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The Big Story: Charity Cases

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It’s the season
of giving thanks

and giving back.
B

ut for many ECPs, charitable
works are a way of life year-round.
And “doing well by doing good” is
smart for so many reasons:

You make a difference. This is the
most obvious reason people volunteer
their time or money: They know they’re
having an impact, whether it’s in their
own community or around the world.

People expect it — and young adults
are demanding it. As Christie Garton wrote
on Entrepreneur.com, millennials “demand
a ‘participation economy’ that allows them
to contribute, co-create and shape the giving
behaviors of brands they love.”

It helps you attract and keep quality
people. Employees appreciate it when their
bosses take action to build a better world. You
can volunteer as a team at a local event, choose
a charity to support with donations or give staff
paid time off to pitch in for the cause of their choice.

A recent survey done for Transitions Optical
showed that more than 80 percent of all adults
believe eyecare professionals should be involved
in their communities. So from the INVISION files,
here are some case studies of how ECPs, vision care
companies and allied organizations are working for
a better world.

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CASE STUDY:

DELIVERING EYECARE
EVERYWHERE

INFO: givingsight.org

One of the largest global vision care charities,
Optometry Giving Sight is the force behind World
Sight Day Challenge held each fall, as well as a major
funder of year-round efforts to train local people
worldwide to deliver eyecare.

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THE NEED: Worldwide, more
than 600 million people are blind
or have poor vision because they
lack access to eye exams and glasses.
There simply aren’t enough
ECPs to go around. In India, for
example, the Brien Holden Vision
Institute estimates that 115,000 optometrists
are needed to serve the
population of 1.25 billion people,
but there are just 9,000.

THE ACTION: Optometry Giving
Sight raises funds to train local
people worldwide to deliver eyecare
services at community vision
centers. It works with a multitude
of international partners and major
vision care companies — and each
year, ECPs across America get
involved in the World Sight Day
Challenge in lots of fun ways. For
example, Vision Clinic in Springfield,
MO, has organized a 5K race
to benefit the cause each year since
2012. This year, about 150 runners
took part and raised $4,000. (The
clinic kicked in another grand to
make it an even $5K for the 5K.)
Vision Clinic is a member of Vision
Source, which is raising a million
dollars to help build an optometry
school in Haiti, a country where
there are currently just three eye
doctors to serve 10 million people.

The I Care & Share program
offers ECPs a way to get involved
year-round. Because a little money
goes a long way when it comes to

getting eyewear in developing
countries, about $5 or even less can
provide a pair of glasses. Dr. Lee
Dodge of VisualEyes Optometry
in Sherman Oaks, CA, recently
adopted the cause. “Patients love
the fact that we donate a pair of
glasses every time they purchase
a pair of glasses from us,” he says.

THE RESULTS: Optometry
Giving Sight CEO Clive Martin estimates
that all told, “close to 1,000
optometric practices, companies
and schools” took part in the World
Sight Day Challenge this fall and
about 50 are now supporting I
Care & Share. Optometry Giving
Sight has established more than
70 sustainable eyecare projects in
38 nations since 2007. More than 4
million people have received basic
eyecare services; over 2,600 people
have been trained; and 100 vision
centers are up and running.

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CASE STUDY:

BRIDGING THE VISION CARE GAP
INFO: projecthomelessconnect.org

In mid-December,
people from all across
San Francisco, CA, will
line up to visit Project
Homeless Connect for
its biggest annual event.
Whether in the legendary
Bill Graham Auditorium
or under temporary
tents elsewhere in the
city, PHC offers guests a
chance to get one-stop
help with an array of
basic human services,
including vision care.

THE NEED: PHC was launched
in 2004 by then-San Francisco
Mayor Gavin Newsom. Optician
Karen Flynn heard about it and volunteered,
but “I didn’t leave with
warm fuzzy feelings about helping
people,” she recalls, remembering
long lines and many people turned
away. “I was mad.” She met highmyope
people who’d gone a year or
more without glasses, and others
who were “wearing the closest Rx
available from the bin of eyeglasses
at Goodwill.” In many cases, the
need was even more urgent, since
many people had serious underlying
health conditions that a screening
could reveal. “This was a major
public health crisis that could be
solved with a relatively low amount
of money,” Flynn says.

THE ACTION: Flynn started
working the phones to get donations
from vision care companies.
“The first people to step up were
SALT, Oliver Peoples, DBL Lab and
VSP,” she says. As word spread,
frame sales reps started planning
their trips to volunteer at PHC
events; ECPs traveled from afar to
help; whole offices closed for a day
to lend a hand; and the donations
kept flowing.

Flynn eventually turned over
the volunteer coordination duties
to fellow vision industry veteran
Robert Bell (who writes about
his PHC experiences on page 56)
so she could focus on opening
her new shop, The Optician in
Berkeley, CA. Returning to action
this fall, she was delighted to see
how things have grown. “Man,
to see four auto-refractors and
eight lanes at the last event was so
great,” she says. “Another beautiful
thing is seeing the collaboration.
Practices that could be rivals are
all working toward a common goal
and having fun.”

THE RESULTS: In addition to
the big events, PHC holds “Every
Day Connect” clinics at its office
and elsewhere. Over the next 12
months, Bell says, PHC expects to
make up to 2,500 pairs of glasses,
perform about that many eye exams
and dispense more than 5,000
pairs of OTC readers.

