Written by Carmen Pascoe, Springboard Program Manager.
One of my all time favourite entrepreneurs Tony Hsieh passed away late last year. Tony was most famous for being the CEO of the online shoe retailer Zappos that he sold to Amazon for a reported $1.2 billion dollars in 2009. The reason I admired Tony so much was not his hugely successful exit to Amazon or the fact that straight out of University he sold his first company for a reported US $265 million or that he was a self-proclaimed introvert (high five!). What I really admired about this incredible founder and CEO was his commitment to organisational culture, to increasing ‘happiness’ of his customers and employees and his willingness for creativity and organisational risk taking to deliver it.
It is reported that at Zappos everything was designed from both a customer and employee perspective in a quest in “delivering happiness”. Tony’s most famous organisational ‘experiment’ was embedding an organisational structure known as Holocracy, an extreme, flat company structure that encourages self management in teams rather than any kind of traditional hierarchical structure. (If you like the idea of distributed leadership take a look at this video it isn’t quite holacracy but the logic is similar ). The sad reports are that despite Tony’s personal mission to create happiness, his story is one that reads of tragedy.
Tony’s story has had me thinking about happiness. For many business owners (yours truly included) work life balance seems implausible and the journey can be lonely. As women we often put ourselves last when it comes to happiness. We check that the kids are happy, the hubby/wife is happy, our employees are happy, the dog is happy but often forget to check in with ourselves. Whether you are kicking off a start-up, in the trenches of running your own business or at the helms of a fast growing organisation. How do we set ourselves up to maximise happiness with a forever intertwining personal and work life imbalance?
The book, Authentic Happiness by Positive Psychology Professor, Martin Seligman talks to, as the name suggests, maximising happiness by using our “ Signature Strengths” in all aspects of our life. These ‘strengths’ are kind of moral traits (you can jump online and do a free quiz to see what yours are here - look for VIA signature strengths). Seligman’s argument is that once you can identify what your signature strengths are you should use these as much as possible in your everyday life and they will bring an abundance of gratification and authentic happiness. He argues that if you are able to transform your career to deploy your strengths everyday it not only makes the work more enjoyable but transforms your career into a ‘calling’ - one that is so gratifying that the work is done for its own sake not just for the material benefits.
As an SBE Evolve program graduate, I reflected on not only the hard times and roller coaster of satisfaction/emotion that comes with being an early stage entrepreneur but also the opportunity that presents itself when setting up your own business. The opportunity to create not only a business that delivers to customers but the opportunity to create your role within it that allows you to use your signature strengths every day. The opportunity to deliver your own abundance of personal satisfaction and happiness. Our team this week took a much needed pause to ask ourselves, have we created our roles to really maximise the use of our signature strengths everyday?
If you are thinking about starting a business or growing your business pause for a moment and take the opportunity to ask yourself - am I using my signature strengths everyday? Does what I am doing feel intrinsically gratifying?
As a woman, a mother, an employee and a small business owner, I consider myself an expert multi-tasker. Utilising my signature strengths to work and at the same time deliver myself happiness and gratification (tick, tick). This logic works for me and I hope it does for you too.