Want to create a "happy" organisational culture?

A month ago, I took part in an amazing event – the Coachmatch conference “Working Together,” which took place in London. I was a participant of an event, where over 200 of the Coachmatch community was there to share ideas on working together and how we can support each other on the pathway of bringing more happiness and success to the organisations and clients we serve wholeheartedly. The collective energy, the enthusiasm and the desire to co-create together was just amazing!

Recently I had a conversation with the Managing Director of a British company, I am currently working on a coaching project and he shared, “I want to create a happy organisational culture. And I asked him, “What does this mean to you?” He answered, “A place, where people are being happy, confident and engaged. A happy culture is a culture of trust, where people are open and create cohesively, there is continuity and strong belief in what we do.”

Our discussion around how to create a “happy culture” was based on values. What do we truly believe in for our organisation, for ourselves and how those two align?

The BIG question here is: “How can we be happy?”

Everyone defines happiness differently.

Dr. Russ Harris, the author of “The Happiness Trap,” gives two definitions of happiness:

  1. The common meaning of the word is “feeling good.” Feeling a sense of pleasure, gladness, or gratification.
  1. The other far-less-common meaning of happiness is “living a rich, full, and meaningful life.” When we take action on the things that truly matter deep in our hearts, move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy, clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full and meaningful.

What definition of happiness resonates with you?

What I learned during my life journey, is that happiness lies in “living a rich, full, and meaningful life.” I learned that “feeling good” is elusive and a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is in long term deeply unsatisfactory. Because the reality is, life involves pain.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!” Sooner or later we all will come face to face with crisis, disappointment, and failure.

My focus in this article is on how we can keep this sense of richness and alignment with who we are, so that when we face a crisis, we still have the strength to keep on moving, choose the “right” direction and stay on track. This doesn’t include avoiding unpleasant feelings, it means accepting “what is” with gratitude and checking in with your core values.

The topic is quite extensive and I am aware that I cannot address all the issues I would love to. That’s why I want to give you more insights on the process of checking in with your values.

To me, “Living a rich, full, and meaningful life” means being aligned with what matters to you, your values, your life purpose.

My observation, working with clients from all walks of life, is that people don’t have conscious awareness of their values. Very often values and goals are mixed together.

That’s why I consider the values work so fundamental and important at the beginning of the coaching work. It brings clarity to people: “Who am I? What is truly valuable for me in life? How am I aligned with my values? Do I “walk my talk”? Sounds simple and yet, how often we ask ourselves these questions, especially when we face challenges.

Let me start with defining the difference between values and goals. We live in a society, where we are goal-driven. And this puts us in the “happiness trap.” The “happiness trap” occurs when you are imprisoned by the following thinking: “I will be happy when I have the position I dream for, when I have the beautiful house I vision for myself, when I have my dream life partner, when I possess the fancy sports car I want etc…”

Values vs. Goals

Value is a direction we desire to keep moving in, an ongoing process that never reaches an end.

As Russ Harris says: “Value is like heading west. No matter how far you travel, there’s always farther west you can go.”

A Goal is a desired outcome that can be achieved or completed. And the beautiful metaphor I read: “A goal is like the mountain or river you wish to cross on your journey. Once you have gone over it, it is a “done deal.”

Why are values so important?

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist, who survived years of unspeakable horror in Auschwitz and other camps (see his inspiring book Man’s Search for Meaning).

One of the most fascinating revelations in his book is that, contrary to what you would expect, the people who survived longest in the death camps were often not the physically fittest and strongest, but rather those who had deeply espoused a purpose in life. If prisoners could connect with something they valued, such as a loving relationship with their children or an important book they wished to write, that connection gave them something to live for, something that made it worthwhile to endure all that suffering. Those, who could not connect with a deeper value, soon lost the will to live.

Values provide a powerful antidote, a way to give your life a purpose, a meaning, and passion.

And here I want to share with you a simple exercise to get you started on clarifying your values. It is so powerful and perhaps it will lead you to the answer of the important question, “What does happiness mean for me?”

Imagine you are 80 years old

Please, take a few minutes to write out or think about you answers. (Hint: you will get more out of it if you write your answer down.)

Imagine that you are eighty years old and you are looking back on your life as it is today, Then finish the following sentences:

  • I spent too much time worrying about….
  • I spent too little time doing things such as….
  • If I could go back in time, then what I would do differently from this day on, is…..

Another question I have been asked often from my clients, especially when they face challenging situations, is: “What should I do? What decision should I make in this situation?” These questions sometimes refer to simple everyday situations, sometimes to more complex and challenging situations.

The questions I usually ask: “What options do you have?”…. And we brainstorm with my clients about all the options and solutions possible, and checking them in with my client’s top five values. Why? Because, when a decision is in alignment with our core values, this brings peace of mind, and engagement to follow on the pathway chosen. When you make your small and big decisions in alignment with your values, you confidently move forward with a sense of peace and you trust the process.

The bottom line: “Happiness can only come from within!”

So ask yourself those powerful questions:

  • Deep down inside, what is important to you?
  • What do you want your life to be about?
  • What sort of person do you want to be?
  • What sort of relationships do you want to build?
  • If you were not struggling with your feelings or avoiding your fears, in what direction would you channel your time and energy?

 And I want to conclude this article with a powerful quote from Viktor Frankl:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof, that everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”