“The goal, which has always
been Karen Flynn’s dream, is to
be able to provide vision care to
anyone in need and to everyone
who asks for it,” Bell says. That
goal is in sight for 2016, he adds.
“As a byproduct, we’re trying to
provide a national model of what
a vision charity can be.”

CASE STUDY:

GIVING HOPE
LOCALLY AND
GLOBALLY
INFO: vspglobal.com

Being a big, vertically integrated vision care
company has its advantages, including the ability
to mobilize eyecare for people who lack it due to
income, distance or disaster. For 60 years, VSP
Global has leveraged its companies — including
VSP Optics and Marchon Eyewear — plus its
vast network of ECPs to bring vision services into
underserved communities across the United
States and around the world.

THE NEED: Communities can
lose adequate eyecare resources
for a variety of reasons. Ten years
ago, after Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita struck the Gulf Coast with
a one-two punch, VSP Global
pitched in to provide eyecare and
replace glasses for residents and
first responders affected by the
storms and to re-equip doctors
whose practices had been damaged
or destroyed. VSP Mobile Eyes
evolved from that experience —
and for the 2015 World Sight Day
Challenge, the mobile eye clinic
was back in New Orleans’ Lower
Ninth Ward to provide no-cost
eye exams and glasses to nearly
200 people in need.

THE ACTION: Also this fall,
VSP Global marked its 60th anniversary
with several special events
including the largest multi-city
mobile clinic in the company’s
history, with 1,637 people receiving
care in California, New York and
Ohio over a five-day period. And
in what’s become an annual outreach
event now in its sixth year,
NBA star Tyreke Evans returned
to his hometown of Chester, PA,
to sponsor a no-cost eyecare clinic
for children and adults, plus a free
basketball camp for 132 kids in
elementary through high school.
After learning some sweet moves
from the New Orleans Pelicans
star, students took home backpacks
filled with school supplies,
apparel and athletic gear donated
by VSP.

THE RESULTS: Through Eyes
of Hope programs, including VSP
Mobile Eyes and partnering organizations
that include Optometry
Giving Sight, VSP Global businesses
have donated more than
$173 million in free eyecare and
eyewear. “By the end of 2015, VSP
will be very close to hitting the 1
million mark for helping those in
need,” notes VSP Global spokeswoman
Maryam Brown.

CASE STUDY:

GETTING CHILDREN

SIGHT-SAVING
VITAMIN A
INFO: articleoneeyewear.com and hki.org


Wes Stoody was shocked when he learned that one
dollar’s worth of Vitamin A could help save the life
— and maybe the sight — of a child in the developing
world. He had no optical background, but he
decided to launch an eyewear line and partner with
independent ECPs to do something about the issue.

THE NEED: While in college,
Stoody learned about the work
of Dr. Al Sommer, who discovered
how just two low-cost doses of Vitamin
A supplements each year can
save a child’s sight. Recalling this
in an interview with iamselfless.
com (see it at invmag.us/11152),
Stoody says, “I couldn’t believe
that most Americans had no idea
that Vitamin A deficiency even
exists; that about a million kids a
year die or go blind from Vitamin
A deficiency; and that Vitamin
A supplementation is the most
cost-effective solution to any of the
world’s health problems.”

THE ACTION: Stoody hired a
freelance eyewear designer and
started emailing with the president
of Helen Keller International, a
100-year-old organization that
combats blindness worldwide.
By the end of his senior year, he’d
begun the manufacturing process
for Aframes, naming models for
countries where HKI does its work.
The frames were soon discovered
by independent eyecare pros. “Patients love the story behind the
eyewear line and the shapes are
trendy with classic colors,” says
Dr. Courtney Dryer of 4 Eyes Optometry
in Charlotte, NC.

THE RESULTS: So far, Article
One has helped bring a year’s worth
of Vitamin A to 7,000 children in
such countries as Bangladesh,
Cameroon and Senegal, with $2
from each pair sold benefitting the
cause. Article One’s website also
encourages direct donations to
Helen Keller International.

As for the company’s new
name, it comes from Article One
of the United Nation’s Universal
Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born free
and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act
towards one another in a spirit of
brotherhood.”

Stoody says he and business
partner Cole Sanseverino have improved
design and manufacturing
over the past few years to make an
ever-better product that’s now carried
by about 65 optical shops — so
the time was right for a new brand
before the company gets much
bigger. “First and foremost, we
want to be a great eyewear brand,”
Stoody says.

CASE STUDY:

LOOKING OUT
FOR TULSA’S
KIDS
SUBJECT: Hicks Brunson
Eyewear, Tulsa, OK

The Brunson family has outfitted
people in Tulsa, OK,
with glasses for nearly a century.
And for nearly that long,
the family has had deep community
service ties. Daniel
Brunson, the great-grandson
of business founder Hicks
Brunson, currently makes
eyeglasses each month for
at-risk teens through Youth
Services of Tulsa. “I remember
one girl who couldn’t see
past a foot in front of her,
and she hadn’t had glasses in
years,” Brunson told his local
newspaper. “Giving glasses
to someone in that situation,
it changes their world and
enables them to get around
better and to hold a job.”
Brunson also likes to partner
with brands that are a force
for good. For example, he admires
Sama Eyewear’s Sheila
Vance’s efforts to help drugaddicted
youth as a tribute to
her son, who died of a heroin
overdose.

