My brother runs a very successful business, and part of that success is having the right staff, very low staff turnover, and his people always seems very motivated, dedicated and driven. I asked him what the secret was and the first thing he asked me was: “What is the opposite of unhappiness?” Easy one, I thought: happiness, right? I was wrong! When it comes to people apparently the opposite of being unhappy is being content. This is what a lot of team leads and managers get wrong. I’ll try to recap his explanation.
Imagine a scale from unhappy to happy with content in the middle. Some things affect the left half, unhappy to content; other things affect the right, content to happy. Very few things a team lead, manager or employer can do will affect the full range. You should never focus on only one half because to affect the full range you have to pay close attention to both. Removing everything that makes a person unhappy will not make them happy, other things do that.
To my surprise money fits into the left according to him. Lack of money or being under paid will make you unhappy; being paid a fair salary will make you content. At this point I thought I had him and pointed out the being over paid would make me very happy. Yes, but for how long? Getting a big increase will push you right past content into happiness, but within two months you’ll be used to that money and right back at content. Damn, he had a point. Having the right tool to do your job fits into the right, so does having the right level of authority, and so on…
The left half is mostly made up of basic human nature soft and fluffy stuff: A sense of accomplishment, being give responsibility, trust, recognition of good work…. I’m sure you know what I am talking about.
People also tend to be vocal about the right side and quiet about the left. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you fix everything people complain about that they will be happy. To motivate people and have happy team/staff that enjoys their work you need to pay attention to both sides. And both sides do not have to be perfect, but you should never neglect one. Always try to find out what is making your staff unhappy and what will make them happy. All too often people assume that this is the same thing or the same for everyone.