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WGT: Creating happy and great workplaces [transcript]

Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Henry Stewart.


Imagine a workplace where people are energised and motivated by being in control of the work they do. Imagine they are trusted and given freedom, within clear guidelines, to decide how to achieve their results. Imagine they are able to get the life balance they want. Imagine they are valued according to the work they do, rather than the number of hours they spend at their desk.

Wouldn’t you want to work there? Wouldn’t it also be the place that would enable you to work at your best and most productive?

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[00:00:00] Lech Guzowski: Hello? Hello. Hello. You are in for an absolute treat today. I'm interviewing Henry Stewart, who is the founder of happy, a London-based learning provider who has been rated one of the top 20 workplaces in the UK for five consecutive years. And he now.

[00:00:22] Other organizations create happy workplaces. He possibly has one of the coolest job titles you can imagine. And that is chief happiness officer. And I mean, it's an amazing title.

[00:00:34] We've just pressed record and we just let it go. And we talked about some amazing things. One of which was the command and control approach to leadership that. Leaders take, especially in crunch time, especially during the pandemic and you know what, this is what has happened to Henry.

[00:00:51] He's gone into that mode, but very quickly realized that it didn't work so that he needs to go back to the old way of working, just following the principles that they got at happy. And actually he introduces us to some of the principles, core principles, core beliefs that guide the happy.

[00:01:09] We talked about the important psychological safety and how to create, how to hire people into your organization. So how some of the recruitment processes that we've gotten out a broken how do we move managers to be coaches? We talked about how to have better meetings, how to sell them.

[00:01:26] Mistakes. So this is what you can expect in the interview with Henry Stewart from happy. It was an absolute delight having Henry on the show. And I, as always hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed recording it.

[00:01:44] Here is my interview with Henry Stewart, the founder and chief happiness officer at happy enjoy.


[00:02:07] Henry Stewart: Hello?

[00:02:08] Lech Guzowski: Hello? how are you doing?

[00:02:11] Henry Stewart: I'm fine.

[00:02:12] Lech Guzowski: Good man. Good, man. Well, thank you for coming along. I love your shirt. Is it ducks? Is it hearts? Why have you got on there? Little flowers. actually.

[00:02:21] Henry Stewart: Flowers. Yes.

[00:02:22] Lech Guzowski: Okay. Very nice. Very nice. How . Have you been

[00:02:25] Henry Stewart: a been grand, this is, you know, we've, we've had a challenging lock down, but we're now back to levels we were at before which is pretty good.

[00:02:34] We put everything online. We Greg made it interactive and engaging and people loving it.

[00:02:40] Lech Guzowski: that's brilliant. That is a

[00:02:41] quick pivot. Listen, we'll, I'd love to hear a little bit more about it because

[00:02:44] I've actually been speaking to hyper island yesterday in

[00:02:47] but what we were talking about was it's actually quite interesting of what you just mentioned, that you

[00:02:50] had to quickly pivot because everything was face-to-face. So you had to pivot to online for the past 12, 18 months, you've been designed thing, designing things differently.

[00:03:00] Henry Stewart: Yeah.

[00:03:01] Lech Guzowski: start slowly emerging and some clients will probably prefer height.

[00:03:04] Maybe some face to face. So it will be a nice mix. But then, because when you design for online, you have to design it differently to face-to-face. So initially we were adopting from, face-to-face just kind of reaching into content to fit it online. Now we've been designing kind of just to fit online and now we're going to have to do it the whole thing in reverse to a certain extent to design it for the classroom again, to a certain extent.

[00:03:25] Henry Stewart: yeah, I mean that, that, that, that big, the classroom is easy. Online is easy. The challenging bit, which you're going to have to reinvent again is the hybrid bit

[00:03:32] Lech Guzowski: Yeah.

[00:03:33] Henry Stewart: some of our clients, we want something to beep in the classroom and some people. Nah, I've done a couple of those Let me

[00:03:40] Lech Guzowski: yeah,

[00:03:40] Henry Stewart: know.

[00:03:40] Lech Guzowski: I can imagine because that's the thing it's like, but the other thing that happens is you are able to. I think clients are a little bit more open to, to space it out. so I don't

[00:03:50] want to say drag it out space now because when it was done just face to face, they would say, okay, we've got these two days, let's cram it all in

[00:03:56] but now there we'll be able to do so.

[00:03:59] Okay. Let's do this like half a day session online. Then in a few weeks

[00:04:03] time, let's get together

[00:04:04] to kind of facilitate that what we've done before and

[00:04:07] then in a month's time, let's catch up again. So I think actually it's beneficial because before they would just cram it into two days, job done magic pill.

[00:04:15] Everything's fantastic. We

[00:04:17] know that's not the case.

