September 19, 2022

Leadership: Cultivating Joy in the Workplace

Shailja Sharma

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Your professional life is one of the most important aspects of your life. If you are one of those people who lives for the weekend, then you are wasting a significant proportion of your time. Do you create joy for others as you lead or are you the perpetual grouch, associating seriousness with excellence and never letting your guard down? Taking life seriously does not mean depriving yourself of joy. Is your work life aligned with your values and sense of purpose?  Being meaningfully engaged in your work and taking the time to be grateful every day for your blessings is the first step towards cultivating joy in your work life. When you begin to cultivate joy in your own life at work, you will be able to create joy for others.

Create a Convivial Atmosphere

As a leader, you can create an environment that fosters joy. Start by having candid conversations about values and get to know the personal motivations of your team members. Brainstorm strategies to infuse more joy in the workplace with your team. Joy is fueled by a sense of purpose that energises motivation, which leads to transformation.

It is important for your team to have a shared sense of purpose. It is your responsibility as a leader to be able to articulate the organization’s vision, mission, and values clearly and demystify how these intangible things relate to your team’s daily activities. Conveying the bigger picture and deeper meaning that underpins some of the day-to-day activities that can be viewed as mundane will help team members to derive a sense of meaning and satisfaction from these tasks.

Do you champion camaraderie and collaboration at work? Team building activities are a good way to enhance relationship building and teamwork. Effective collaboration is facilitated by good communication. Do your team members have good communication skills? Are they able to resolve conflict? Do they treat each other with respect and empathy? By creating an atmosphere of trust, understanding, kindness, mutual respect, and open communication, you can create a work environment where people feel safe and free to express themselves. Psychological safety is an important factor that cannot be overlooked. Courtesy and respect will build a collegial ecosystem where people thrive. Do not tolerate anything less than that. As a leader, you set the rules of engagement.

Lead by Example

Have you succeeded in maintaining an effective work-life balance? Do you make time for activities that nourish you and put a spring in your step? Self-care is important. You cannot pour from an empty cup. If you constantly look harassed and exhausted at work, what example are you setting for the people that look up to you? Do you smile as you go about your work and make time to greet your colleagues? It is laudable to be a model of productivity but it is equally important to maintain good health and live a balanced life. You will be more likely to succeed in the long-run. Show your direct reports that you can still excel without burning yourself out.

Build Other People

Investing your time building other people and helping them to achieve their potential can be very rewarding. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. How can you be the giant in someone else’s life? One of the greatest legacies you can create for your life is the impact you had on others. At some point in your career, there was probably a mentor or teacher who helped you to reach new heights. Someone you will never forget. Pay it forward by playing that role in the lives of those around you.

Joy manifests in many ways – as a deep sense of satisfaction, contentment, or gratification as a result of hard work. Time is a limited commodity; we are each given twenty-four hours in a day. Make sure you are spending time on things that matter. Embrace the present moment. Take time to be grateful for everything you have and build a culture of gratitude at work. Practice reflections on gratitude with your team.

Build an environment where people are engaged with their hearts as well as their minds through a shared purpose and collective vision. Professional relationships can improve both productivity and workplace contentment.  Celebrate your successes and reflect on your failures as a team. It may not always be sunshine and rainbows at work but when your team learns to weather storms together, you will build a powerful, and supportive community. Human beings are social beings. Community and connection are recognized as two of the most important factors that influence personal happiness and satisfaction. Build community, build meaningful connections in your team. Joy can boost performance and productivity. The workplace can be an untapped reservoir of joy. It is your duty as a leader to unlock its potential.

Article by Shailja Sharma, Executive Fellow and Coach

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