RARE Leadership Part 5 - Defining Joy in a Team
We all know that it is the leader that sets the tone for the organization or team. What type of tone are you setting? Many leaders are willing to create objectives and quotas and then encourage those around them to sacrifice themselves and others to meet those objectives. Incentive programs are created to do just that – motivate people to meet their goals, and reward them for their sacrifices.
What if your employees liked working and being with you so much that they were willing to make sacrifices without incentive? What if they did it simply because they enjoyed you, your leadership, and the people around them? What if your employees woke up energized to go to work because they get to work with you and the others on their team? This is a joy-filled team: one in which people are glad to be together working on what matters. These teams are running on the rocket fuel called joy.
So, what is joy? It’s not something we can measure, or analyze in a spreadsheet. It can’t be calculated because joy is an emotion. For this reason, most of us find it difficult to describe it. In fact, take just a few seconds and think about joy. How do you describe it? Can you tell a story about how it feels, or when you felt it? What is your definition of joy? Here’s mine: the delight that I have when I know that someone is glad to be with me.
Actually, this definition isn’t entirely mine. It comes from Dr. Jim Wilder. In his book, Living With Men, he defines joy as, “the delight we experience when someone really connects with us.” Although difficult to describe, we all know it when we feel it. Joy is more than merely being happy, which is typically a result of our environment or circumstances. Joy is relational. It’s an experience of genuine delight. Can you think of a time when you felt delight because someone else was glad to be with you? You were feeling joy, and more than likely, you were also glad to be with them. For example, I experience joy when my wife walks into the room and smirks as she glances toward me. She is genuinely glad that I am present in the room – and I can sense it. (“Sensing” is a right-brain activity that is beyond our conscious thought. The right side of your brain operates faster than the left side, and you can sense these emotions even before recognizing the circumstances causing them. For more on the biology of your right and left brain, see: Logical or Relational.)
I have walked into meeting rooms, offices, and lunch conversations “sensing” that the person(s) I am meeting with is glad that I am there. This is joy. Try to recall a time when you walked into a room and the other person sees you and their eyes light up. That happens because they are glad to be with you. You sense it and experience joy as a result. You are the glimmer in their eye, so to speak. Conversely, you help give joy by conveying to others that you are genuinely glad to be with them.
Is your boss glad to be with you? Are you, as a leader or a peer, glad to be with your team? Are others genuinely glad to be with you? Why are you glad? Or, perhaps more telling, why not?
Joy is the rocket fuel for teams. Whether you’re a part of an outstanding team or a dysfunctional one, you can sense it. And everyone else on the team can sense it, too. When everyone is glad to be together working on what matters the team’s solutions are better, the performance excels, and everyone is more satisfied with the work. Wouldn’t you want all of your teams to be joy-filled? There’s more to be said about the benefits of joy in an upcoming blog.
 E. James Wilder, The Complete Guide to Living With Men (Pasadena, CA: Shepherd’s House In, 2004) 13