Have you ever sat around a conference room table and thought, “Wow, these people look so unhappy?" I know I have too many times to count. Usually, it was obvious why they were unhappy -- they were either frustrated, mistreated, or bored. They probably stopped trying their best a long time ago.
I would not wish this scenario on any company leader. No one wants an unhappy, unproductive team. That is why I feel compelled to share the business secret I recently discovered, which should not be a secret at all -- love. It is the driving force behind happy and productive companies. It is the driving force behind what we do . . . even the ones you wouldn’t necessarily call lovable.
Before you laugh and argue that only personal gain drives effort, let me explain. This is not about soft and squishy emotions. It is about creating a workplace where you feel great about what you are doing and why you are doing it. This creates a sustainable cycle of growth, loyalty and retention.
And it even improves the bottom line. In fact, one study found that companies with high employee satisfaction scores outperform their peer companies in long-run stock returns by 2.3 to 3.8 percent per year.
So, where should leaders start? Here are four ways to create a workplace people love:
1. Give meaning.
Everyone needs to know what they are working towards -- leaders should share what success means to the company and always guide the team back to the purpose. When footwear company Toms expanded into the coffee business in 2013, founder Blake Mycoskie wanted the new venture to align with the company’s socially conscious mission.
So, Mycoskie extended its one-for-one business model to coffee beans — for every bag sold, the company would provide a week of water to a person in need. Mycoskie has said the new product, “gave our employees permission to think bigger, to challenge the status quo and to reconnect with the mission of the business.”
2. Earn trust.
Strong leaders are transparent, earning trust and opening the door for meaningful conversations. Take Patagonia, for example. They are completely open about the company’s manufacturing process. In fact, anyone can go to the Patagonia website to see how every item was made, including the textile mills and sewing factories that were used. By sharing this information, leaders engage the team -- inviting anyone to challenge assumptions and offer ideas on improving the processes. This pushes everyone in the company to be better.
3. Reward achievement.
As people master their work, leaders should look for opportunities to reward and advance those individuals. Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya did this in a big way. After his company became a multi-billion dollar success, he awarded his 2,000 full-time employees with stock that will be worth up to 10 percent of the company’s value when it goes public or is sold. Ulukaya said in a letter to staff, “This isn’t a gift. It’s a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility. To continue to create something special and of lasting value.”
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
4. Build happiness.
Leaders are responsible for creating an environment where the ongoing work is enjoyable and fulfilling. At my company, we refer to this as “sustainable happiness.” We believe it comes from doing meaningful work with motivated colleagues and being appreciated for it. And, while some days are easier than others, each teammate is committed to building more and more happiness by working hard, being kind, and thanking others often.
Again: Love and business should not be a secret at all.
Love is the surprising emotion that leaders can no longer afford to ignore, because when you build a lovable company, the team will respond by bringing their heads, hands and hearts to work each day.
I call this concept "lovability" and write about it extensively in my book. I have seen the difference lovability has made in leading our team, and together we have built one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. Just as importantly, our team members actually love what they do.