Life is short so why not make it happy? If you're running a start-up, you have the power to make that happen every day. And if you do, your employees' happiness will make your life better and boost the value of your start-up along the way.
But keeping the lights on in a start-up is hard. So making such as workplace happy requires someone with amazing brainpower. I interviewed Phil Tee--a University of Sussex-educated theoretical physicist who has co-founded several companies--most notably Micromuse, a network management software company that IBM acquired for $865 million in February 2006.
Now Tee heads up Moogsoft, a 43-employee, San Francisco-based systems management software company he co-founded in 2011 that raised $14.3 million in October.
Tee does not think that entrepreneurship can be taught--instead he equates it with a set of extreme personality traits. Said Tee, "Entrepreneurship is a genetic trait characterized by narcissism, control freakery, a deep desire to change the world, and profound insecurity leading to a persistent drive to keep proving you can do it."
Tee appears to be "blessed" with these traits. And they drive him to create a workplace that is "fun and quirky instead of boring and straight. At one of my previous companies we had a tank of piranhas in the lobby and I wore lots of leather to the office. We are in the entertainment industry. We want to create a fun workplace for the brightest, most creative, most driven individuals," explained Tee.
1. Be happy, and your people will follow
Tee believes that he can make himself happy on a moment's notice. As he said, "A leader can drive the mood of the people. Before I go into a meeting with my people, I think a happy thought. If I enter a meeting smiley and bouncy, people will pick up on my mood. And if people can stay optimistic, a solution will present itself."
2. Strike a balance between authority and approachability
People need leadership but leaders need people not to be afraid to tell the truth. According to Tee, "People need a leader to set the pace, otherwise they will get nervous. They need to see a clarity of purpose about what you want them to do. The leader should have confidence and visionary perspective--but should be careful not to be unapproachable. I encourage people to open up and get to the truth by talking personally about my own truths."
3. Get people to fail
One of the reasons that people are afraid to tell the truth is that most leaders punish failure--Tee tries to remove the fear of failure. "I want people to see failure as a valued outcome. To do that, I talk about my own failures. For example, people think that living in Paris is great. But I lived there for three years. I was poor and lonely--Paris is a very cliquey place."
4. Create a home for misfits
Finally, a happy workplace encourages difference. Noted Tee, "We do not have a fixed opinion of what people here should be like. We welcome people with unusual backgrounds and are open to those with different life experiences."
Being Chief Entertainment Officer could make your workplace happy. And that might make you, your people, and your customers healthy, wealthy, and wise.