Happy or Healthy?

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“My name is Bruce and I’m a recovering people-pleaser.”

In the past, I would spend the majority of my time keeping people happy… while remaining frustrated at the lack of progress and growth. I discovered that the happier I tried to keep people, the more unhealthy things became—both within the organization, and within myself.

I’ve also seen this a lot in the many organizations and teams that I’ve spent time with, in the workplace and beyond. This is what has propelled me to move toward and promote what I’m finding to be a huge culture shift needed in our homes, businesses, churches and organizations.

The Culture Shift: Moving from a Happy Culture to a Healthy Culture.

Giving candy to your kids to quiet them down will make them happy, but not healthy. Treating other people nicely so they don’t rock the boat will make you happy, but not healthy. Avoiding confrontation with an employee will make them relieved and happy, but not healthy.

It’s like food… Often, the more unhealthy it is, the happier it makes us because it tastes so good.

A Happy Culture leads us down the path of least resistance. (Stagnation)

A Healthy Culture leads us up the path of great resilience. (Strength)

I’ve had the rust knocked off of me as I’ve helped to conduct over 900 interviews. For instance, with internal interviews, if 7 people interviewed for the position, only 1 person got the job. The challenge was then facing the other 6 who didn’t get the job, the next day in the hallway or the lunchroom. For a people pleaser, this was the worst. (Some people weren’t happy!) However, over time this experience helped show me that we weren’t there to pacify happy people.

We were there to be honest and strategically align the people in a way that was best for a healthy culture.

In creating this Healthy Culture Shift…

  • We do what’s right for everyone, not what feels best for us.
  • We acknowledge that happy is easy, while healthy is hard.
  • We understand that problems left unaddressed, will eventually address us.
  • We embrace that healthy is more difficult in the short-term, but far better in the long-term.
  • We welcome team members who have High Character, High Competence and High Capacity.

The Bottom Line: Healthy people take action. Healthy leaders do the same!

It comes down to the difference between making Commitments versus making Decisions. Decisions keep people Happy… and complacent. Commitments make people Healthy… and accountable.

A Decision indicates an Intention.

A Commitment reveals an Action.

Happy environments rely heavily on Decisions we “feel.”

Healthy environments rely solely on Commitments we “make.”

For example, if I simply decide I’m going to lose 15 pounds, it may or may not happen. But if I commit, and ask an accountability partner to keep me on track to lose 3 pounds per week over the next 5 weeks… there’s a good chance it will actually happen.

A Decision says: “It looks like I should be able to get that report to you by Tuesday sometime,” while a Commitment says, “I will get that report to you by 3:00 Tuesday afternoon.”

Commitments let us know WHO will do WHAT by WHEN.

So why is Commitment so crucial relating to a Healthy Culture?

John Maxwell says it this way… “You never know if people are really on board until you ask them for commitment. When we ask others for commitment, we lose the uncommitted people and we gain the committed ones. When we don’t ask for commitment, we keep the uncommitted and lose the committed. In effect, we choose who we lose.”

Keeping everyone Happy, in the end, makes the culture Miserable and Malnourished. Making everyone Healthy, in the end, keeps the culture Strong and Sustainable.

I’ve said it a thousand times: “When expectations are unclear, accountability is unfair.”

In Healthy environments, expectations will be clear, and people will either excel in them or excuse themselves from them.

Will we keep people Happy, or will we make people Healthy?


Bruce Hamsher.