The Happiness Advantage and The Orange Frog – Dick Ruhe at ATD2015

Following on the accidental theme of happiness in Orlando today, I wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something.. Time to get happy? As a fan of Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” and the unpronounceable Hungarian-American’s “Flow” I am intrigued to see what session SU31XD has to offer. 

Dick Ruhe has taken the stage to tell us what the latest research on positive psychology can do for the workplace. (Tip number one: If anyone is looking unhappy, just slap ’em!) 

Ruhe starts by noting that most organisations seems to have the happiness formula backwards. We tend to think: Work hard -> Get success -> Get happy. But actually, it’s the happiness we need first. When we can find ways to get happy, we will work better and get better results. And when we keep this in mind people produce better business results. According to Ruhe, there are 7 principles we need to bear in mind if we want intrinsic motivation and increased engagement…

The happiness advantage
Organisations need to know this: Happy people get better results and attrition goes down. Ruhe cites how the brain creates endorphins and people feel better. But he adds that studies of successful organisations show that happy people are more satisfied and tend to stick around.

Do you believe this?

The fulcrum and the lever

The lens through which we see the world (the fulcrum) doesn’t shape us. It’s the way we see things that shape us. Two people can see the same situation completely differently. And if we can do something with that (the lever) we can influence our happiness and our results. Ruhe says that will require effort from leaders. We need to look for and embed positive (happy) experiences and work towards getting more of that. 

Are you doing this?

The Tetris Effect

These are the patterns we have for doing things in the organisations. After time, those patterns become habits and traditions and we continue to get more of the same things, over and over again. We need to see how the pieces are falling and what we can do about it to line things up better for happiness.

Are you doing this?


When people fail, falling-up is about how they focus and take action to move in a new direction to bounce back. The “on the other hand…” vibe. Ruhe mentioned a study where people were told to imagine they had walked into a bank which was being robbed and got shot in the arm. They were asked: We’re you lucky or unlucky? 70% said “unlucky”.

What would you say?

Zorro circles

The brain perceives big movements and big changes as overwhelming, which limits forward progress. But if we can start off small and see results, the brain can record the “win” and maintain the belief that their efforts can have an impact. 

Are you helping your people see their results?

The 20 second rule

This is all about doing something that easily will move us forward. The next concrete (easy) action. For example, if you are thinking “I need to run more”, you might start making a big plan with a SMART objective and some challenges in there. But when it comes to actually running, if it’s easier to turn on the television than go running, no change is going to happen. We need to make it possible in 20 seconds to take some easy action towards are goal. Whatever it is.

How can you move forward now?

Social investment
Connecting with the people around us makes everyone more happy. Ruhe suggests that we take more time to do this, everyday. 

Are you?

Reading back my notes, some of the points seem so obvious, I wonder what I get from it. But if I’m honest, I know I can do better.

Can you?
Thanks for reading


An example of flow in my life

In leadership training, we talk about “Flow” as an important state for getting high-results and being motivated. Here is an example of Flow from my own life. As you read it, see if you can spot the key ingredients required to get me in this state of Flow..


In 2002 I was living in Brussels. I didn’t have any kids and I was “away from home”. One day, I was thinking about how I could better share my life with people in England. At the time, Facebook probably existed in the US, but it wasn’t part of our daily life like it is today. I wanted to let people know what I was up to, share stories and pictures and have more contact with them. One Saturday afternoon at 2pm, I decided to make a website.


Not having a clue about how to make websites, I went to Google and typed in “How to make a website”. I found the site and discovered a set of lessons on how to code a site. I opened up lesson 1:

  • Open notepad
  • Type <html>
  • Write what you want to see on your page
  • (I wrote “Welcome to my webpage)
  • Type </html>
  • Save
  • Open internet explorer and open your “document”


What I saw was a blank “internet page” with “Welcome to my webpage” in the top-left corner, font times new roman, size 10. I quietly smiled to myself and moved onto lesson 2, which was about how to make a link. I made a new notepad document with the HREF code for a link and linked it to my first page with the text “Click here”. When I opened my new page, I saw a blue link in the top-left saying “Click here”. I did. It opened my first page. I was very excited.


I went on through the lessons: How to change background colour, adjust font, add tables, put in pictures, make frames, add a form for email contact, add buttons… Each time, I slowly learnt something new and watched my pages come to life.


I carried on working non-stop from 2pm to 4.30am the next day. I only stopped a couple of times to go the toilet and I had a “dinner” in less than 10 minutes at my desk. By the time I finished, I had my first working website, uploaded via FTP and shared by email with my family. It had a kind of diary in it, some pictures and I had plans to add more later with my new skillset.


This is a perfect example of flow for me: I got the best results I could get, I was happy and time flew by.


According to positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this positive state of flow is what everyone wants in life. It is a state of motivation where we feel good and get the best results. If we are under stimulated, we get bored (and bad results) and if things are too much for us, its stressful (with bad results). Flow is the key.


To get in flow, you need:

  • A clear goal that has a sense of purpose to you
  • Feedback from the world – you need to be able to see your progress (like I did with my internet pages)
  • The possibility to concentrate fully on your work (no kids!)
  • A balance between the challenge you have and your own competences/resources (note: most people like to be stretched a little)
  • The possibility of growth


If you are thinking about how to motivate your people at work, there are lots of practical ideas of what you can do to create or maintain flow. My training participants have been coming up with many ideas. You can see some on this padlet wall and this other wall. Its not difficult to do and the impact on employee results and happiness is enormous.


