Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maybe We Have Things Backwards

I’ve been reading an interesting book lately. Normally I stay away from business books, particularly ones that sound like they want to solve business problems with touchy-feely quick fixes. But in this case I listened to the author get interviewed on the Harvard Business Review podcast and I was hooked. The title of the book is “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor and its basic premise is that we have things backwards when it comes to success and happiness.

If you are like me, you probably grew up thinking that if I can just be successful, then I’ll be happy. What this type of thinking leads to is a continual round of striving, only to discover that the goalposts keep getting moved. For example, you start out thinking, if I study hard and get good grades, I’ll get into a good school and then I’ll be happy. So you get into a good school and instead of being happy, you discover that now you have to study even harder so you can get the job or graduate school admission that will make you happy. Then when you land the job you think will make you happy, you discover that you need to really buckle down and start your career so that you can achieve true happiness when you get the big promotion. And so it goes, and we never really feel as if we’re happy, because there’s always more out there that we need to achieve in order to think we’re happy.

Mr. Achor turns things around and, based upon research, shows that happy people are more successful. Further, he demonstrates that you can learn to do a lot of small things in your everyday life that will increase your ability to feel positive about things, basically making happiness a habit. I’m still reading the book, so I can’t speak to everything Mr. Achor claims can be achieved, but the way I think about it is, if some of these things make you feel better about life and increase the probability of your success, why not give it a try?

In the field of investor relations, one way to look at it in this context involves the flow of information: many times IR officers are placed in a situation where analysts want more information than our companies want to provide. For example analysts may want to follow the inflation rate in your product category and your company only releases that information in its earnings release. There are two potential ways to handle the situation. One is to simply say the information is not available intraquarter (as Oddball, played by Donald Southerland in the classic movie Kelly’s Heroes says, “Negative waves, Moriarty”). Or you can choose to be helpful by pointing them to a government inflation index that closely tracks your own internal inflation that will help the analysts without divulging your number. I guarantee that the analyst will think more highly of you and your firm if you choose the latter course.

When all is said and done, a large part of investor relations is based on relationships that you build with investors over time. If those interactions that you have with investors are positive in nature, the investors are more likely to have a good impression of your firm and its prospects. And that’s a big part of the battle.

1 comment:

Mike in Moline said...

I think this could be circular. Effort and discipline lead to self-esteem -- which leads to happiness.