When “Fluff” Triples Revenues: Why Leaders Can’t Overlook Happiness

Guest post from Michelle Gielan:

The first time Gary
Baker, president of Nationwide Brokerage Solutions heard about the research on
happiness and how it affects the workplace, he referred to it as “fluff.” And
why wouldn’t he? Our culture has long viewed happiness in the workplace as a sign
of lower productivity. Surely those infusing joy and laughter within the
confines of their office are slacking off and costing the company time and most
certainly money. By referring to happiness research as “fluff,” Gary was only
holding true to a generations old societal norm where happiness should be
withheld until after the job is done.

But what if happiness is
the key to getting the job done?  

Science has shown that
when we are filled with positive emotions, our brains actually work much better
and our results improve. This can and does translate into workplace productivity
and overall company success. Our research has found that a positive brain is
connected with increasing sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and decreasing the
negative effects of stress by 23%. Instinctively we may know that the negative
social script of holding out on happiness until the work is done puts us at
odds with our most human instincts—and that creates stress and an epidemic of
disengagement. But because the desire to conform is incredibly strong, most of
us give in and slowly disengage from our work too.

Look at this through
your own lens. When you are passionate, happy and engaged in what you are
doing, how is your own productivity and success? How is it when you are
unhappy, disengaged and experiencing complacency or even dread? Those two
scenarios have two very different outcomes I’m guessing.

It’s important for
leaders to disassociate smiles and laughter with slacking off and, instead,
pair it with passion, heightened creativity and desire to reach goals. Your
team needs to feel like a team. Teams want the same thing. They work toward the
same thing — everyone doing their part for the bigger picture. Experience
passion and happiness at work and with work is helpful to the bottom line.
People want to get their jobs done, freeing you up to focus on leading.

No iron fist ruling

Against his initial instincts,
Gary Baker introduced our training program that would help the organization
confront and rewrite social scripts that were not serving success, and provide
a narrative pathway for people to reach a more positive mindset, attain higher
levels of optimism, and deepen social connections.

Our training is called “The Orange Frog,” and it highlighted stories of various frogs
in parable format. Through it, employees learned the best practices of resilient
leaders, how to become more adaptive, and how to develop a capacity to “see”
more opportunities, which all lead to better business outcomes. Thousands of
employees at Nationwide were trained on how to put the latest happiness
research into practice to achieve tangible business results, and it didn’t take
long before Baker and his team saw the effects.

What was the outcome of
this experiment in “fluff?”  For one, Nationwide’s revenues increased by
50% in just 18 months–to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Additionally, the new insurance application rate increased by 237% during that
same time. When he saw results that he couldn’t ignore, Baker changed his tune.
He also changed the walls in his office, painting the entire call center bright

The once somber cubicles
are now scattered with orange plush frogs, and hanging around the offices are
large framed pictures of employees working at soup kitchens wearing bright
orange shirts. Employees are very enthusiastic about “being orange.” They know
broadcasting happiness–constantly communicating an empowered, resilient,
optimistic mindset especially in the face of challenges–can fuel their

The changes did not stop
there. Now, at the Nationwide Sales Academy, as salespeople are initiated, they
are taught a story that is different from the usual corporate social script:

Happiness leads to
sales, not the other way around.

Using the same tool we
rolled out at Nationwide, you can test yourself right now on the three greatest
predictors of long term success.
Take the Success Scale now for free, and
receive your scores and an interpretive report


Michelle Gielan, national CBS News anchor turned positive
psychology researcher, is the bestselling author of 
Broadcasting Happiness. She is the Founder of the Institute for
Applied Positive Research and is 
partnered with
Arianna Huffington to study how transformative stories fuel success
. Michelle is an Executive Producer of “The
Happiness Advantage” Special on PBS and a 
professor in Oprah’s Happiness course