I was privileged to spend some time recently with the operations people at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center near Clay Center, NE. One of the managers within that group mentioned how much he enjoyed his job, but pointed out that there were some days and events that he could do without. My response was that “every job has its cows to milk.”
Those of you who may have grown up milking a few cows by hand for family milk, cream and butter, will know what I mean. Looking back, I really enjoyed what that effort brought to our family table; and I am sure it built character and provided other valuable lessons for life.
The intended analogy is that when we are “milking cows” (doing some of the unpleasant tasks or fixing mistakes), we are making the rest of our work more profitable and enjoyable while becoming better prepared to face the next difficult or unpleasant circumstance. Like milking cows, these jobs need to be done on time; or the cow might reduce production or even dry up.
Taking the conversation a little further, we decided that when we like what we do – and we’re providing adequately for ourselves and our families while providing products or services for the well-being of mankind – we are really among the fortunate of this world and have good reason to be happy.
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I then thought of last month’s article on empowerment. I felt I should follow up with some important connections between our personal happiness and attitude, and the performance, attitude and general behavior of those around us.
How much do you enjoy working around a grouch? Are you able to work at peak performance? How long do you want to remain in that situation? We are well equipped to forgive and look past an occasional bad day, but when someone’s grouchiness is a permanent affliction, it becomes unbearable. Therefore I ask, “Are you happy?” What are your facial expressions, tone of voice, attitude, etc., doing to those around you?
I have tried to study and understand the principles of leadership, remembering that “leadership is best gauged by the voluntary response of those being led." Among the many books and articles that I have read, two stand out – “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership” both by Stephen R. Covey. Much of what I will now suggest has been influenced by Covey’s writings.
Happiness is a choice. Grouchiness is a choice. People are affected one way or another by the attitude and countenance of those around them. However, people of character choose happiness in spite of the influences around them.
When you choose to be happy, you arrange the circumstances of your life to help you be happy. You will have an effect on those around you. If you are the leader, those working for and with you will be positively affected by your happiness.
If they need to be corrected, it is far easier, better received and more effective coming from a happy person. You can be kind and firm at the same time, while expecting accountability. If you are the employee, your happiness will usually “rub off” if you persist – with co-workers and even the boss.
As a manager, I found myself wanting to spend more time working with my happy people to develop their abilities and improve their future. Their attitude was influential on my attitude; and I was more inclined to listen to their concerns and ideas.
There will be the occasional place or situation where your attitude and happiness won’t have an effect on others, and the atmosphere is sufficiently negative that you have no choice but to find a better place to work. However, in most cases, you will be surprised how contagious happiness can be.
Some might ask, “How can I make myself happy, when there is nothing to be happy about?” Certainly, there are difficulties and trials in our lives and businesses, but we must recognize that we are in control. We make choices that have consequences.
It is good to always make good choices and reap good consequences. However, as humans, we sometimes find ourselves making choices to undo bad choices of the past. In Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the first habit is to “be proactive.” Learn to be ahead of the game. Try to avoid reactive mode through good proactive planning and action. Choose to improve. Choose to be happy.
Most of us have a set of core beliefs – things we think we should or should not do to be a good person. To be happy, our actions must be in accordance with our core values and beliefs. If they do not, we’re living a life of internal conflict. In this state, real happiness is impossible.
In almost every situation, our happiness will be determined by how well we align our daily actions and speech with our core values and beliefs.
Burke Teichert, consultant on strategic planning for ranches, is retired as vice president and general manager of Deseret. He resides in Orem, UT, and can be reached at [email protected]