CASE STUDY:

ON A MISSION
TO EVERYWHERE
SUBJECT: Look + See Eye Care,
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Sarah Jerome of Look + See Eye Care in
Minneapolis, MN, has traveled with Volunteer
Optometric Services to Humanity (vosh.
org) to Mexico (2009), Latvia (2011) and Fiji
(twice, 2013 and 2015). On this year’s sojourn,
she says, “We traveled from tiny island
to tiny island and set up a medical clinic in
a school or a home, and we had to load bins
with equipment, medication and glasses into
a boat so we could set up a clinic for a day.”
Among the people Jerome met and served
(above): a woman who needed cataract surgery
and her daughter, who got glasses so she
could read and sew.

Back home, Jerome and her team volunteer
for many causes in the Twin Cities.
They do free vision screenings for area
schoolchildren; take part in charity fun runs;
and even raised money to train Toby, a guide
dog for the blind. For Jerome, such activities
are a chance for her to give something
back. “When I was growing up, my siblings
and I were raised by a single mother and
there were times when we relied on the help
of strangers to get by,” she recalls. “I have
always been grateful for that.” Jerome says
she feels fortunate to have had good education
and abundant opportunities that have
put her in a position where she can do good
for others, “whether it’s here in my community
or somewhere far away. I know not
everyone can leave their office to volunteer
in another country, so I do it because I can.
It’s incredibly rewarding both personally and
professionally.”

10 MORE VISIONARY EXAMPLES

What’s your favorite cause? Whether it’s faith-based
activism, environmental sustainability,
helping animals or children’s charities, you can
find an industry partner that’s doing good work
in that area.


  1. 141 EYEWEAR
    As its name says, 141 matches
    each purchase “one for one” with
    a gift of Rx eyewear to someone in
    need. (See photo at right.) Owner
    Shu-Chu Yamaguchi says that’ll be
    about 7,500 pairs in 2015. Rosemary
    Anderson High School in the company’s
    Portland, OR, backyard is
    one beneficiary. Each year, Myoptic
    Optometry gives free eye exams to
    the students of this alternative high
    school, and kids get to pick out a
    pair of 141 glasses. Ossip Optometry
    and Ophthalmology in Indiana also
    offers 141 frames at its annual Day of
    Giving to people without access to
    affordable eyecare and eyewear.

  2. CLEARVISION
    OPTICAL

    This Long Island, NY, company
    is involved in local projects
    galore including Big Brothers Big
    Sisters, for which it held a recordbreaking
    clothing drive; a Stuff-the-
    Bus school supplies drive with the
    local United Way; food drives for
    the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin
    food bank; and projects to benefit
    the World Sight Day Challenge. The
    company offers eight paid volunteer
    hours each year, and its CVO Cares
    committee researches new ways to
    give back to meaningful causes.

  3. EYES OF FAITH
    Founded by husband-and-wife
    team Jim and Amy Schneider,
    Eyes of Faith supports global missions
    projects through its Wear &
    Share program and offers Hope
    showcases for ECPs to browse and
    select frames at their convenience.

  4. L’AMY AMERICA
    Every holiday season, L’AMY
    offers a one-for-one program
    for its brands. Opticians sign up to
    keep track of pairs sold, and L’AMY
    donates frames to charities such
    as Lions Club International, New
    Eyes for the Needy, Volunteer Optometric
    Services to Humanity and
    Eyewear for Kids. Since starting this
    program six years ago, L’AMY has
    donated more than 10,000 frames.

  5. LUXOTTICA
    On World Sight Day 2015, social
    media feeds filled with photos
    of celebrities (including Georgia
    May Jagger, above, and Randy Jackson)
    sporting “hand glasses” with
    the hash tag #HelpTheWorldSee.
    The campaign was from OneSight,
    Luxottica’s nonprofit arm, to call
    attention to new findings that 1.1 billion
    people worldwide lack access to
    glasses. (See more details at invmag.
    us/11156.)

  6. MODO
    Through its Eco brand, Modo
    Eyewear is restoring deforested
    lands and helping farmers learn
    sustainable practices. Eco’s “One
    Frame One Tree” project with Trees
    for the Future has now planted more
    than a million trees. Eco frames are
    made from either recycled or biobased
    materials, and packaging is
    made from recycled soda bottles.

  7. MARCHON
    The optical industry generates
    a lot of materials that can be
    reused. Working with Innereactive
    Media, Marchon commissioned
    seven artists to create art from eyewear,
    lenses, frame parts, cases and
    printed materials that would otherwise
    wind up in landfills. The company
    hopes to expand Re-Visions of
    Art and collaborate with customers,
    charities and schools to work with
    established artists in communities
    worldwide to make more art.

  8. PAWS N CLAWS
    A portion of proceeds from all
    Paws N Claws Eyewear sold
    benefits the American Society for
    the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    The company recently made
    its largest donation yet: $11,000.

