I sat down with Jenn Lim, a speaker in the Change Makers Series. I chatted with Jenn about her work creating the Zappos Culture Book and co-founding Delivering Happiness with Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.
Julie Ann: Hi, Julie Ann Sullivan here and I am here with Jenn Lim, who is one of the speakers at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas in June. I am so excited to be interviewing her today and chatting with her a little bit about what is coming up for the conference.
Jenn is a part of the change maker series and she'll be talking about Delivering Happiness, which is her area of expertise, on Sunday at one o'clock if you guys want to set your schedules.
Julie Ann: Hi, Jenn. So glad you could be with us today.
Jenn: Thank you for having me.
Julie Ann: I know you have a book called, Delivering Happiness. Why don't you tell people a little bit about your background?
Jenn: I'm sure there's a lot of people that don't know who I am and what Delivering Happiness is all about, but happy to share. Essentially, Delivering Happiness is now a company but it started out as a book back in 2010. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, and I launched that back then thinking it was just going to be a book and kind of check it off the list of things to do. But it turned out ... Lo and behold there was a demand for happiness in the world, so the book did pretty well and it ended up that we decided we had to do something with the interest and demand. So, we decided to evolve into a company.
Essentially, we are culture coach-sultants. We help companies and organizations and governments figure out how to essentially create an environment where we have happier employees first and that equals happier customers and that will equal more long-term profitable and sustainable business. But at the same time, with this happiness stuff, we're also creating meaningful lives. We like to bring it back to the science of scientific happiness, positive psychology. How do we take these concepts that kind of seem academic and bring real meaningful happiness. That's based on a sense of higher purpose, a sense of being true to your authentic self; things like that that in the end we've been able to scale in organizations.
Julie Ann: That's great. It sounds a lot like what I do, too, and I'm sure you'll agree that this is a journey, right? It's continuous ... You don't go in and say hey, we got a hot idea. Let's do this once and then that's it. Even if you do the same thing every year, that's not what you're talking about.
Jenn: Right. You're exactly right. It's the proverbial journey, whether it's the company launching culture initiatives, core values, et cetera. It just keeps going. And the same way, it's a journey of our own lives, of our own happiness and what our own highs and lows are and tapping into that. Being able to embrace the things that we can't predict in life and same thing for organizations. Every organization changes with every person that comes in and every person that walks out. And so, how do we as organizations adapt to that. Not just provide a framework but actually increase the levels of not just happiness but also profitability and sustainability for companies, too.
Julie Ann: Which go together, right?
Jenn: Hand in hand.
Julie Ann: When you have a culture that's working, your profitability and sustainability grows automatically. They're connected. And I was just talking to somebody earlier today about what you're talking about; when somebody leaves, when somebody comes in. It's kind of like a family. You have your immediate family and then someone gets married and there's an outsider coming in. How do you all adapt to that new person?
Jenn: That's right.
Julie Ann: I'm sure you when you go into companies like me you don't just spend an hour with them. There's a lot more work involved, so what will your session be circling around?
Jenn: Ultimately, it's how we've come to see how this all works. When I said that equation earlier, people usually nod their heads. Yeah, that makes sense. And then the next natural question is how? How does this actually get put in place and how do you actually scale and sustain and live in an authentic way over time? That's the broad stroke of everything that I'll be talking about. I'll talk about my experience with Zappos and I give some fun stories of how this whole happiness stuff worked there. Then I'll move over to what we've experienced since then. So, more specific examples as to how you can make this live in your organization, the frameworks that we've been able to develop. Because back in 2010 everyone's like oh, Zappos great, you know? Novel idea but that works over there but it will never work where we're at. Fast forward nine years later we've seen it work around the world using these universal frameworks of what true, authentic happiness could be. It's going into those details. Giving stats of like ... I'm sure this audience already knows productivity goes up, engagement goes up, retention, turnover. All those stats mean something. It means it's proven. But we like to provide the stories of how it actually gets done and the frameworks that have been pretty amazingly universally applied with really great results.
Julie Ann: I've found in my interviews with over 50 leaders now who have great cultures that they've created and sustained that it doesn't even matter the size or the industry. I've never duplicated an industry and I've had 10 people and 10 thousand people. And what I'm finding is-There are some core elements that are universal no matter where they're at. And I wanted to ask you a particular question because I know my very first keynote on employee engagement was called Work Happier.
Julie Ann: I got a lot of pushback from the word happy. Have you experienced that over the years?
Jenn: Short answer is yes. And I'm kind of curious, when was that keynote?
Julie Ann: 2010.
Jenn: Okay. That is the same year the book, Delivering Happiness, was launched. I feel in the last nine years to see that evolve into oh, it's not rainbows and unicorns. It's actually about who I am as a person. Excuse me. Who am I as a leader? Who am I as a family member? Who am I in this world? And the way that it roots us and grounds us in who we are as people in meaningful ways. It's been really cool to see that this whole notion of happiness used to be “Oh, that's so nice to have.” But now it's like, “Oh, we know we need to have it.” The fact we now have clients all over the world coming to us and asking, “How do we do this?” Nine years ago, it wasn't that way. It was more on that superficial happy level and now it's recognition that this is about life. It is about individuals and therefore about companies.
