Happy?: confessions of a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO)



Is being happy the same as doing happy?

I would argue that it is not.

Doing happy is what I do at the office. As a CHO I focus on other people’s happiness at work and how to improve it to drive up their enjoyment of work and ultimately their productivity.  I do this through various interventions both remote and face-to-face.  I could recount many a meeting that I’ve been invited to and the opening gambit is “I wanted to meet with you because I’m not feeling happy”. And all of a sudden I feel, and am assumed to be, responsible for someone else’s happiness. So I would definitely say I DO happy.

But would I say I AM a happy person? Probably not. I tend to be a bit glass half empty to be honest. Even when I can see the funny side in how dramatically sh*t things are. I tend to over empathise and internalise other people’s emotions which can lead me to feeling overwhelmed. And when my job is listening to other people’s emotions it’s hard to stay resilient and happy in the face of what can feel like a mountain of doom.  Counsellors have supervisors to help them manage the weight of what they hear in the line of duty, but no such role exists for CHOs.

Plus (and here comes the spoiler alert) I have a history of depression and have been taking anti-depressants for the last 8 months following the death of my beloved grandmother.

So no. It would be fair to say that I am not being a happy person right now. But I’m trying really hard if that helps?

Helping others to be happy

Exploring the dichotomy between doing happy and being happy got me thinking about how many leaders aren’t naturally good at the things they lead in. Do you have to be the best sales person to lead a team of sales people? Or do you just need to be able to bring the key skills and qualities out in other people? Maybe the best leaders in financial services have stronger interpersonal than numerical skills? Maybe the best football coaches weren’t the top goal scorer at school but excelled in sociology instead?

There is a huge strength in drawing the best out of others even if no one could hope to draw that thing out of you. So despite my own current psychological predicament, I still believe I have the qualities and desire to measure, analyse and drive up other people’s happiness. Just don’t expect it to be with a rainbow over my head or you’ll be disappointed.

*Footnote: I have been inspired by some very brave friends who have also “come out” about the demons they are battling, otherwise I would never have had the guts. I believe mental health issues are frequently ignored and I hope that in discussing them we can all increase tolerance, understanding and treatment.

About the author: Eleanor Brent is a guest author



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