  9. TOMS
    First with shoes, later with eyewear,
    TOMS was a “buy one, give
    one” pioneer. Dr. Angie Patteson of
    Sunset Eye Care in Johnson City,
    TN, likes the story behind the line’s
    temples, which include portions to
    represent the patient; TOMS; and
    the person assisted with the purchase.
    “How cool is that?!” she asks.

  10. VELVET EYEWEAR
    “Art education shapes and
    saves lives,” says Velvet Eyewear
    founder Cindy Hussey, so the
    company and its foundation work
    with organizations to recycle materials
    and raise funds so schools can
    continue to have strong arts programs
    even in times of tight budgets.

 

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25 ECPs Share Their Elevator Pitches

25 ECPs put who they are and what they do for a living in a sentence or two… or three.

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OK… You’ve slipped into the elevator just as the doors are closing. The woman on your left is wearing poorly fitting frames that are totally wrong for her. The gentleman to your right is squinting as he tries to find the button for his floor. You sense a golden opportunity, but the floors are already ticking by. You’ve got until those doors open again to tell these potential clients what you do and how you can help them. It’s time to dust off your “elevator pitch.” Our Brain Squad members are rarely at a loss for a few well-chosen words, so we asked them their best pitches. Here’s what they had to say to those future customers and patients on the subject of… you.

Hi, My name is Diana Canto Sims. I am an eyeball doctor turned eyewear designer for the diverse and the bold. What do you do? — Diana Sims, Buena Vista Optical, Chicago, IL

We help you create a look that is as unique as you are. — Doreen Erbe, Snyder Eye Group, Ship Bottom, NJ

I create complete custom eyewear by hand in Glenview. This includes the frames as well as the lenses. — Kevin Count, Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

I am the owner and doctor at an eyecare office focused on pampering our patients.  — Nytarsha Thomas, OD, Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

I can easily knock 10 years off your look and I promise people will notice! — Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

We sell unique eyewear from all over the world.” (Then give a few specific examples of exotic materials. However, never oversell or seem pushy. Just plant the seed!!!)”  — Scott Keating, OD, Vision Trends, Dover, OH

You know the eyes are the windows to the soul right? Sometimes the windows cannot see; I help with that. I am an optometrist.” — Selina McGee, OD, Precision Vision, Edmond, OK

I refine one of your five senses. I give you vision and insight into your health, with a twist of style, all while having a good time in the process. — Cynthia Sayers, OD, EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis Center, OH

I explain that I run a practice for an eye doctor and that our goal is to make sure each patient sees well and is educated on the products and materials we wear ourselves. — Amy Pelak, Proview Eyecare Optometry, Corona, CA

I help people love their new eyewear, and owning 31 pairs of glasses and sunwear, I know I can find the right pair for you. — Kathy Maren Comb EyeCare & Eyewear, Western Springs, IL

I talk about the unique things our practice offers like sensory and vision therapy. We carry a variety of frames for the whole family. From durable kids, to the fun and funky for mom and dad. We’re not your average eye doctor.” Heather Nagucki, Brodie Optometry, Perrysburg, OH

I compliment someone on their glasses. I may ask them where they got them and always say something nice about their doctor or optician. I know everyone in town after 50 years in Sacramento. If the patient discusses a bad experience then I drop a business card.”  — Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

I help people see and look better.  — Jason Stamper Eye Care Pavilion, Davenport, IA

I tell them I try not to look like an optometrist! — Dave Schultz, OD, Urban Optics, San Luis Obispo, CA

When I meet people I always try to tell them I’m like a pharmacist for your eyeglasses. — Bob Schmittou, New Eyes Optical, Wyandotte, MI

I’m an optician. Once the eye doctor is done with you I will help you with any optical needs whether glasses or contacts. Basically, I make you look good! — Scott Felten, Fox Valley Family Eye Care, Little Chute, WI

We get to help people see to their fullest potential. It’s the best job in the world! — Caitlin Bruno, Binyon Vision Center, Bellingham, WA

I’m like a pharmacist. I fill the prescription written by the doctor. But in Michigan, your optician doesn’t have to have a license the way your pharmacist does. That’s why there are so many people walking around in ugly glasses that can’t see.  — Dave Goodrich, Goodrich Optical, Lansing, MI

I bend light for a living. — Jon LaShorne, Kirkpatrick Eye Care, Madison, IN

I frame the windows to your soul with beauty. — Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South Georgia, Valdosta, GA

I have no elevator pitch. I just let people know why I love doing what I do.” — Pablo E. Mercado, Mount Vernon Eyecare, Dunwoody, GA

Nice glasses! I bet they cost you a fortune. I’m an optician. Here’s my card. Next time you’re in the market for a new pair, give me a call and I’ll save you money.” — Mitchell Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY

Everyone knows what a pharmacist does … so I equate my career as a licensed optician to that. I take a prescription from a doctor and I interpret that prescription. I advise and educate the patient on how to use the prescription written. I generate a product from that prescription and then dispense that prescription as a piece of medical equipment.”  — William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear, McDonough, GA

We help people see the important things in life.” — John Marvin, Texas State Optical Inc., Houston, TX

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Cover Stories

18 Ways to Make Your Team the Happiest on the Planet

Sell more, produce more, be more creative, satisfy more customers… through happiness.

