From Skylines, the newsletter of the Society for Design Administration, an excerpt from the August 2012 Society for Design Administration program presented by David Singer

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I have no idea. But, I do know the answer to another question which has resulted in much confusion: Which comes first, success or happiness?

In our hard-driving, achievement-oriented world, there is a common belief that goes like this: I’ll finish school, then I’ll get a job, then I’ll work hard, then I’ll make a lot of money, and then I’ll be able buy things, and then I’ll be happy. The problem is, this is the opposite of how things really work. It’s not success that leads to happiness; instead, it’s happiness that leads to success.

We spend so many hours working—every day, week, month, year, and over the course of our lifetime— that it’s clearly better to enjoy our jobs.

I’ve been a long-time believer that it’s super important that you love what you do and I recently read a terrific book, Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage, that provides proof that happiness leads to better outcomes at work, as well as in many other areas of our lives including health, friendships, creativity, and energy. These better outcomes mean that both employees and employers have a stake in having a happier workplace.

What are some of the ways to have a happier workplace? Here are a few:

Love What You Do. It’s important that people love what they do. The best way for that to happen is by having people do what they love. As much as possible, firms should put people into jobs that are made up of tasks that the person is not only good at, but enjoys doing. Having a workforce with diverse talent allows people to work in teams to take advantage of each others’ abilities and, as a result, to achieve things no one would be able to do alone.

Encourage and Recognize. Managers who make sure to give encouragement and recognition will see experience improved outcomes.

  • Smile. Smiling is an amazing thing. The act of smiling makes you happier. And when you smile at others, they almost always smile back, which makes them happier.
  • Help Everyone to Become Leaders. Being a leader in the workplace isn’t reserved for those in charge. Encourage everyone to be a leader, explaining to them that leadership includes making the world a better place—even in “small” ways. It’s about setting an example and taking on responsibility at work, at home, and in your community. We all have it in us to be a leader.
  • Say No to Gossip. I used to think of gossip as those bits of unseemly information about people’s personal lives. But gossip includes anything you say about anyone else, for example, complaining to a co-worker about another co-worker. Encourage people to communicate directly with each other and to work out their issues. A gossip-free workplace is a happier workplace.
  • Promote Wellness. By helping employees to live healthier lifestyles, employers can help employees and their families to reduce the likelihood and severity of illness, and the associated stress, including the financial stress of the out-of-pocket costs from ever-increasing deductibles.

If you figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg, let me know. In the meantime, make sure that you put happiness first so that you achieve the success that you want.