Like many of you, I am still reeling from the events in Connecticut a few weeks ago. What I saw unfold was almost enough to turn this Director of Happiness into a nihilist.
Rather than choose nihilism, however, I feel convicted, stronger than ever, to do good in this world. And as this personal commitment is reaffirmed, I have a charge for business leaders everywhere.
You are in a unique position to affect many lives--lives that you don't even know you impact. When you treat an employee with respect and kindness, you are empowering her to parent her children with respect, or to be a little kinder to her spouse or neighbor.
It pays forward, so use your power for good.
1. Give others something to believe in.
Inspiring others is not magic, but it's also not easy. To inspire others, you must first believe in something. Talk about your life's calling. What is your purpose, cause, or belief? The more you talk about it, the more you will inspire others to find theirs. When they do, be among their biggest champions.
2. Build a community that cares.
Don't just build a "company culture." Build a community where relationships are formed and people genuinely care about each other. You will make an impact if you are serious about honoring the humanity of your employees. When you believe that people are human beings first and worker bees second, you say something about their worth. Consequently, they will sign up to be in your army and smash through walls for you.
3. Say "thank you" and mean it.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful yet underestimated aspects of leadership. In fact, employees rank appreciation extremely high among incentives.
Appreciate someone working consecutive 16-hour days? Tell her.
Love someone's idea and how it helped break through some barriers? Say so.
Thankful that someone believes in your dream? Say "thank you."
The key with gratitude is to keep it specific and heartfelt. People are adept at smelling a phony thank you. Unlike the proverbial "good job" to a toddler for simply peeing in the toilet, appreciation should actually be about something remarkable.
4. Find the good.
Tony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cueball, recently spoke about optimism in an interview with the New York Times. He said:
When someone gives you an idea, try to wait just 24 seconds before criticizing it. If you can do that, wait 24 minutes. Then if you become a Zen master of optimism, you could wait a day, and spend that time thinking about why something actually might work.
Finding the good in something is not always easy--some ideas are bad, some jobs are bad, some people are bad--but there is usually a shred of good in everything. Notice it, then speak up about it. It's amazing how quickly this reframe--to see the possibility instead of the liability--will go viral, prompting others around you to see the good, too.
Give it a try.