Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Finding Happiness as Your Own Boss

Since early April, I've been an independent consultant. I've never been a big risk-taker, and I actually have always enjoyed the security that comes with a steady paycheck and the benefits of a corporate job.

I'd often read those self-help books that encourage people to quit their jobs if they're unhappy, but, being the frugal, responsible person I am, I disagreed with the approach of quitting.  Instead, I thought, better to find happiness and resolve whatever problems you have with your job.  Reorgs happen, bosses change, responsibilities change, and if you have a positive attitude and do your best, you will find happiness...  at least that's what I thought.

But as it so happened, I got laid off, and I got my chance to give this independent consulting thing a try. My kids are all grown and I had a nice little nest egg saved up to tide me over while I was getting started.

As it turns out, I've never been happier. I hadn't realized how absolutely freeing it is to have total autonomy! I can decide when and how I work. I can decide to take a nap in the middle of the day. I can decide to take my laptop to Pearl Street and sip on a margarita while I'm working on an article. I can take my granddaughter to her 9am dance class and watch her joyful little 3-year-old body spin around without feeling a twinge of guilt or worry about "getting back to work."

Now, of course, not everyone who quits their job can suddenly enjoy this leisurely lifestyle.  I feel extremely fortunate that I have a great network and contacts, so I'm getting enough work between short teaching gigs and writing assignments to still bring in a good income. It's not as steady and secure, but the trade-off of flexibility and more time to enjoy life has been priceless.

Do I recommend this? Not necessarily. I couldn't have done this 5 years ago. I still had a son in high school and more responsibilities and bills to pay.  It can be stressful to find clients and always be on the lookout for work. And even though you no longer have a boss to answer to, if you want to make it on your own, you have to be disciplined in continuing to work your business. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Baltimore, teaching a class, and on the second day, I got sick.  It was the first time, I saw a real downside of working for myself... there was no option to "call in sick." If I didn't finish teaching the class, I wouldn't have gotten paid, and probably would have hurt my chances for getting additional training opportunities.

If you're dependent on the income, I still think it's better to keep your job if most of the time, you're happy at work.  For me, one of the most important factors of my workplace happiness is having a boss who believes in me. In one of my recent articles for TechBeacon, I share 13 motivators for software engineers. We're living in an age now where managers are recognizing how important it is to give their staff more flexibility and autonomy. If you're lucky, you will have that whether you work for yourself or for someone else.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Future of Work

The Future Of Work Will Look Like ThisThis infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe. Learn about employee engagement surveys that will help you create a better tomorrow!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Join My Happiness Circle

I am starting a Circle and would like you to be part of it.  It's easy to get started, just follow this link:

Because of all my interest in "Happiness," I'm subscribed to a site called "Project Happiness," and recently signed up to be one of the first leaders of a "Happiness Circle."   I received a "Circle Kit" and prompts and suggestions for how to run a Happiness Circle.  The next step is to invite friends.

Even though I have over 800 Facebook "friends," historically I haven't gotten too much interest in any of this "touchy-feely" kind of stuff, so I'm a little skeptical about how big my circle is going to get, but actually, this is a great opportunity for me because I really wanted to research "virtual connection."

So, what I'd really like to do is form two Happiness Circles...  one of them would meet face-to-face (as the Circle Kit suggests). The other would be a "Virtual Happiness Circle" and we would "meet" either with a conference call, a virtual meeting room, or maybe through some other tool...  It would give people more flexibility, but I'd like to come up with some exercises designed to help create friendships and trust, to see how people bond when they aren't face-to-face.  (I'd like to write a book and create a workshop about forming strong virtual teams, so this would help with that research.)

If you have any interest in being part of my Happiness Circle, click the link above, and also leave me a comment or email.  If you don't live close to Superior, Colorado, let me know if you'd be willing to be part of a Virtual Happiness Circle!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Positivity Leads to Productivity

Though Agile Coaching has been one of my responsibilities as a development manager in the corporate world, I've very recently transitioned to independent consultant and full-time Agile Coach!

Those of you who aren't in the world of software development probably have no idea what an "Agile Coach" is, but basically, it's a coach who helps teams adopt "Agile practices."  And what are "Agile Practices" you ask?  Well, that's a pretty long topic, but one thing that Agile coaches care about is.... you guessed it...  Workplace Happiness!

In fact, in a LinkedIn Agile Coaching Group Discussion today, Michael Tarnowski posted a link to this article: Positive Teams are More Productive.

The article, written by Emma Seppälä, (that's a pretty cool name, isn't it?), published in the Harvard Business Review confirms that a workplace that promotes positive and virtuous practices is the surest way to improve productivity.

From the article,

Positive and virtuous practices include:
  • Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
  • Avoiding blame and forgive mistakes.
  • Inspiring one another at work.
  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.
  • Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust & integrity.

There are four recommendations for organizations to add positive practices to their company:

  1. Leadership - Support from the top
  2. Culture - Implement changes designed to be positive and virtuous
  3. Small Steps - Spend time each day doing things like gratitude journals or other positive habits
  4. Retreats and Workshops - Strategic focus on positive practices and leadership
I love that last one because creating Agile Retreats is one of my future goals! I even bought the domain the other day!

What small steps can you take to create a positive atmosphere at your workplace?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Laughter Yoga

Yoga has become so popular in the area that you can't really get by as a "student of happiness" without at least giving it a try.  All the happiness experts recommend it and rave about the benefits of stretching and meditation.  I have a problem, though. I'm about the least flexible person on the earth.  The couple of times I actually ventured out to a class, I spent most of my time in the only position I've really mastered: Child's Pose.  And no matter how many times I heard that no one judges ("Namaste!") I still am embarrassed by my unbalanced poses. I tried to improve in the privacy of my home with the help of YouTube videos, but my Downward Dog (not to mention just about every other pose) is ridiculously inept.

