to comment about something I'm doing negatively, I'm more likely to take that in stride. Yeah. I know that you know who I am. So I, I talk about building that big, deep, gorgeous, emotional bank account because we are going to have to withdraw from it from time to time.

[00:31:36] Measuring the Things That Matter

I think that's one of the reasons that the Happiness Index exists, you know, that we can actually now look at these things with a scientific eye, without any, without any of the stigma. And that's what we're measuring.

But we are measuring the things that matter to performance. And I think when we start really making that connection between someone's happiness, wellbeing, positivity, whatever you want to call it and their performance, then we start getting it. I really think it's happening.

and that's, what's made it easier because, you know, before the science was behind it, uh, it was a notion that we did better when we felt happier, when we felt good about our jobs, when we felt valued, when we felt connected, when we felt, uh, you know, when we felt we were fulfilling our purpose by being there. I actually love what's happening because the young people are driving change.

But I think we're moving in the right direction. There are so many companies that are applying for, uh, The Happiest Places to Work, Best Places to Work , The top 500, you know, the Ink people, they all, all these organizations now are measuring these quote unquote intangible attributes, which have a tangible effect.  

Because when we are in a state of positive emotion, our immune system is stronger. We're producing the T cells that fight off infection. When we are in the state of positive emotion, we're producing more serotonin, which helps us sleep and rest and digest. If you look at all the different chemicals that our body produces, when we are in a positive state, these are exactly the, the chemicals we need in our bodies to stay strong and not get sick.

And because emotions are so contagious. Um, and because the actions of leaders are magnified 10 or 20 times more than the actions of a coworker, you know, you're going to look to your leadership.

That's what people are looking for. They're looking, they're looking to know that their leaders are human, that they have feelings. Um, that's I think what in the last 10 years that I feel is so valuable in the workplace, uh, you know, years ago, God forbid a leader cried, God forbid, a female leader cried. Yeah, we had to hold it together no matter what. Um, and that's not real. That's not real. It's not healthy at all. And I think these new practices are healthy because when we are in those positive states, it turns on the whole parasympathetic nervous system, which is the side of the nervous system that helps us repair, that helps our bodies repair.

[00:38:23] Positivity Practices

And I hope that listeners can maybe reference back to their own situation and realize that, you know, if you're trying to create something and you're coming at it from a place of fear, a place that, you know, like, for example, if you're in a business and you've, you now urgently need innovation because you've got a competitor chasing you, that is a place of fear and it's very hard to, to be creative in that environment. But if you can get ahead of it and bring in some of these techniques you are talking about with your team, then you're always ahead. It's just a nicer place to be working from.

And that's really where I think gratitude and appreciation play a huge role.

One of the practices and I call these things positivity practices, one of the practices, or I should say two of the practices that I teach leaders are you know, when you sit down at the team table to have a team meeting, before you get started, go around quickly and just, you know, say one thing you're grateful for today.

So what happens is that everybody gets on that same wavelength of gratitude going into the meeting. I look at it as opening up their brain. One of my clients has, at my suggestion, put this great big jar on the table. And those in her team, they write down the gratitude and she's got all these great little colored pieces of paper.

So when you come in now for the team meeting, you sit down and you write down something that you're grateful for. And you speak it out loud, and then you put that little piece of paper in the jar. [00:40:00] So month after month after month after month now, they've been doing this and there's a jar full of gratitudes sitting on the table that makes, it's sort of visible a symbol of their gratitude.

And then at the end of a meeting, I do something called a circle of appreciation. Now my preference is that people stand when they do this. And my preference is also, they move away from the table. Now, some conference rooms, aren't large enough to do that, but when I do a meeting I try to make sure there's enough room to get people from the table into a circle without anything in the middle.

And we go around and we use a process, it's called the circle of appreciation ritual, and all we do is say I appreciate. And each person says one thing they appreciate about the meeting they had today. And everyone leaves feeling so good because the look at other people in the circle when they do it. So they're making eye contact, they're looking around the circle and there's always smiling.