[00:04:18] Henry Stewart: my favorite one at the moment is something I called productivity blitz. So what We do is 15 minutes in the morning. 15 minutes in the afternoon for five days and one productivity tip a day. and of course you could never do that in the classroom. Cause you know you couldn't come to the classroom for 15 minutes, but it's it's hard.

[00:04:36] It's hard, the adds anything for that day. And on the last one, of them said it, was the most productive week in months.

[00:04:43] Lech Guzowski: Wow.

[00:04:44] Henry Stewart: those kinds of

[00:04:44] Lech Guzowski: that.

[00:04:45] Henry Stewart: of things you can do now,

[00:04:46] and that was from people around the world, you know,

[00:04:49] Lech Guzowski: Everybody dials

[00:04:49] it. We'll see. That's, that's the thing

[00:04:51] that I, I despair at hearing that some

[00:04:54] organizations are going back to completely in the office and I'm going,

[00:04:58] we've made so much progress. Why undo it? Oh God. At the very least give people the hybrid hope, but I'm really happy when I hear people or hear of situations where employees were told by the companies we're going back to the office and employees are going, I don't want to, I'd like to go hybrid.

[00:05:16] Can we, can we work something out? Can we work out the arrangements today? We're being shown flexibility and the organizations are going no online and sorry, going back to the office. And then the people are going actually, You know,

[00:05:28] what, in that case, here's my notice. And I'm going yes. Power to the people for that, because they've got that confidence that if your current employer doesn't offer that they know that more organizations that are so much more open, more open to it compared to what

[00:05:43] Henry Stewart: Well,

[00:05:43] Lech Guzowski: few months ago,

[00:05:44] Henry Stewart: yeah,

[00:05:45] Lech Guzowski: year.

[00:05:45] Henry Stewart: so I'm happy. I'll play no role in that. It's entirely up to the people themselves in their teams to decide. So if they've got a course on that day, someone from the admin team will probably come in and, you know, do some links. And some people will want to say a time, some people want to pin, but isn't totally up to them.

[00:06:00] Why should I play a role? They know what their responsibilities are.

[00:06:04] Lech Guzowski: Yes. Henry, this, this goes down to the way you manage your people and the culture that you've got within your organizations that you've,

[00:06:10] Henry Stewart: Yeah,

[00:06:11] Lech Guzowski: that you have that people go like, Yeah,

[00:06:12] fine. I know what to do. I mean, And, you know, I'll look up some stuff. It doesn't matter what day of the week I work, what times at work I'll be.

[00:06:20] So unless you've got

[00:06:20] meetings, But that doesn't happen in other organizations. the reason for that is they don't have that culture in the first place. There's a,

[00:06:27] disconnect. And my managers are basically micro-managing because they don't want to get rid of that, They don't want to get, you know, let

[00:06:33] that, control go.

[00:06:36] And that's

[00:06:36] the,

[00:06:37] Henry Stewart: although the real surprise is when Google said it, because Google. Is, I know that I do everything right, but they are, they are.

[00:06:44] back giving people freedom and control. And when the Google had said, you've got to be, if you, if you work at home more than 14 days a week, a year, got to have special permission.

[00:06:54] I thought is going on there?

[00:06:56] Lech Guzowski: the killers.

[00:06:56] Henry Stewart: You know,

[00:06:57] Lech Guzowski: What the latest one I heard is the backlash with apple they've announced that they will be going back. They've kind of hybrid model, fixed days and things like that in please. Leaking to the press and not happy that they kind of, it's an ongoing discussion. I only saw a snippet, which is a bit of a clickbait, I think a few days ago.

[00:07:16] And it just, and I thought, oh my God, Apple's going back to the offices full time, because that's what the title suggested. But then when I went back, went back to it. I think yesterday I read that it's Yeah, it's a mixture of work from home back to the offices. So it's fixed days and things like that. And the employees are just saying, you know what, when we want more flexibility and again, power to.

[00:07:35] Because

[00:07:35] Henry Stewart: absolutely.

[00:07:36] Lech Guzowski: we need. to move to that model.

[00:07:38] Henry Stewart: Yeah,

[00:07:38] Lech Guzowski: was talking to another guest last last week. I think it was about

[00:07:41] where we stand on this, that kind of micromanagement elements of control that we basically no longer work in that of nine to five, that kind of shift work because that's by let's, let's face it.

[00:07:51] That's where it's come from. And fact is people no longer work in that set because whatever creative process that happens, the mental process that comes behind any

[00:08:01] good idea or any type of work that happens out of nine to five, that

[00:08:03] happens on weekends. So Y you're only

[00:08:06] paying people for the 40, for 40 hours a week or whatever country you're based in. But they actually work in pharma. So why shouldn't

[00:08:12] they be based and graded and salary based

[00:08:15] Henry Stewart: absolutely. at the same time it happened where we're big on not working. You know, so w so we we're, we're very big, you know, you shouldn't, I shouldn't, you shouldn't expect to be contacted in the evening or weekends, or anytime like that, where it's, that, that in. Yeah. You might have barely damaged, you

[00:08:33] Lech Guzowski: Yeah,

[00:08:33] Henry Stewart: they are.