Another "happiness" recommendation is laughter. I have to agree that nothing feels quite so good as a great big laugh... it's hard to feel stressed or sad if you're laughing.

Well, "Laughter Yoga" is this movement started by Dr. Madan Kataria, "The Laughter Guru" and laughter yoga clubs are popping up all over the world.  I'm always into new experiences so when I saw there was a nearby club, I thought I'd check it out.  I figured I'd fit right in and provide entertainment since my yoga poses were so laughable.

As it turns out, we didn't do the traditional yoga (thank goodness!) but more fun little games that helped us exercise our "laughing muscles."  OK, this felt a little more like an Improv class than an exercise class, but I'm all for games of any sort.  I was warned that as a new person, I'd feel a little uncomfortable, and that it would take about four classes to start to see the benefits... at which point, apparently, I'd have the ability to break into laughter at any time. This is particularly useful, I was told, during times of stress.

Well, being someone who has broken into uncontrollable fits of laughter at inappropriate times (church, class, work meeting), I wasn't sure I needed practicing in laughing, but maybe more practice in being able to control my laughter!  I remember once as a kid, when my brother farted in church, I couldn't stop laughing no matter how many stern looks my parents threw my way!

But I digress. Other than the insanely, uncontrolled laughing, there's no doubt, laughing helps us relieve stress, and being able to "laugh on demand" is bound to help put us in a better mood.  Much like smiling with someone, laughing with someone certainly seems to create a connection. Even though I'd just met the 15 or so people in the class, laughing together helped me feel welcome and uninhibited. It was a lot less intimidating than Yoga Poses! I am actually pretty good at laughing!

I also liked that some of the "games" were aimed at defeating negative emotions and embracing the positive. I'm all about looking for the positive in life and I admire those who help spread positivity in the world. As Lori, the facilitator on Thursday said, "It's contagious!"

I'm not sure if I'd recommend breaking out into a big belly laugh when you're stressed in the office - at least not publicly.  Just sneak into the bathroom and let the fits of laughter begin!

Much thanks to the Arvada Laughter Yoga group for giving me a great first experience with Laughter Yoga and for bringing more happiness and laughter to the world.  Laugh on! Or as the mantra goes (said with an Indian accent as taught by Dr. Kataria): "Veddy good, Veddy good, Yay!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Workplace Happiness expert, Shawn Achor, to speak at WorkHuman

I just love TED talks and this one, featuring Shawn Achor, is one of the most popular of all time.  His message is one that I've heard several times (especially since I subscribe and read so much about workplace happiness): It's not being successful that makes us happy so much as being happy that makes us successful.

This talk is full of good humor, but the 5 actions we can all do each day comes at the end of the video.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but I can tell you that I think the 5 actions apply to happiness in general... not just workplace happiness.

If you're a Shawn Achor fan, you might want to hear him speak at the upcoming WorkHuman conference, sponsored by Globoforce.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy International Happiness Day!

Because I subscribe to so many different blogs and sites dedicated to Happiness, almost every day I get something that reminds me of all the benefits of happiness and how we might achieve more happiness in our lives, whether at work or at home. I've been meaning to pass along these resources by way of this blog, but it's been difficult to make the time.

However, today, I'm making the effort because it's International Happiness Day! Yes, this trend in looking at Happiness has become so popular that in June, 12, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring March 20th an International Day of Happiness.

But where did all this attention to happiness start? I assumed it was due to the interest by scientists to study positive psychology.  However, according to Wikipedia, the International Day of Happiness "was the result of the effort the Kingdom of Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness Initiative."

Measuring happiness in the workplace is also becoming popular.  Recently I saw an article suggesting that Happiness was one of the three most important measurements in Agile Development (the field that I work in.)   The article suggested measuring moods with a Niko-niko calendar.

Do you think happiness can be measured?  Whether or not we can measure it, what ways can you contribute to workplace happiness?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Being Authentic

"Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide." Don't change so people will like you, be yourself and the right people will love you. #AuthenticityIsMagnetic

This was shared with me via Project Happiness on Facebook.  Their mission: Offering programs to spread happiness through classrooms and communities globally. Join the movement!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Globoforce offers "The Power of Thanks"

One of the blogs about workplace happiness that I subscribe to comes from Globoforce, an organization that specializes in recognition and talent management.  Today they came out with a new post: A Blueprint for a More Human Workplace.

The post talks about the continuing trend in organizations to understand how important workplace happiness is and that millennials are revolutionizing workplace expectations for everyone

What do we expect? More humanity for one. We expect to be treated as individuals. We expect to have a voice and agency in the curation of our work cultures, and we expect to build and leverage relationships at work to enrich our performance and our experience of work.
That’s why, more than ever before,  people are looking for meaning, fulfillment and camaraderie in their work. Leading companies understand this and are focusing on creating more human work cultures, imbued with purpose, happiness, appreciation, trust, and respect..

The post goes on to offer a book written by Globoforce's Eric Mosely and Derek Irvine: The Power of Thanks to the first 20 people who leave a comment. I'm happy to say that I was 4th to comment and I'm very excited to get the book! Gratitude is key to happiness in both business and in personal life and I'm interested in the insights from these authors on how we can use the power of thanks to create a culture of gratitude in the workplace.

BTW, I just checked and there are only 7 comments as of now (5pm MT on 2/5/15) so 13 more people can still receive a free copy of the book!