In a recent Q&A session with a leadership team I was asked “how do we keep our workforce committed, engaged and happy amid the ongoing difficulty of a COVID world?”

My response was a bit left field, but seemed to resonate well with the audience. I shared a simple idea from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose rules for happiness were “something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.” This notion was popularized more recently by the American writer Rita Mae Brown as “someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.”

One of the perennial challenges’ we face as leaders is remembering that team members are people first and employees second; that they are human beings before they are human doings. If we were to think of our team members as dear friends, then this simple recipe for happiness is extremely useful.

Someone to love

You may be fortunate to be surrounded by loved ones right now, but chances are that many of your team members are not. To compound this situation, the sense of connection they gained from personal interaction in the workplace is either gone, or at least diminished. As a result, they may be feeling more lonely, isolated and disconnected than ever before; not a great recipe for engagement, let alone happiness. In a work context, “someone to love” means that each of your team members feels cared for, connected to you and connected to their colleagues.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Do each of my team members feel connected and cared for (or do they feel lonely and isolated)?
  • How could I demonstrate that I care for each of them?
  • How can I create greater connection between team members?

Something to do

Busy work may keep your people occupied, but meaningful work is essential to their engagement, commitment and happiness. For work to be meaningful, there must be a clear line of sight between each team member’s contribution, and the most important goals in your team or organization. It’s not enough to do the work; they must know why they are doing the work and why it matters so much. Unless each team member has a sense of agency – the belief that their effort makes a difference – it’s not possible for them to be truly engaged and happy.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Do each of my team members have meaningful work to do?
  • Can they see the connection between their work and our most important goals?
  • Do they really understand why their work is so important right now?

Something to look forward to

For many, COVID has brought with it a ‘Groundhog Day’ type of existence. The things we once looked forward to like travel, adventure and even simple human interaction, have given way to a familiar five-metre walk from home to the “office” and never-ending zoom calls. Monotony is the enemy of engagement and happiness – we need things to look forward to personally and professionally.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Do each of my team members have something to look forward to outside of work?
  • Do they have something to look forward to at work?
  • What experiences could I create, even remotely, that would encourage a sense of anticipation in my team?

Of course, if you’re feeling a little less engaged or happy right now, you can apply all of these ideas to your own situation. I hope this simple recipe for happiness helps you to feel more committed and engaged in your work, and enables you to help those you lead feel the same

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 200 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered some 50 cases of business transformation and more than 1,000 cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

Find out more about Peter

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