Monday, November 29, 2021

Does Your Organization Deliver Value and Care for Your Employees?

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, branding, employee experience, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Henry Stewart from Hackney, England. We recently had a discussion about employee experiences and leadership, and highlights follow below his bio.

Henry Stewart is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of London-based learning provider Happy Ltd, which was rated one of the top 20 workplaces in the UK for 5 successive years and now helps other orgs create happy workplaces. Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential business thinkers in the world. His book, The Happy Manifesto, was published by Kogan Page in 2013, and short-listed for business book of the year. A keen cyclist, in 2008 and 2010 he completed the Etape, the public stage of the Tour de France, and in 2016, he took part in the Haute Route, seven days through the Alps climbing the equivalent of a third of Everest every day. Connect and follow on Twitter (@happyhenry), LinkedIn (, and on his website at

Question: On your website, you offer a free E-Book entitled, The Happy Manifesto. What are three take-aways you hope readers will have upon completing it? (Check out the E-Book here:

HENRY STEWART: First, get your people to play to their strengths. Gallup has found that, in the UK, only 17% of people are able to say “Every day I get to do what I am best at”. This means people are making themselves miserable and ensuring the organisation underperforms by doing things that are not their strength.

At Happy, we recruit to a job description and then throw it away, and work out what each person’s talents really are. Gallup found that if people are doing what they are best at, not only are they happy, but the company is 30-40% more productive.

Second, people work best when they are given freedom (within guidelines) and trusted to make their own decisions. The book explains how to enable this. One example is pre-approval where you approve a solution before they have thought up the solution. Not quite clear? Read the book and you will find out all about it!

And if they are working to their strengths (pt 1), give them that freedom and they will truly excel.

Third, what is the role of the manager? Think of your managers and which you performed best for. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the ones that thought they were the expert and told you what to do.

Instead we find it was the ones who listened, who trusted you, who challenged as well and – instead of telling you what to do – and coached you.

Those are my top 3: let people play to their strengths, give them the freedom to perform, and coach them to be their best.

Question: Since marketing is everything, how did you devise your title of CHIEF HAPPINESS OFFICER?

HENRY STEWART: The first person to adopt the title Chief Happiness Officer was Alex Kjerulf of WooHoo in Copenhagen. I nicked it from him! He is an inspiration and has been promoting happy workplaces or “Arbejdsglaede” (Danish is apparently the only language that has a word for happy workplaces) for two decades. WooHoo now runs programmes for Chief Happiness Officers!

And it works. Whenever I speak or introduce myself with that title, people are always intrigued and want to know more. It is a great way to market my brand and to give a hint of what Happy does in helping organisations to create happy workplaces.

Question: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become enthusiastic brand ambassadors?

HENRY STEWART: By building an organisation that truly lives its values, that delivers great value to its customers, and cares for its people.

This isn’t about the leader doing that. It isn’t about the leader telling people what the values are. It IS about fully involving everybody – by giving them freedom and trust – in that whole process.

What doesn’t work is a leader who states how great the values are and how the company is based on its people, and then doesn’t give them trust, or micro manages, or skips the one-to-ones because they have more important things to do.

It is about showing that you care. It is about giving that trust. At Happy, my aim is to make no decisions at all, based on the ideas of David Marquet. Instead I seek to enable those closest to the front-line to make those decisions.

Question: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?

HENRY STEWART: Well I’m not a CEO, so I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that!

On the one hand, the CEO obviously needs to be promoting their company brand. However if they are the only people doing that, then you have a problem.

Ideally, every person in the company should be a brand ambassador telling all their friends and colleagues, and posting on social media about how great the company is, and being fully involved in whatever form of sales or marketing is taking place.

Question: What employer brands do you admire, and why?

HENRY STEWART: The inspiration for everything we have done at Happy is Semco, the Brazilian manufacturer. Everything changed at my company in 1992 when I read Maverick by Ricardo Semler. There he describes how he took his father’s factory – where trust was so low that workers were searched every day at the gates – to a company where front-line staff were trusted to set their own targets, organise their workplaces, choose their manager and, in some cases, even set their own salary.

Buurtzorg, the Netherlands-based care company. They have grown from 4 nurses in 2006 to 15,000 today, all organised in self-managing teams. They haven’t had a management meeting in 15 years! They deliver the best care, deliver great value, and have been rated the best company to work for in the Netherlands on several occasions.

And then there is Haier, the Chinese white goods manufacturer that has reinvented itself many times over, and now, among its 70,000 staff, works in self-managing teams. Their ecosystems model is based on 4,000 micro-enterprises. Indeed, any three members of staff can set up a new enterprise, if they have an idea, and some of these have gone on to be multi-million pound enterprises within Haier.

Question: One of my favorite quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?

HENRY STEWART: I completely agree that you shouldn’t try to be the smartest person in the room. Your role as a leader should be to show how smart your people are.

However, I’m not entirely sure on the second part. The work of Liz Wiseman on Multipliers shows that protecting your people is often a diminishing behaviour. Sometimes, you may need to block and tackle for others, but it's even better if you are able to support the person to face whatever issue is taking place themselves.

TWEET THIS: Your role as a leader should be to show how smart your people are. -@happyhenry #EmployeeExperience #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Henry for sharing his inspiring business insights about the employee experience and employer branding here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

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