Make a Joyful Noise!

Ever wonder why happy people are happy?  Why is it they always have a smile on their face?  Even when the chips are down, they seem to bounce back quicker than others.  What is it that makes them so happy?

I am sure that there are lots of reasons.  However, I believe that genuinely happy people (and I mean the people that are happy a good portion of the time) have a FOCUS.

Somewhere in their mind, they are focused on something that makes them happy.  It’s their ‘happy place’ that they go to often that brings them joy.  Perhaps not as bizarre as depicted in the movie Happy Gilmore, but something or someone that they focus on.  It could be their faith.  Or a loved one.  Or, it could be an activity like fishing, painting, or monster truck driving.  Regardless, it’s usually something that is deeply meaningful to that individual that helps put and keep their mind in a positive place.  What’s your happy focus?

For me?  It’s music. Music permeates my soul.  There is always a song playing in my heart and in my head.  And it wants to come out.  So, I am always whistling, humming, drumming, tapping, or even outright singing.  Whether out loud or in my head, the beat is always going.

Music makes me happy.  It lifts my spirits.  And it puts a smile on my face.

Quick caveat:  You can have more than one happy focus.  My faith and my family are also critical focus points in my life that make me smile!  You’ll see why though I chose to talk about music in just a second.

Steamboat Willie, (c) Disney, 1928

I love this picture to the left.  It’s an image that I remember seeing ever since I was little.  In this particular Disney scene, Steamboat Willie is whistling a toon, rocking back and forth, and steering the boat (doing his job).  While only a cartoon, it is a great depiction of what being a happy person looks like at work (although I try to wear a shirt).

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t down days or that I don’t have to focus seriously on the task at hand, but it does mean that when I need it, it’s always there for me to help boost my mood upwards.

The other great thing about having this focus is that when you’re happy and other people can see it in you, it’s contagious.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that ‘a smile is contagious’.   I’ve found this is also true with music.  Music is mainly an outward expression.  Most people I’ve met like some form of music.  And if they hear me humming or whistling or tapping, it isn’t long before I hear them doing the same.  And then I see them smile too.

The other day at work, I was riding down in the elevator and was humming some ditty.  There was another guy on the elevator.  I smiled and said hello as I got on board, but we didn’t say much else during the ride and when we got to the first floor, the door opened and we parted ways.  I went on to the cafeteria to get some food and while I was standing in line I heard someone humming behind me.  I turned around and two people back was the guy that was in the elevator with me.  He nodded and smiled at me as we had that mental connection and understanding that he was continuing on where I had left off.  I nodded and smiled back.  Happiness (and music) is contagious.

At Walmart, respect for the individual is a cultural tenet.  And one of the greatest ways that I know to show my respect for another is to acknowledge their presence in a warm and friendly way.  This means greeting them with a smile, a wave, a wink, or a hello.  When I am happy, this is really really easy to do.  And because I strive to be a cultural ambassador, staying happy and keeping my spirits up is important.

Why is happiness important for leaders? Well, if our function is to inspire, motivate, stimulate, move, and encourage others, then we should be someone that others want to be around.  People generally want to be around happy people – they aren’t emotionally draining like unhappy people.  And they tend to lift the mood of others.  So, it should stand to reason that good leaders should be happy people.  Are you considered a happy person?  How do you show it?

The next time you see me humming in the halls or tapping my fingers during a meeting, you know that I’ve got a song playing and beat grooving in my head.  And where there’s music, there is certainly a smile to follow.

So, my challenge to you is to find your happy focus.  If it’s music like mine, then MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE!  It doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or not.  If it makes you happy and makes you smile, then don’t hold it back!  It’s contagious!




Creating Beautiful Music

I have this wonderful vision in my head.

I have this dream that my teams will function like a masterful orchestra that creates beautiful music and achieves brilliant success.

In order to get there though, they need something.  They need something from me.

Every great orchestra takes it’s cue from their conductor.  In the case of the team, they take their cue from their leader.  This is me.  This is you.

What is it though that they need from you and I to create beautiful music?

As I was perusing some of the TED videos, I came across one that intrigued me.  And struck a chord as to how great conductors lead.

Watch this amazing video from TED and I’ll catch up with you afterwards to share my observations and thoughts.

To start, I found this video to be intriguing.  Did you catch the leadership lessons?

The guy that brought us “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” marvelously displays how great leaders lead. [Actually, Bobby McFerrin is a genius of a guy if you ever listen to him talk.]

Here are 5 leadership lessons I observed:

  • Great leaders demonstrate the behavior or action that they want from their team. Did you notice how he started out simply by showing us what he wanted on the first note?  The team (audience) quickly picked it up because he was clear (even without using words) as to what he wanted them to do.  Once they picked it up, he moved on to the next note (lesson).  How often do you demonstrate desired behavior or lessons for your team?
  • Great leaders reinforce desired behavior. Did you notice how (even within a minute) he reinforced their understanding of the note by having them demonstrate and practice it over and over again.  Sometimes he would let them sing it alone and sometimes he would reinforce the note by singing it with them.  How often do you reinforce desired behavior when developing an employee?
  • Great leaders ‘let go’ and trust. Did you notice that he stopped instructing and singing and let them sing the notes?  He trusted that they would follow his lead, which they did because of the foundation of the first two points.  They also developed a reciprocal trust in him and his leadership.  How often do you ‘let go’ and trust that your team will do what what you have taught or instructed them to do?
  • Great leaders help their team understand the bigger picture. Did you notice that after they had established trust in each other and they were doing what he expected, he chimed in with his own melody over the top of what they were singing?  To me this was a great audible example of displaying how their part worked with the greater whole.  This gives meaning and purpose to those things that we ask our teams to do.  How important is it for your team to understand how what they do contributes to the greater whole?
  • Great leaders stretch their teams. Did you notice that once his team was comfortable with what they knew and trust was established, he started to stretch them in to the unknown?  In fact he stretched them down the scale beyond their learned limits and then back up the scale above their learned limits.  They did more than they probably ever thought would be possible.  How often do you stretch your teams to new heights?  To do the improbable?  The impossible?

The result?  Beautiful music.



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