Julie Ann: Yeah. I think the definition of happiness has broadened.
Jenn: It has.
Julie Ann: Before, it used to be happiness meant laughing and joking and that was kind of the automatic response to the word happy.
Julie Ann: It's like going from wellness programs to well-being or employee engagement to employee experience. Everything is broadening and people are starting to understand that when people, whether you call them happy or satisfied or growing they are all kind of the same.
Julie Ann: And they all intertwine together.
Julie Ann: Because without growth there isn't really happiness.
Jenn: Yeah, you're right. You're seeing broadening and I also see a convergence of all these different terms. You're seeing well-being, experience, happiness. I think there's a greater understanding that there's this umbrella of what all these terms can mean. In the end it all comes down to who we are as people and how we actually live, especially within these organizational settings.
Julie Ann: On that point, if I'm someone in an organization and I'm not in the C suite and I'm not setting the tone, what can I get out of your session that's still going to help my space?
Jenn: Most of the time, we encounter that kind of situation, right? Where maybe my boss doesn't believe in this or maybe my CEO has no clue about all this stuff. And that's just the case, right? We call this the adaptable age because we've gone through so many changes but it's happening faster and faster in ways that we cannot predict.
Julie Ann: Right.
Jenn: For us, we say ... You know, basically you can embrace that adaptability but you can focus on what you can control and what you can change and that is ... number one, us as individuals. And if we're talking about an organizational setting ... And this is really cool because we've seen it happen. They said hey, our leadership doesn't get it. We're just going to do it for ourselves. So, the team gets together or a department gets together and says hey, we're going to focus on what our real values are, how we're actually living them behaviorally, how we make ourselves accountable. But we're also going to be feeling like we can be free to be our authentic selves. You know, formulate happy, authentic, meaningful happiness. What they do is they show within that own team what the results are. Because they did these things they actually have people that are staying longer. Like, you know-
Julie Ann: These are the results.
Jenn: Yes. And this is the retention and this is our productivity. Those are our sales. And then any good leader can't look at that and say stop being happy because you're providing results. Then it becomes happiness being contagious.
Julie Ann: Right. And you know what? I'm never afraid to say to people if you're not getting it from your leadership and you want to create your own happiness room, bubble team or whatever you want to call it and you're reprimanded for that, that's the time to go look for another job.
Jenn: That's a clear sign it's probably not the right place.
Julie Ann: Exactly. It's just not a good fit, right? And that's true for some people.
Jenn: Yeah. And it's not a personal thing at all. It’s just like someone that loves working at Apple might not love working at Amazon or might not love working at Zappos or Google, for that matter.
Julie Ann: Right.
Jenn: It comes back to your own personal fit and how you want to live your own life.
Julie Ann: And back to that authenticity and what it is you need in your life and what you can create. You don't want to be in an atmosphere where someone's stopping you from your own growth and your own happiness and your own ability to be who you are.
Jenn: Right. It's just not worth it. I don't mean to be flippant about find another job, but it really is the time that we need to adapt to these kind of changes.
Julie Ann: Yes, because you and I both are very clear, I'm sure, on the fact that when you live with stress you are just opening yourself up to illness.
Jenn: Yes. For sure.
Julie Ann: For those of you out there who might be saying, “I hate to go to work.” If you do that every day, it's not good for you.
Jenn: It's the stress. It's the lack of meaningful connections. If you're not getting along with your coworkers, that actually, statistically, is worse than smoking cigarettes.
Julie Ann: Right!
Jenn: Like a pack a day. So these are really basic human things that we need to remind ourselves, like to surround ourselves with people that we want to be with, including ourselves.
Julie Ann: That's correct. And I think that's what you were talking about; about everything broadening. For instance, looking at happiness inside an organization. In the last 10 years there's been a lot more research that people like you and me can go to and say hey, look. The data shows If you do this, then this is the result of that. And we didn't have that before.
Jenn: Right. Exactly. I feel like it's been an opportune time because now we have more of the data in parallel with more of the reality of where we are as people and the ability for us to be even thinking about this. I mean, just one generation ago ... You know, my parents worried about putting food on the table.
Julie Ann: Right.
Jenn: We don't have to worry as much anymore, so let's use that time to understand where the stats are coming from and where we are as human beings.
Julie Ann: I like it. All right, so if you had a minute to talk to those people who are trying to figure out their schedule for #SHRM19, what would you say to them to get them in your session?
Jenn: Well, I guess I would ask them to ask themselves if they're happy. And if they're not, are there things that they're wondering about their life, whether it's in their company or in their own personal lives? Would they like to understand from a scientific and broad framework and spectrum what they can immediately change in their day to day to bring a greater sense of how they define happiness? For us, we go back again, being true to your authentic self, living out a sense of purpose, living out connectivity, progress, autonomy. Those are all things we know that can increase your own personal happiness immediately. And if you're also interested in how to scale it across an organization, we'll be talking about that, too.
Julie Ann: That's great. Thank you so much. I know I will be there and I'm really looking forward to it. Sunday, June 23 at 1 p.m.
Jenn: Awesome. Thank you.
Julie Ann: See you in Las Vegas.