A happy team is more productive and engaged, so make sure happiness isn’t just a personal goal but a business goal, as well.
Identifying your source of happiness can be a great struggle for many people. Listening to a recent podcast episode on the Science of Happiness, it dawned on me that the same practices to finding personal happiness can easily be applied to businesses. As in our personal lives, finding happiness in business can also be a struggle, particularly in an often high-stress industry like ours. We place a high importance on the happiness of our team at Patel, Greene & Associates, as we truly believe that a happy team is more productive and engaged.
Here are some tips that we use to help us achieve a happy business:
- Increase social connections. We all need social connections to find happiness, and businesses are no different. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not prioritizing social connections. Once we find one client and keep turning out successful projects for them, we may slow down on building new business connections. This reduction in new social connections is a recipe for business to stagnate, similar to what can happen in our personal lives. To sustain a happy business, get out there, participate in AEC networking events, keep a focus on client connections, join local community events, and keep rekindling existing connections. Attending the Zweig Group’s annual ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala and meeting with other industry leaders is a great way to increase our social connections. When we communicate and keep our social network strong, we build a support backbone that can be invaluable for future opportunities.
- Self-care. Surprise, a healthy mind and body leads to happiness! The same is true for a business, particularly in the AEC industry, where the value of our business relies on the welfare of our people. It’s quite surprising how uncommon it is in AEC companies to have a focus on employee self-care. We need employees who are healthy on the outside and inside. Invest in health plans that not only offer physical healthcare, but also mental healthcare. At PGA, we have a healthcare plan that provides our employees free access to digital fitness plans, employee assistance programs, and provides several monthly incentives for staying active. Conduct company-sponsored 5K events or company outdoor events. When company leadership demonstrates self-care, that can have a strong influence among all staff members.
- Gratitude. When we personally give back and express gratitude, we find happiness. The same philosophy is true for businesses. Do not take opportunities to give back for granted. Not only do we set a good example as a business when we give back to the community, we also provide employees with an opportunity to participate. This can promote internal satisfaction and build a culture of trust between the company and staff. If employees know the company cares about the community they serve, this builds trust and gives purpose. When we have trust between the company and staff, the inherent result is retention. Our Giving Committee at PGA has pursued many methods for generating gratitude. Inviting staff to contribute ideas on how to give back also encourages participation and engagement. As a rule, when faced with multiple opportunities to give but limited resources, we prioritize any cause in which an employee is personally engaged in.
- Getting better over time. One of our core values at PGA is excellence, which we define as doing things better than everyone else. However, even when excellence is reached, it is never perfection. One direct factor that contributes to our stress is the desire to achieve certain levels of perfection. Clearly, no one can consistently achieve certain levels of perfection, but people strive for it and get disappointed when they fail. The same can be true for businesses. In the AEC industry, we can easily fall into the trap of expecting perfection. Engineers make mistakes just like any other professional. We employ QA/QC practices that serve as our line of defense against mistakes. But at some point, our safety nets will fail and we make mistakes – and that’s OK. What is important is that we get better over time and remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Let’s learn from our mistakes and set ambitious, but achievable goals for excellence that don’t require perfection.
- Be present. Happiness is a direct result of being present. “Enjoy the moment” is a cliché we cannot take for granted. The same is true for businesses. Never forget to celebrate the present. When AEC businesses win a proposal or successfully deliver a project milestone, be present and celebrate! The only way we can stay ahead of issues is by being present. Having a long-term vision and a strategic plan is by no means a bad thing, but tracking our progress toward achieving those goals is equally important. Commit members of leadership to operating purposefully in the present. Have open door policies, constantly seek to communicate with all staff and be aware of what is happening in the cubicles and hallways.
These are tips we can apply in both our individual lives and in our businesses. A sense of happiness may not be achieved every single day, but applying some of these basic tips could help make a difference in how we run our companies. In AEC firms, people work hard, but make sure your people get to play hard too! Happiness shouldn’t just be a personal goal but a business goal, as well.
Joseph Losaria is structures group manager and a principal/VP at Patel, Greene, and Associates, LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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