[00:08:34] But it's not working all,

[00:08:35] the time.

[00:08:36] absolutely

[00:08:37] Lech Guzowski: absolutely not. I'm fully against that. What I meant by

[00:08:39] working kind of all the time is,

[00:08:40] not being accessible and checking your

[00:08:43] emails every five minutes and on

[00:08:45] weekends. Absolutely not. I'm more

[00:08:47] talking about the mental process. That's like prices because if you obviously you're doing your work or during, during the

[00:08:52] week, And then it's natural.

[00:08:54] When you disengage over the weekend, what happens there

[00:08:57] is your brain continues to

[00:08:58] work at it, whether you want it or

[00:08:59] Henry Stewart: Right.

[00:09:00] Lech Guzowski: and you might get an idea might hit you. So this again, in my opinion, there's an argument for

[00:09:05] considering people And just talking to people based on results

[00:09:08] and the work that they do, not the work and not the hours that they work.

[00:09:11] Henry Stewart: Yeah, Yes, absolutely.

[00:09:14] Lech Guzowski: There's still, there's still a lot of work to do for people to have that self-discipline

[00:09:17] they don't feel guilty that they are not working the hours that they used to, because that often happens as well. That is like, oh, you know, I need to do work because I haven't done that much this week. So I'm just going to log in on Saturday morning, which I think is not a good thing either.

[00:09:32] Anyway, listen, we already started this. Normally

[00:09:36] we kind of

[00:09:36] Henry Stewart: right?

[00:09:37] Lech Guzowski: a bit of a ramp up, but we've already kind of got into this. Which is, which is really cool. I like when it's a natural conversation and that's how I want these to podcast to be. And I'll ask you a question. I normally actually start off with just gonna use you

[00:09:48] to start it.

[00:09:48] It's the,

[00:09:49] Henry Stewart: for them in question.

[00:09:50] Lech Guzowski: the,

[00:09:50] the question is what did you want to be when you grew up, when you were little, what was kind of

[00:09:54] that dream?

[00:09:55] Henry Stewart: I've got two answers for this one.

[00:09:56] Lech Guzowski: Go for it.

[00:09:57] Henry Stewart: one, when I was seven, I'll teach us this, what we wanted to be. And we all put cream van driver.

[00:10:02] Lech Guzowski: Okay.

[00:10:02] Henry Stewart: And the teacher said to me, but Henry, when you

[00:10:05] Lech Guzowski: Okay.

[00:10:05] Henry Stewart: to be a mathematician and I was very keen on maths and I thought, You can spend all your life doing maths, that foveal.

[00:10:12] And so from the age of seven, I decided I wanted to be a mathematician. But then when I got sixth form, I, I was.

[00:10:21] using computers to play to and to play games. This was in the days before computers and screens, all, you know on ticker tape and things like that. And I thought what I want to do is, is is be a program makes computers play games.

[00:10:36] And I went to IBM in my year off before university. And I tell them, this is, and I tell people, this is what I wanted to do. And they said to me, everybody there said to me, Henry, there's no way that they can be, we'll be able to make a living pregnant computers to play games.

[00:10:53] Lech Guzowski: Priceless.

[00:10:54] Henry Stewart: And so I gave up the idea,

[00:10:57] but there you go.

[00:10:58] Lech Guzowski: it's it's like that man. I don't remember his name was that man who sold his initial shares an apple in a 1987 or whatever that would

[00:11:06] Henry Stewart: Well, there were

[00:11:06] probably a

[00:11:07] lot of people That did,

[00:11:08] but yeah,

[00:11:08] Lech Guzowski: Yeah.

[00:11:08] But he was one of the

[00:11:09] Henry Stewart: Yeah.

[00:11:09] Lech Guzowski: people, the early people who started the company, there was, he was one of the sort of, you could classify as co-founder.

[00:11:14] So he

[00:11:14] had one of the first employees he had shares and he just sold it. It's just, it's just fascinating how, how that happens. But you know, the other thing that is, I can't believe the coincidence, the other guests that I've mentioned, I was talking to literally a few days ago, Elin Almroth. She said the exact same thing, but she wanted to be an ice cream driver, what she wanted.

[00:11:32] She wanted to sell ice cream, and sugar. And so what are the chances the same, the same answer to the same question. Four days apart.

