Happiness Delivered

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams.

Often times, we mistake a person who dictates orders or speaks with authority as a leader. But is that what a true leader really is? For our first XL-Lead Book Club reading we chose to dive deeper to discover what true leadership is.  We chose to read and discuss – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Zappos is known for its unique company culture, and one that focuses on providing excellent customer service.

This was my second time reading the book. The first read through was around the time it was first published in 2010 (I went out and ordered the 2009 Zappos Culture Book!). I was so pumped-up after reading the book that I wanted to move to the Zappos Headquarters in Las Vegas and become a part of the company that truly put customer service as its priority.

This time around, I was a little more guarded regarding corporate culture, leadership, and management. But it was, once again, a very motivating read and inspired lively discussion with our Book Club Crew. During the book club meeting, we discussed the following topics and takeaways from the book:

True leadership is important to an excellent corporate culture. 

We aren’t talking about having managers and executives emailing directives to their employees or making speeches. Real leadership is more than that. Hsieh talks about making tough decisions and choosing hires based on how well they fit into the Zappos culture. He talks about how their core values are something they live out every day and not just something in a nice plaque on the wall. To have a company truly focused on culture starts at the top and must permeate through the entire organization.

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The golden rule many of us learned as little kids still applies in adulthood. Don’t think it matters? It did to us. Most of us at the Book Club gave examples of willing to pay more for better service; we walked away from a great deal so that we can spend our money in a place that values us as a person. We also discussed empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – as an important factor in creating a customer-focused work environment. A few of us discussed how much more important it is to get out of the daily grind and really think of the impact we make in people’s lives through our work. And to use that as a drive to do better every day.

Is it branding? Is it psychology? Yes and yes!

The last chapter of the book is called the ‘End Game’ and goes through the science of happiness. Tony talks about his interest and research in a field known as Positive Psychology. He took his learnings and applied them to his business to make his customers and employees happier. And he took it to the level where culture and happiness are now synonymous with the Zappos name. At the Book Club, we chatted about some of the happiness frameworks described and determined that at the end of the day, we are each responsible for and in control of our own happiness. We also looked at the motto “fake it until you make it” popularized by other business gurus and agreed that we should use that kind of mindset to push us out of our comfort zones to get to the places we want to be.

Delivering Happiness was a great read and made it feel like anything is possible! Now coming away from that high, is it possible to recreate the Zappos magic right where we are? Will executives put 110% behind the effort to make customers and employees happy? Maybe, maybe not. Zappos was built from the ground up and had a leader who guided and then fiercely guarded the company culture. The company hires and creates succession plans based on culture fit to continue to protect what they have built.

What we can do in both our personal and professional lives to make things better every day? We can choose the following to get on the path to delivering happiness right where we are:

  • Be a leader – Determine your core values and align your life, including your work, to them. What is important to you? What makes you happy? What are you passionate about? Use those to develop your core values and then fiercely guard them so you don’t make compromises. Be in control of your own happiness.
  • Choose Growth and Learning – This sounds like it is in direct contrast to #1 above, but this is truly an important part of being a leader. Growth means you are not stagnant, and in the biological world, not dying. “Pursue Growth and Learning” is Zappos’ fifth core value, but to me, this is deeply aligned with its tenth and final core value, “Be Humble.” Choosing to grow and learn means we have to be humble enough to know that we are not perfect and that we can only experience self-improvement when we open ourselves up to others who are on the same journey.
  • Be “Positively” Contagious – Finally, share your passion and your knowledge! Be kind. When you are having a mountain top experience, use it to bring others up with you. When you are experiencing lows, focus on the positive and surround yourself with words and people that can help you up. Remember that although you are in control of your own happiness, we can help each other along the way.

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