Connecting To Happiness: A Single Model For Leadership Excellence

(cc) Shashi Bellamkonda

This past weekend I co-hosted our annual gathering of 150 business practitioners and aspiring entrepreneurs in Chicago, SOBCon (“SOB” stands for Successful Online Business).

The theme of this year’s conference was “The New Leadership and Loyalty Business”, and in my presentation and work session, I spoke about a leadership “model” that can be used by leaders in just about any situation – a model that, if it is applied correctly, will put a business, organization, or non-profit on the fast track to excellence.

What is this model?  It’s a 5-step process:

1. Understand and Respect the Work

2. Determine the WMTH (What Makes Them Happy)

3. Transform the Goals to a Cause

4. Connect the dots between the Work, the WMTH, and the Cause

5. Pitch the connection relentlessly and passionately

Let’s apply this model to a “real-life” situation.  I was in the cable television business (for 23 years), and part of my leadership role was to oversee field operations, which included the service and installation technicians.

My example will be those technicians.   Let’s work through the model, as I did with my company:

1.     The technician has a tough job, encountering a lot of different work environments, from scorching heat to bitter cold, and demanding hours (like going out at 2AM to fix a cable line when its 15 below zero).   A leader needs to understand this job, its importance, and needs to express that understanding and respect to the technician (I wrote more about this on a post a few weeks ago – well worth checking out before you read on).

2.     With that done, the next step is to determine the collective technicians’ WMTH.  That can only be done directly, with a lot of one-on-one discussions (which means a lot more time away from the office, and out to the field). In this case, the answers were (generally) taking pride in the work, serving customers, and being part of a great team.

3.     Next, the goals of the business are transformed to a cause that “bridges” with the Work and the WMTH.  In this case, we went from “Hit budget and greatly improve operating metrics” (the goal) to “serve our customers and support each other” (the Cause).

4.     Then, all the dots need to be connected with the technicians.  In this case, If they can embrace the Cause by doing excellent Work (installing or fixing cable connections) and providing outstanding customer care, and all their teammates do the same thing, then the pride will rise, the proportion of happy customers to angry customers will shoot way up, and the team dynamic will create a positive and productive work environment (with fewer calls at 2AM), thus creating WMTH (i.e. happiness).

5.     This connection must be introduced with near-religious fervor, with the Cause becoming a mantra that is known by all, and relentlessly reinforced.   When I “pitched” it I always ended my talks with a simple drawing to illustrate the end result – a smiley face.

Yes, I drew a smiley face.   That, and not the blankety-blank percent improvement in cash flow, was the ultimate “goal” I put on the whiteboard.

For THIS audience, based on the model.

(Note: In case you were wondering, the road to that smiley face did have a few numbers and charts preceding it….)

You can imagine this specific application of the model wouldn’t work for certain other constituencies – like investors or executive management, for example  (I often did imagine the reception I’d get if I drew a smiley face in the boardroom, but alas, I never tried it). But the model itself still works for them too.

A quick example – in the case of investors, the Work that needs to be respected are their acts of putting their money at risk. The WMTH is the satisfaction of funding a successful company.  The goal is a high IRR, and the resulting Cause is “meaningfully increasing shareholder value”.

Of course, there is a LOT more to successfully executing the model than what’s on this page, but the basic elements are here.  How it is fleshed out, and ultimately delivered, always should depend on the situation.

And, it also takes a fundamental belief of a simple premise that is at the core of this model – Happiness is Good Business. Otherwise, it’s not worth trying.   YOU have to believe it.

I believe this.  Fervently.  I’ve seen it work.  Others have made it work (Zappos, for example).   Try this model yourself  – work through it on paper for a particular person, or a group that you lead, and see if it makes sense for you.

Then, if it feels right, do it.   Good luck, and lead well!


  1. says

    Terry, it was a pleasure seeing you and Liz again this past weekend, and congrats on another life-changing SOBCon. It’s my favorite gathering!

  2. says

    Terry, it was a great pleasure to meet you at SOBCon this weekend.

    I really appreciate that you took the time to replay the key points of your presentation in this blog post. I work better with words, so this was very helpful.

    Here’s to more conversations!


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