So, go: Get your people in flow!


Thanks for reading!




Shit – I’ve got no cash! (8 other financials to measure)

Yesterday evening, I received an email from my wife (I know, modern times, eh ?) saying that she was miserable because despite working so hard , when she opened her account she was minus 500 euros. I replied (face-to-face, the loving husband that I am J ) that the problem was not her bank account, but her limited vision of financial success. If this intrigues you in the slightest, read on. If you’ve ever had the same feeling, read on. If you know nothing about financial measures, read on…


Cash is King?

That’s what they say right? But if you don’t need cash, then who cares? If cash in your pocket (cash situation) is all that counts, then yes, my wife has a bad financial situation because she doesn’t have any. But I proposed instead 8 other measures she could use to give another vision of things…


1 Total revenue earned in period

That’s a nice measure. Think about what you earned. And depending on the length of the period in question, you might see a really big number. Nice and inspiring if, like my wife, you are easily turned-on or put-off by superficial numbers. In my wife’s case, this would mean looking at her salary. But as a family, we can also include all other cash that comes into the household (family allowance, tax-return etc…)


2 Growth in revenue over time

For my wife, this was a really nice one, because 3 months ago she didn’t have a job and now she does. Depending on how you do business, you will need to choose the period well to give a good indication of real growth. In my business, there are seasonal peaks and dips, so I just look over a year. In the last 4 years, my revenue has grown by 46% (yr 2), 37% (yr3) and 24% (yr4). Like!


3 Money owed

…to you

If there is no prospect of money arriving in the future, then that is bad. But if people owe you money and you are confident it will come, this measure is interesting. I am currently owed 19600 euros and although there is a risk of non-payment, this has not caused any concern over the last 4 years.

…by you

Everyone has bills. But not all the time. If cash is low, but you are owed loads and don’t owe anything yourself, things are pretty good. Just collect what you are owed and smile again…


4 Profit (% vs. revenue won or net $)

Profit is what is left over when everything is paid (OK, it can be a bit more complicated than that, but let’s keep it simple). There are 2 ways to measure profit:

  • As a money figure, eg: 2000 euros
  • As a %

Personally, I prefer to measure the second one. Take your revenue, deduct all costs and then divide the final figure by the revenue won. The higher the %, the more profit you are making.


5 “Financial productivity”

I don’t know if it’s the right term, but I like this one: How time did you spend winning revenue vs. how much time was available for winning revenue. In my wife’s case, this is really motivating because she doesn’t work full-time. She can remind herself that she does other things with her life, rather than just work. As a “side-motivator”, she could take her revenue and max-it-up to 100% productivity to see what she would earn if working full-time.


6 “Financial efficiency” or “bill-rate”

Again, may not be the right term, but this is: Revenue per worked hour. If you believe Tim Ferriss, this is what really matters. If 2 people earn 100,000 euros, but one works 200 days and the other only works 50 days, it’s clear who is “richest”. This tends to depress my wife, as I am “richer”, but watch out for a future blog on “How to put a money-value the work of a house-wife”….


7 Assets, consumables and experiences acquired for money spent

This is simple/ I said to my wife: “So what, you are minus 500. Look at what you got for your money. A water-fountain, a nice holiday, kids going to scouts at the weekend, shoes, food…..” Money’s not worth anything is you’re not spending it, right?


8 Joy

OK, maybe this is not so financial. But who cares about all the money right? We’re not dying, we live well. We both love our jobs. Our kids our healty. Enjoy!!



Hope this was interesting.

If you are a business owner interested in other ways to measure success, read the book “Business Acumen” by Kevin Cope or get an overview here: “If you want to show value, you’ve gotta have Business Acumen”.


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10 things you can learn from David Brent about running performance evaluations

During leadership training today, we watched some of the BBC series « The Office » and evaluated the boss’ approach to dealing with Performance Evaluation Meetings.

To see David Brent in action, check out part of the episode in question (Series 2, Episode 2) here


There are many different performance evaluation processes and these are not discussed here. Assuming that you, like many corporate employees, are running “classical performance evaluation moments”, read on…


Based on our evaluation of David Brent (good and bad) work, we created a non-exhaustive list of 10 best practices for dealing well with performance evaluations:

  • Explain the purpose of the meeting and have a meeting structure
  • ….it is my opinion that one should deal first with the past, then the present, then the future
  • Focus on the employee being reviewed
  • It’s OK to have a 2-way conversation and to include bottom-up evaluation, but it’s not OK for the reviewer to be self-centred and egoistic
  • Listen well to your employees – give them a chance to express things about motivation, performance, future plans etc..
  • Give constructive feedback, not just encouragement
  • Use a blend of hard fact-driven measures and subjective observation based measures
  • Discuss results and relationships, motivation and performance, competence and behaviour
  • Don’t make career promises you can’t keep …and be careful when you discuss potential evolution to ensure its not understood as a promise
  • Take time to align vision, values and objectives
  • Be calm and patient


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