>Happiness Is Not The End

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I was outraged to read the opening article in the May 9-15, 2011 issue of BusinessWeek (
which I usually greatly respect): “Why Bin Laden Lost.”
Here are some of the “highlights” from Businessweek:
“The United States has no purpose. That is perhaps its greatest achievement…the United States was not founded for the greater glory of anything.”
– “The most successful organizing principle the world has ever known is a simple guarantee that we can buy and do things that have no point greater than the satisfaction of our own happiness.”
– “We human follow base and pedestrian needs…Freedom. Self-determination. Democracy. All of which are means to an end. For us humans, the end is almost always just a house.”
– “You might consider embracing what defeated him. Do something private and ridiculous, something that answers no creed. Pursue happiness.”
Yes, we won the battle against Osama Bin Laden this week, but the war is not over.

Bin Laden’s henchmen are already forswearing that they will turn our joy to sorrow.
Why?
Because the clash of ideas and principles remain.
One one hand, we have belief in mandated, restrictive religious sharia law and the return to a 7th century caliphate (i.e. government of the people–the state is supreme) and on the other we have principles of freedom to choose–how to worship, what to say, what to publish, when to gather etc. (government for the people–the people are supreme).
With the Spring Uprising in the Middle East, it seems that the people are leaning toward the latter, although there is much work to be done to transition from the former.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s article misses the whole point of our great democracy and the freedoms it provides.
Rather than being a society whose end and purpose is simply to “shop until we drop” and that is free to orgy itself on prosperity, physical pleasures, and materialism, we are about so much more.
The United States and its partners do have a purpose.
No, we are not a society that mandates a certain religion or in fact any religion, we leave that to for the individual to choose. But we are a society of laws, principles, and belief in freedom to choose one’s destiny.
Not everyone chooses well, but that is part of the freedom to learn from our mistakes and grow.
The end, for most good and upstanding citizens of this country and others, is to be driven by principles and righteousnesssuch as human rights, curing the ill, feeding the hungry, rescuing the downtrodden, innovating and creating opportunity, and building stronger personal protections and cultural institutions.
I think it is sad that Bloomberg endorsed exactly the view that the terrorists hold of us — a view that is shallow and wrong.
We do not focus exclusively on the “pursuit of happiness,” rather that happiness is a means to a higher end. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which begins with physical survival and proceeds to self-actualization through connection with others and giving back.

>Motivated by Progress

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There are all sorts of theories about what motivates people. The two most popular are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Hertzberg’s Theory of Motivation.

Maslow (1954) believed that people fulfill needs from the lowest to the highest order in terms of physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization.

Herzberg (1959) understood that more specifically at work, there were five key motivators to job satisfaction: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement. Things like salary and working conditions were believed to not provide satisfaction, but could lead to job dissatisfaction.

An article in Harvard Business Review (January-February 2010) underscores Hertzberg’s belief that achievement is the greatest work satisfier of all, as the article states: “we now know what the top motivator of performance is…It’s progress.”

·Workers are energized when “they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles.”

·Workers are demoralized when “they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment.”

Bottom line is that most people generally want to work and be productive human beings: when we contribute positively to the world, we feel a purpose to life. Achievement and progress means that we somehow leave this world a little bit better than when we arrived, and the whole thing is not meaningless. The daily growing pains of life are not in vain—we are contributing to something greater—something that outlasts ourselves.

Recently, I read that only 45% of workers were satisfied with their jobs (based on finding from the Corporate Executive Board). Even in a horrible economy, people are not satisfied with a paycheck. They want to feel good about what they are doing and that they are doing something.

Something is getting in the way of people’s feeling of progress at work or their level of job satisfaction wouldn’t be the worst in decades.

The authors of the Harvard Business Review article state “the strongest advice we offer [to leaders] from this study…”scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive or holding up resources.”

The point is that a leader is first and foremost an enabler for progress. If they are holding back their people, rather than helping them, we have dysfunctional leadership at its core.

So in simple terms—effective leaders must:

·VISION: Set and articulate a compelling vision/strategic direction for organization bringing their people into the process through genuine inclusion.

·DECISION: Make decisions with a reasonable and responsible level of analysis and consideration, but avoid analysis-paralysis, wavering, and indecision.

·EXECUTION: Give your people the authority, accountability, resources, training, and tools to execute or as the saying goes, “put your money where your mouth is.”

Progress and employee satisfaction will not be achieved with just one or two of the three: If the employees want to move forward on leadership vision, but they can’t get needed decisions to really execute, the vision is for all intensive purposes, dead on arrival. And even if employees have a vision and the needed decisions to operationalize it, but they can’t get the resources to really see it through, progress is slowed, stunted, or perhaps, not even possible at all.

Perhaps this is one reason for the high project failure rate in organizations that we’ve seen for years now resulting in cost overruns, missed project schedules, and requirements that go unmet.

Yes, workers will always seek job satisfaction, but its not just about more money, more benefits, more recognition, more advancement, like so many erroneously still believe. Rather, the Holy Grail to worker satisfaction is a leadership that knows how to let them really be productive.

I believe that true leadership success is measured in progress, and a sure sign of organizational progress is when employees feel productive. A good metric for “progress” is whether employees are engaged and (to put it simply) happy.