How to be Happier, and a Better Manager


Matthieu Ricard, ‘The Happiest Man in the World’

Some people have the perception that being the boss means being tough, ruthless, not getting too close to the staff you manage in case the interests of the company are compromised. Getting things done isn’t always seen as being compatible with being a nice guy.

However, some research by two renowned leadership scholars, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, concluded that the attribute that sets the best managers apart, is high scores of affection. They showed more warmth and fondness for their colleagues, and were more open in sharing their thoughts and feelings. It seems rational that we work harder for people we like and we like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.

Not only is feeling a strong bond with your employees good for your business, it’s also good for your happiness. A study at the University of Wisconsin of the brains of Tibetan Buddhist meditation masters found their happiness level to be off the scale.

Matthieu Ricard, one of the monks who took part, was subsequently dubbed by some elements of the media ‘the happiest man in the world’. Not a bad title to have on your business card!

One of the main things the monks had been meditating on for thousands of hours was having compassion for all human beings. According to Ricard, compassion is the happiest mental state.

He put it quite bluntly in a recent ITV programme, Is Britain Happy: “I think there’s no such thing as a successful, selfish happiness. Me, me, me all day makes you miserable and those around you miserable… compassion is the best way to accomplish the twofold goal of your happiness and that of others.”

My experience of practising a form of meditation designed to cultivate compassion is that you can train yourself to be less focused on yourself and more compassionate to other people. This was something I didn’t realise was possible – I thought how selfish or kindhearted you are was the product of your genes and upbringing and would be pretty much fixed by the time you’re an adult. Not so!

I’ve noticed myself generally becoming better at thinking about other people’s needs. I increasingly notice that although putting myself first can feel like it’s what I want, like taking the biggest slice of cake, it doesn’t actually make me feel good. However, when I do something for someone else, whether that’s just listening to them compassionately, giving them a birthday card or helping them resolve a problem, it makes me feel really good!

So if you find yourself feeling a bit down, notice if your thoughts have become very self-centred and inwardly focused. And if you want to have a go at cultivating some compassion, here’s a guided meditation you can try.