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Traditional management theory has a lot to answer for. Don’t tolerate failure, keep workers emotionally at arm’s distance, discourage individualism, focus on remedying weakness as opposed to playing up strengths, frown at play, motivate workers by throwing money at them, or failing that, wielding a big stick … The list of prohibitions and negativity goes on.


It is perhaps surprising, then, that the realization happy workers also tend to be more productive workers was one of management theory’s earlier discoveries. As part of the famous Harvard study of the Hawthorne Works factory in Chicago in the mid-1920s, researchers observed that employee performance could be greatly boosted by influencing not only the physical environment but the social context within which they toiled. A worker was more than an input. He or she also had feelings. And when employees were in a positive state of mind, they did more, better work.

That finding set off decades of experiments in which bosses sought to boost productivity by trying to make workers more joyful. Yet the results were ambiguous. This was partly because they were measuring the wrong indicator of happiness — job satisfaction (something that can be guaranteed by a paycheck, but which doesn’t translate into improved performance over time) — and partly because happiness itself is such an elusive, mercurial target.

More recently, however, a consensus has started to form on what constitutes the kind of positive mindset that drives performance —and it’s not simply sensory pleasure that comes from a bowl of free M&Ms in the kitchen. It’s about inner well-being.

“Happiness isn’t just about feeling good every moment of the day, and it’s not just about pleasure,” says Dr. Annie McKee, director of the PennCLO Executive Doctoral Program and a co-author of Primal Leadership. “Happiness at work is a deep and abiding pleasure that is fueled by a sense of meaningful purpose, hope and friendships.”

McKee’s list reflects much of the PERMA acronym developed by Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the foremost experts on the study of happiness.
The acronym, which he sets out in his bestseller Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding Of Happiness And Well-Being, stands for just about everything you need to know about fostering happiness:

  • Positive emotion (optimism)5 Engagement (feeling in the flow at work, when workers are using their strengths)
  • Good Relationships (the importance of friends and feeling a part of the tribe)
  • Meaning (feeling that the work being done matters, including to the bottom line)
  • Accomplishment (the sense of making progress)

Seligman’s research suggests workers are happiest when they’re lost in a meaningful project, working toward a higher goal, or being helpful. Those factors also happen to be aligned with a productive workplace.
Happiness, then, should be light but not trivial. Get such a workplace ethos right, and the benefits are significant.

In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, Ed Diener and the Gallup Organization found that happy employees have, on average, 31 percent higher productivity; their sales are 37 percent higher; their creativity is three times higher. Other research has shown happy workers take one-tenth the sick leave, are more loyal, more likely to satisfy customers (who is not drawn to a happy worker?), and more likely to engage in safe workplace conduct. They deal with stress better, manage complexity better, are more engaged, motivated, resilient, energetic, and make smarter decisions.

“Every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive. I call this the ‘happiness advantage,’” says Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher, in his book of the same name (The Happiness Advantage).

“It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive,” Achor says.

The reason is because unlike fear or anger or anxiety, which cause our nervous systems to close down and inhibit rational functioning, positive emotions that go along with being happy, like enthusiasm and excitement, joy, and pleasure, actually help us to think better. “Our minds open up; we can take in more information; we can process it more quickly. Ultimately, we can make better decisions. Those conditions allow us to be more successful at work,” says McKee.

With such a strong case for happiness, it is perhaps surprising that most workplaces are anything but joyful. According to surveys done by the Gallup Organization, upwards of two-thirds of employees are either neutral, which means they don’t care about their work, or are actively disengaged, which suggests they are hurting the interests of their employer.

In many instances, the lack of cheer in the office, on the factory floor or in the shop is because of an entrenched suspicion of levity, that it somehow signals a lack of professionalism. Or in the case of high-end retailers, a lack of sophistication (rich people don’t need to please anyone, so why smile?).

Even in cases where companies try hard to boost happiness levels by investing in happiness coaches, team-building exercises, gameplays, funsultants, or Chief Happiness Officers, the record is not great.
As such programs have found, the frustrating thing about positive emotions — happiness, but also awe, wonder and love as well — is that they can’t be forced. It doesn’t work when you tell yourself to be happy — and when the pressure comes from others, especially when it is top down, as in a business setting, it’s worse. There’s something in the makeup of happiness that requires it arise freely; indeed, focusing on happiness can actually make people feel less happy.

There is also a problem with workers themselves, actually with all humans; it’s as if we are wired to resist lasting happiness.

Pay someone more money or celebrate the completion of a big project and after a fairly brief period, their level of happiness returns to its less-than-satisfactory base. Psychologists refer to this as the hedonic treadmill — no matter the effort applied, we end up in the same place.

Evolutionary scientists theorize this tendency serves as protection against complacency in a world of risk, but for a manager in 2018, it’s just really annoying. (Interestingly, research shows that the one time money does make people happy on a lasting basis is when it improves their social rank (i.e., makes them richer than their friends and work colleagues). But that’s not a sustainable remuneration strategy.

So what to do? How to build an army of happy worker bees?

The first step is to hire for attitude. The idea that a happy demeanor is to a large extent genetically determined is one of psychology’s most firmly held beliefs. Harvard social psychologist Dan Gilbert estimates genetics account for about 50 percent of your workers’ disposition.

