The Happy Manifesto

At the L&D Connect unconference, we trialled the idea of passing on books to others that you have read and are happy for someone else to take ownership of. ‘Paying it forward’ in this way, we know it’s going to sit with someone who will benefit from it, and that we’ve done a good job of passing on knowledge. Most people enjoy reading too, so it works out quite nicely.

I picked up ‘The Happy Manifesto’ written by Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd. His company has been “rated:
– Best company in the UK for customer service (Management Today)
– Best work/life balance of any UK organisation (Financial Times)
– Best for positive impact to society of any UK small business (Business in the Community)
– Best for promoting staff health and well-being of any UK company (Great Place to Work Institute).

In addition, Happy has been listed as one of the 20 best workplaces in the UK for the last five years.” That was all lifted from the first page of the book. Well worth repeating as it shows why I didn’t put it down until I’d read it. Those are some serious accolades to have to your name, so what do Happy do that awards them such praise?

Henry’s manifesto lays out ten things they do which I’m going to reproduce here.

1. Trust your people

Step out of approval. Instead, pre-approve and focus on supporting your people.

2. Make your people feel good

Make this the focus of management.

3. Give freedom within clear guidelines

People want to know what is expected of them. But they want freedom to find the best way to achieve their goals.

4. Be open and transparent

More information means more people can take responsibility.

5. Recruit for attitude, train for skill

Instead of qualifications and experience, recruit on attitude and potential ability

6. Celebrate mistakes

Create a no-blame culture.

7. Community: create mutual benefit

Have a positive impact on the world and build your organisation too.

8. Love work, get a life

The world, and your job, needs you well rested, well nourished and well supported.

9. Select managers who are good at managing

Make sure your people are supported by somebody who is good at doing that, and find other routes for those whose strengths lie elsewhere. Even better, allow people to choose their own managers.

10. Play to your strengths

Make sure people spend most of their time doing what they are best at.

What I like about the book is that each point is well supported not only with examples from where they’ve worked for Happy, but also with examples from other companies.

There is always the challenge when writing a list such as this that it will only work for this company. That’s true. It clearly has worked for Happy, but Henry is quite happy to also talk about hard lessons he had to learn in order to be this successful. What I think the manifesto helps to deliver are guidelines any organisation can follow.

For those of us who care about things like employee engagement, learning and development, organisational development, and the likes, this kind of list helps us to think about how we can take those ideas and either put them into practice, or convince the powers that be that doing so will help them to achieve very impressive accolades too.

Disclosure: I’m not receiving anything for writing this review, and indeed the manifesto is intended to whet the appetite for working with Happy.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.


Paying it Forward at #ldcu

I’m not sure where or when I came across the concept of paying it forward, but it is certainly an idea that I like. The idea is instead of paying someone back for a gift, you pay it forward by passing on your gift (or something else) to those less fortunate than yourself. A very altruistic notion, and one that chimes with my personal values.

At the L&D Connect Unconference, we’re going to have a space for a variation of this to happen. Doug Shaw got in touch with me to let me know he had four copies of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni that he’d like to make available to others at the Unconference. I thought this was a wonderful offer, and will be adding this to the mix of the day.

One of the main ways we L&Ders increase our understanding of the world is via reading. And we all have a complete range of reading interests and topics that we find interesting. Personally, I enjoy books from Malcolm Gladwell. I like his style of writing, and what observations he has to make about society and the way life works. Making his stuff practical is a challenge, but it certainly gets the cogs turning. I have since made available my copies of Tipping Point and Blink which is a shame as I would have made them available here. However, I have Freakanomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, .59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman and some others which I will be making available on the day.

I enjoy reading, and is why I have the Kindle app on pretty much every device I have, the Guardian app so I can read the news in my own time, RSS subsrciptions so I can read what people are saying on their blogs, and Twitter, because it’s the ultimate reading experience.

And what is the idea? To pay it forward by giving these books to the delegates at the Unconference, either for themselves, or to give to people they know because it might be of interest. I could add a proviso along the lines of writing a review of the book once it’s been read, but that’s not cricket. We make of the reading materials available to us what we will. And ultimately it’s up to us how we share that, so at its best I’m hoping we can all take part in paying forward the books we own.

If you’re going to be at the Unconference (which can be booked here), and want to take part in paying it forward with your books, leave a comment below so we can keep track of the books, and help others to see what reading they might be able to look forward to. Also, it occurs to me that you may want to take part in this even though you may not be able to attend. If this is the case, we’ll figure out how you can be part of this, just comment below.