And they say, you know, I appreciate the interaction we had today. I appreciated the amount of truth that showed up today. I appreciated the transparency that was evident today. I appreciate the vulnerability that you have today. Oh, it's magnificent.

[00:44:37] Using Circle Work

Well, I've studied circle work for a number of years. I've a beautiful circle work teacher. And I also studied with Angeles Arrien who's a cross cultural anthropologist. She's no longer with us. And she taught us different rituals that have been in every society from the very, very, very beginning. And every society has some rituals involving circles. So the configuration itself, the mathematics of the sacred geometry in the circle itself is extraordinarily powerful.

And when you pass along, in the work that I've done, when you pass along the, um, the talking stick, it signals to everyone else to listen to the one person speaking. And that way everybody gets their moment or few moments without being interrupted without being challenged. So when the rules, or I should say the guidelines are set correctly, it is, it becomes a sacred circle.

Talking about circles, one of the techniques that I use when I'm working as a consultant is something I call a wisdom circle. And that's one of the ways that I'm able to get people to talk about, um, who they are when they're at their best, or who the company is when it's at its best.

I worked with a large banking system down here in Florida, where they had, they bought the bank and then basically fired all the people and brought in people from other banks. And they wanted me to come in and develop all their service standards. And I said, boy, what an insult that is. And they said what? I said, well, you just told me you hired all the smartest people in the business. So you hire the smart people in the business and then go out and get a consultant to tell them what to do. That's not the way I would do it. So I got the commission to do wisdom circles and I did 12 of them.

I think. We would sit 12 people in a circle, no table in the middle, you know, same situation that we're talking about. And each person would go around and I would, I had a series, I think I created eight different questions and we would go around and basically what I was asking each one of those people was when they had experienced customer service at its best what did it look like? And boy, everybody had a story. And so I did this with over a hundred people. And then I went back and took everything they told me.

And then of course I had, by that point I had 20 years of experience teaching customer service or customer care as I used to call it, and it was easy to put together service standards.

[00:50:37] Valuing Customer Voice

I mean, the really brave companies allowed me to do that process with their customers with, and then be there to observe it and really see that, that the customers had something really valuable to say that was completely unlike what they were delivering.

I did this with one of the largest banking systems in New York, um, we set it up in such a way that, um, the customers were relaxed because we brought them in for a cocktail hour.

We brought them all in together and we would put a, literally a circle of 12 customers, uh, in the middle. And then we had the, we had rearranged the chairs. So all the bankers were surrounding those 12 customers and there was an empty chair in the circle, um, and they had to ask for permission and they had to come into the circle and they were allowed to ask the customers one question.

And they were allowed to ask one follow up question. And it was to be no rebuttal. So if the customer said, you know, if the banker felt that the customer had said something that wasn't true, they weren't allowed to say, Oh, that's not true. We don't do it that way. What they said was to be considered sacrosanct. So we then took the customer's words and incorporated them back into the workshop. So the customer's presence was there the whole time.

You know they were being treated as experts. So there were, we were saying, what do you need? What can we do that would make your experience with us better? What would make you happier with us? Well, it made, it made them feel important and it made them feel valued. So it’s all the same, it doesn't matter whether it's an internal customer or an external customer, we all need the same things as human beings.

[01:02:45] What You Value Bears Fruit

 Well, and I think it depends on, you know, when leaders treat their employees that way, when leaders treat their teams that way, the teams are gonna treat the customers that way, it always comes from the top. So if, if your boss ignores you and your boss has that kind of behavior, you're just going to pass that along.

Unless you carry with you a set of values that you learned at home, and you're not going to go against them no matter what, by and large, we're going to behave the way the culture behaves. That's why culture is so important. And I don't think we dig in nearly deeply enough, to how, how do you, how do you change a culture?

How do you measure culture? How do you, how you look at a culture? Because culture is like the roots of a tree, you know, it's underneath the tree, you can't see it. But you see it in the fruit. If the, if the root system is good, if the values are good, you see that in the fruit of the tree.

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