That leaves a lot that you can work with.
“The goals you set, the culture you foster, the habits you cultivate, the way you interact with workers, how you think about stress—all these can be managed to increase your staff’s happiness and your chances of success,” says Achor.

The good news is that the No. 1 factor that will lift spirits is progress in meaningful work. Help your workers do their jobs better and they become happier, thereby laying the foundation for even better business results. It’s called the progress loop.

“Understand that people matter, feelings matter, and it’s the No. 1 job of a manager to create a climate where people feel good about what they’re doing, where they’re happy, engaged and ready to share their talents,” says McKee.

Too fuzzy and warm for you?

Consider that even workers participating in the most serious work — from finance to nuclear submarine crews to firefighters — perform better when they are in a good mood.

Developing new habits, nurturing your employees, and thinking positively about stress are good ways to start (and next up we’ll provide more ways you can support a culture of happiness among your team).

But perhaps the best part about building a happiness culture is that managers needn’t fret about trying to read the psyches of their workers, or manipulate complicated incentive schemes.

Ultimately, happiness can be cultivated by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to do the job, nourishing a spirit of positivity … and getting out of their way.

 

27 Ways to Make Your Business Happier

Research suggests we have a happiness set point we soon revert to after most events, happy or sad. So, aside from plying your staff with wine, is there anything that can be done to make them more content? It turns out quite a lot. We get you started with several here, but be sure to check out our online extras at invisionmag.com/extras.

1. Set a positive morning routine

Employees’ moods when they clock in tend to affect how they feel for the rest of the day as well as their perceptions of customers and how they interact with them. “We saw that employees could get into these negative spirals where they started the day in a bad mood and just got worse over the course of the day,” says Ohio State University’s Steffanie Wilk. “That’s why it is so important for companies to find ways to help their workers start off the day on the right foot.” Get them anticipating something positive is one good way. Casa De Oro Eyecare in Spring Valley, CA, does this by getting to the office early every day, turning up the music loud and rocking out until it’s time to open the door. Dr. Selina McGee at Precision Vision in Edmond, OK, opts for something more digital. “We do fun quotes, pictures, etc., in a group text to start the day. Adding fun to our workday consists of what is authentic to us, we laugh, don’t take ourselves too seriously, we pop a champagne cork to celebrate when cool things happen.”

2. Deliver progress

In their book The Progress Principle, Harvard researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer make a strong case that of all the things that can boost motivation during a workday, the single most important is making progress on meaningful work. And the wins don’t have to be big. “Many of the progress events our research participants reported represented only minor steps forward. Yet they often evoked outsize positive reactions,” they write. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Amabile and Kramer say the best managers know how to activate two forces that enable progress: 1) catalysts: events that directly drive work, such as clear goals and autonomy, providing sufficient resources and time, helping with the work, using problems and successes as learning points, and allowing a free exchange of ideas — and 2) nourishers: interpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect and collegiality and opportunities for affiliation.

3. Write a two-minute email

Achor recommends insisting employees take two minutes every morning to send a friend, family member or co-worker an email to say thanks for something. “We’ve done this at Facebook, at U.S. Foods, at Microsoft… What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection, which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.” Texts work fine, too.

4. Count your blessings

The old saying is true: “What you have makes you happy. What you want makes you unhappy.” Yes, it can sound corny, but it’s hard to emphasize how powerful gratitude is. “Showing gratitude for the good things in life is the most powerful happiness boosting activity there is,” says Barker. And according to Seligman, the best way to build it is the “Three Blessings” exercise. Urge your workers to set aside 10 minutes before they go to sleep to write down three things that went well in the day, and — this is important — why they went well. “Your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives,” says Achor. “This trains the brain to be more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for … growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.” Vision Solutions in Lamar, MO, does something similar with its end of day meetings. “We incorporate any funny or odd things from the day into our end of the day huddle, recognize staff who went above and beyond, and recognize any team members for outstanding work,” says Bryan Hartgrave.

5. Exercise

What makes people happiest? Sex, socializing and exercise, says Eric Barker, author of the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog. As a business owner, it’s the last of these you can promote. A Finnish study of 3,403 people in 1999 showed that those who exercise at least two to three times a week experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and “cynical distrust” than those who exercise less or not at all. Being in good shape also increases learning ability. Enter your store in a fun run, give staff 10 minutes at lunch to fit in a CrossFit class, or play in a social softball league.

6. Do fun things often

Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. Lots of little good things make people happier than a handful of big things because they give people frequent, regular boosts. Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says the findings lead to a really simple conclusion: The things that make you happy? Do them more often. “Focus on increasing the amount of good stuff in your life vs. reducing the amount of bad stuff,” she says.

7. Hire for a positive attitude

The “war for talent” is a myth, says marketing guru Seth Godin. It’s actually a war for attitude. “There are a few jobs where straight up skills are all we ask for. But in fact, even there, what actually separates winners from losers isn’t talent, it’s attitude,” he writes on his widely followed blog. And Achor’s research backs this up. “Seventy-five percent of long-term job success is predicted not by intelligence and technical skills, which is normally how we hire,” Achor says. Instead, it’s predicted by three categories: optimism, social connections, and the way people handle stress. In The Happiness Advantage, he recounts an experiment he ran with MET Life to hire people based on optimism. The optimistic group outsold their more pessimistic counterparts by 19 percent in year one and 57 percent in year two. They were also much less likely to quit.

