Friday, August 7, 2009

Most people are about as happy as they decide to be

What a great thought. I've carried this saying, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, around with me for 27 years. It jumped back into my mind yesterday when I read an article in USA Today discussing the latest research on happiness that came to the same conclusion.

At the same time, I was skimming though some articles in Training magazine reporting on a Deloitte study of executives and their attitudes about the economy and their companies. For the first time in a long time, there was a vast increase in those who thought things were going to turn around in the not-too-distant future. Doom and gloom were lifting. So they should be happy, right?

Buried in the report were some other findings however. The number-one focus of most of these executives -- note I did not say leaders -- was laying off more people. They were concerned about losing people once things turned around. In fact, the HR and leadership journals have been full of articles on retaining high-potential employees and grooming them for the future. So are these execs planning for how to keep these hi-pos once things loosen up? Most are not!

Studies show that Gen Xers and Millennials will jump ship as soon as new opportunities start to materialize. Wouldn't it make sense to plan for what's coming that will have a big impact on a company's ability to recover and grow again? Strategic leaders are planning. After all, they have that vision of the future and are planning how to get there. But their non-strategic counterparts are still mired in the present and the past.

Instead of planning how to take advantage of opportunities that are starting to arise, instead of actively growing the folks they'll need to be able to mobilize, instead of seizing the moment, they slashing staff, eliminating training, pushing everyone beyond their limits, and generally making themselves and everyone around them 'unhappy.'

Strategic leaders, not only think things are getting better, they're acting on their 'happiness.' They're investing in and nurturing their folks. They are planning and executing their plans to retain, engage, and develop the folks that will make their vision a reality. That's the difference between occupying a leadership title and being a leader. Strategic leaders are happy.

So I'm with Abe. Let's get happy!

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