8. Focus on strengths

Workers gain a boost in positive emotions the more they use their signature strengths — those qualities they are uniquely best at. “The more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect,” write the Gallup Organization’s Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund in a blog. As their manager, you’re probably aware who does what well. But UPenn happiness expert Martin Seligman says you should ask them anyway. “Identify their signature strengths and then make room to allow them to use their strengths more often,” he writes in Authentic Happiness. For workers, there is intrinsic satisfaction. For employers, a much higher state of performance.

9. Savor the Good Stuff

Old clichés like “stopping to smell the roses” and “it’s the little things in life” are actually profound and effective. Happiness researchers call such strategies “savoring” and have even put a hard figure on it — people who regularly take notice of things that are positive were 12 percent more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. The point, says behavioral scientist Winifred Gallagher in her book RAPT, is that “you see what you look for. And you can train yourself to attend to the joy out there waiting to be had, instead of passively waiting for it to come to you.”

10. Hold happy meetings

Most managers are wary of allowing too much good cheer in meetings, apparently out of fear it will derail the agenda or distract the participants. But according to a study by psychologists from VU University Amsterdam and the University of Nebraska, humor can greatly boost the effectiveness of meetings, leading to long-term productivity gains. “Humor patterns triggered problem-solving behaviors (e.g., what do you think about this approach?), procedural suggestions (e.g., let’s talk about our next step), and goal orientation (e.g., we should target this issue),” reports Scientific American. “Humor patterns also promoted supportive behaviors like praise and encouragement, and led to new ideas and solutions.” Such humor works best when it is positive, as opposed to sarcastic, when it supports group rapport (joke, laughter, another joke) and when the workers have a certain level of job security. Jessica Brundidge at Clarity Vision in Clayton, NC, adds levity to their weekly meetings with “shout outs” and memes. “We do a weekly “shout out” that is a positive reinforcement to our staff. We go over any new items that may need to be discussed or reviewed and if a patient or another co-worker has complimented an employee we like to “shout it out,’” she says. “We also make some personal things in there such as a birthday or work anniversary etc. and then we always end the shout out with a funny meme of some sort.”

11. Encourage ‘me’ time

Allow workers to really clock off. Their weekends and evenings should enable them to recharge. And besides, people focused on nothing but work tend to be boring and lack common ground with customers.

12. Set them free

Why do business owners outrank just about every other occupation in overall well-being despite working longer hours and earning slightly less, on average, than many professionals? A lot of it has to do with autonomy. People are happier when they aren’t being told what to do. “Once employees have been trained, allow them, whenever possible, to manage people and execute projects in their own way,” says Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist at San Diego State University. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, he cites a 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey that found nearly half of employees would give up a 20 percent raise for greater control over how they work. “Autonomy also promotes innovation, because different people try different approaches. Often, younger or less experienced employees — those you trust the least — will be your chief innovators, because they’re less constrained by what ‘usually’ works,” Zak says.

13. Create a fun environment

The traditional business environment isn’t often conducive to good cheer. Don Gibson, dean of management at Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business, found that working professionals from multiple organizations felt more comfortable expressing anger than joy on the job (they reported expressing anger three times as often). Office décor and furnishings, too, may suggest what’s expected emotionally. Signs with lists of rules and consequences for breaking them reflect a culture of fear. Photos of employees laughing at social events or action figures perched on cubicle walls, Kleenexes stapled to potentially stressful memos, or chocolate kisses taped to boring ones signal a culture of joy.

14. Be a model

A long line of research on emotional contagion shows that people in groups “catch” feelings from others through behavioral mimicry and subsequent changes in brain function. “If you regularly walk into a room smiling with high energy, you’re much more likely to create a culture of joy than if you wear a neutral expression. Your employees will smile back and start to mean it. So consciously model the emotions you want to cultivate in your company,” says the HBR’s guide to Everyday Emotional Intelligence.

15. Celebrate with rituals

Sharing and celebrating successes is a time-honored way to drive performance, define best practice, boost team solidarity — and elevate pleasant emotions. Recognition has the largest effect on emotion when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public, says Zak. Be sure to celebrate small wins with almost the same fervor as the big accomplishments. Visionelle Eyecare in Zionsville, IN, does that with little competitions. “My squad loves competition so I will have a small competition once a month to see who can get the most reviews, or sell a second pair and they win a small prize like a gift card or movie tickets. We also have a daily and monthly goal,” says owner Nytarsha Thomas, OD. “We have a tradition of doing a happy dance at the end of the day when we make our daily goal and if we make our monthly goal, we’ll treat them to something more sought after like a massage or nice dinner.”

16. Ask for help

Realize that you can’t and shouldn’t be Superman. In fact, a boss willing to show vulnerability makes for a happier workplace. “My research team has found that this stimulates oxytocin production in others, increasing their trust and cooperation. Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals,” says Zak.

17. Find meaning

Experiments show that having a sense of higher purpose — a sense that your work has meaning and is helping someone — stimulates production of oxytocin, the “hug hormone.” Meaning can be as simple as making a useful and high-quality product for a customer or providing a genuine service for the local community. It can be supporting a colleague or boosting an organization’s profits by reducing inefficiencies in a production process. It’s not hard for managers to infuse meaning into the work of their employees’ lives, but it’s also incredibly easy for them to undermine it. For example, Duke psychology professor Dan Ariely and colleagues conducted a study in which participants were paid to build Lego models, some of which were dismantled in front of them upon completion. People whose creations were preserved made, on average, 50 percent more Lego models than those whose models were destroyed, despite identical monetary incentives. Trust and purpose are as fragile as they are important.

18. Manage in micromoments

A mission statement is one thing; day-to-day work life is another. “It’s not enough to codify emotional culture; it must also be managed and enacted in the ‘micromoments’ of daily organizational life,” writes Andy Westmoreland on the productivity blog Elevator Up. “Small gestures rather than bold declarations of feeling; little acts of kindness and support adding up to an emotional culture characterized by caring and compassion,” he says.

19. Hug more

In the post-Harvey Weinstein era, this may be dangerous advice, but try to touch your workers more (handshakes and back pats work just fine). Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks “increases happiness big time,” says Barker. “Touching is incredibly powerful. We just don’t give it enough credit. It makes you more persuasive, increases team performance, improves your flirting … heck, it even boosts math skills,” he writes on his blog. Don’t want to risk it? Offer a massage as a spiff for good work. According to a review of studies by the University of Miami School of Medicine, massage appears to increase your brain and body’s levels of serotonin.

20. Get a light box

If you live in the north of the continent, get a light box. According to research from UBC Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, light therapy — it provides the kind of bright rays that elevate levels of happiness-boosting serotonin in your brain — is effective at combating seasonal affective disorder. If you live in other parts of the country, be sure your employees get outside regularly. A study from McGill University in Montreal has shown that by spending at least 30 minutes a day outdoors should be enough to offset your seasonal drops in serotonin.

21. Stress people the right way

People are happier when they are active. Don’t be afraid to push your people hard. “Frankly, a little bit of stress is a good thing. It pushes us to be innovative and to do things differently and to push harder,” says Annie McKee, director of the PennCLO Executive Doctoral Program and a co-author of PRIMAL LEADERSHIP. One of the most famous longevity studies conducted, the ongoing Terman Study, found those who work hard are healthier and happier.

22. Tough guys finish last

Gen. George S. Patton more your idea of an effective leader? Consider this: researchers found annual prizes for efficiency and preparedness in the US Navy are far more frequently awarded to units whose commanding officers are openly encouraging. On the other hand, the squadrons receiving the lowest marks in performance are generally led by commanders with a negative, controlling, and aloof demeanor. Psychologist Barbara Frederickson says her research into fostering a state of flow in workers has shown a critical three-to-one ratio is required; we need to have three positive interactions for every negative one in order to thrive.

23. Foster friendships

The brain networks that light up in response to social contact are evolutionarily old, implying that such behavior is deeply embedded in our nature. Yet at work, we often get the message that we should focus on completing tasks, not on making friends, even though science has shown repeatedly that when employees intentionally build social ties, their performance improves. People who care for one another give generously of time, talent, and resources. Gallup found that close work relationships boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent and that people with a best friend at work are seven times as likely as others to engage fully in their work. You can help people build social connections by sponsoring lunches, after-work parties, and team-building activities. It may sound like forced fun, but when people care about one another, they perform better because they don’t want to let their teammates down. “We love to blow off steam late in the day, that’s why our fridge is always well stocked,” says Jim Williams, owner of Eye to Eye in Mexico, MO. “On a recent Tuesday, we hung a sign in the window, and announced on Facebook that we had an ‘offsite staff meeting.’ We rented a big pontoon boat and spent the day on the lake with food drinks and fun. A day well spent!!”

24. Encourage staff to leave

Allow workers to really clock off. Their weekends and evenings should enable them to recharge. And besides, people focused on nothing but work tend to be boring and share no common ground with customers.

25. Remove hassles

While it’s true happiness comes from the small pleasures in life, it’s also the little hassles that are most apt to get people down. The same is true in the workplace where little hassles are a reliable predictor of job satisfaction. Make it a habit to ask your staff for tweaks than can be made to the way things are done around the store.

26. Set goals

Have staff set written goals. Writing about goals makes people happier and more likely to follow through with them.

27. Institutionalize fun

According to a case study of Vail Resorts in HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, the culture of joy has been incorporated into the annual review, which indicates how well each employee integrates fun into the work environment and rates everyone on supporting behaviors, such as being inclusive, welcoming, approachable and positive. Management tactics, special outings, celebrations and rewards all support the emotional culture. Rather than asking people to follow standardized customer service scripts, they tell everyone to “go out there and have fun.” Resort managers consistently model joy and prescribe it for their teams. At an annual ceremony, a Have Fun award goes to whoever led that year’s best initiative promoting fun at work.

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Cover Stories

An Eyecare Pro’s Visual Guide to Making Better Choices in 5 Critical Categories

Making decisions is hard, we’ve made it easy.

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RUNNING OR MANAGING a business means you are constantly making decisions. Some are easy, many are hard, and others are just plain messy. We thought we’d help you take a little bit of the work and stress out of it by creating some very scientific* decision trees for a few of the most common questions you may face running an optical business. By INVISION Staff

* By “scientific” we mean not scientific at all.

 

 

 

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