[00:11:40] Henry Stewart: little kids often want to do

[00:11:43] Lech Guzowski: Never heard that before anyone that, that people wanted it to be that way. I kind of get that.

[00:11:47] Henry Stewart: being in the van all day, ninth grade,

[00:11:50] Lech Guzowski: You have another brother, Henry, but that's the thing that the job is not eating ice cream, it's selling it. That's the thing. but I always, and I said this to Alan. I always like to link this to what people do

[00:12:04] and kind of try and see some sort of pattern to what they do now. And the thing that I? arrived with Ellen,

[00:12:09] and she was actually surprised that, that this is some sort of being driven by an idea or hoping to be delivering joy to people, I guess, because I associate ice cream majorities, honey, sunny, happy days, happy people walking around in the park Holland holding that at 90 nines.

[00:12:25] Right? That's all, that's what it is. And it's kind of giving people that happiness and

[00:12:30] similar to you, the line of work that you're in now, what you've done with happy, this is what Ellen has done. She's kind of a chief people officer for, for Visy Becca, which is a healthcare organization in Sweden. And there is that link.

[00:12:42] And I always find it fascinating that with people in the

[00:12:44] line of work.

[00:12:44] Henry Stewart: another link. One thing you don't know about happy is that at four o'clock every afternoon, we give all our delegates ice cream

[00:12:51] Lech Guzowski: So you

[00:12:51] fulfilled

[00:12:53] Henry Stewart: Yeah, I feel fulfilled

[00:12:54] I fulfill that dream. And you can always tell who on the staff is here as Jordan relative division, because they still have ice cream. That was the more longstanding ones that I spent. I had to ask him every day for seven years of the first seven years that happy. Now I have it all rarely.

[00:13:12] Lech Guzowski: priceless. What a question? What

[00:13:13] do you do now? When everything's in the online world, do you send people ice cream?

[00:13:18] Henry Stewart: no. That's, that's the thing people often ask when the evaluations at the end of the day, when you asked them what would have been better, they said if I'd had an ice

[00:13:25] cream, you know but now we haven't managed to find an equivalent.

[00:13:28] Lech Guzowski: But listen, I know there are, there are companies and an hour of a company based in Poland that actually sells ice cream online. So they've got ice cream shops all over the, all over the, country and you can order ice cream delivered providing the reason ice cream shop of theirs in the city

[00:13:45] Henry Stewart: Yeah.

[00:13:46] Lech Guzowski: live.

[00:13:46] So you could, you could potentially, if that's not available in the UK or wherever, let's start with the UK, let's start with a small market. If that's not

[00:13:53] available in the UK, job is, is is a

[00:13:56] Henry Stewart: I need to set up in Poland. Don't I? Yes.

[00:13:59] Lech Guzowski: You could do. Yeah, I don't, they don't, they won't ship, but I

[00:14:02] Henry Stewart: I think

[00:14:02] you guys should set up the ice cream business

[00:14:04] in this country, but

[00:14:05] Lech Guzowski: or yeah, one of the other sets up do a subsidiary of happy in Poland.

[00:14:10] Give me a shout. I'll help you out. Or the other way round do an ice cream business that does delivery in the UK

[00:14:16] Henry Stewart: yeah, I think that's slightly outside our scope, but there we go. That's a good

[00:14:21] idea.

[00:14:21] Lech Guzowski: and a little bit about.

[00:14:24] Henry Stewart: to what you're good at Iowa.

[00:14:25] Lech Guzowski: Yeah, you're good. Yeah. But, or find, find people you can collaborate with who are good at the other

[00:14:30] Henry Stewart: Yeah,

[00:14:30] Lech Guzowski: do.

[00:14:31] So

[00:14:32] Henry Stewart: absolutely.

[00:14:33] Lech Guzowski: think the scope there isn't, I've never thought I was going to be talking about

[00:14:35] ice cream on this podcast, but there you go. There's always a first. So we talked about happy. We talked about how can you view got into

[00:14:41] what you've what you, what you're doing, what

[00:14:43] kind of, how happy it's been operating, the challenges that you faced, obviously with with, with the, with the pandemic as a, as a result of it,

[00:14:50] And obviously you, you, you wrote

[00:14:52] happy manifesto, something that I've

[00:14:54] been been reading in the past few weeks, and I've made so

[00:14:57] Henry Stewart: Oh, excellent.

[00:14:57] Lech Guzowski: beyond, beyond belief. It's a good to PDF. So I don't run into Amazons, copyright infringements because of copying and kind of highlighting and

[00:15:05] exporting so many things.

[00:15:07] Henry Stewart: it for free from our website.

[00:15:09] Lech Guzowski: Yes, I've got, I got it off your website.

[00:15:10] Henry Stewart: need to go to Amazon.

[00:15:11] Lech Guzowski: Yeah, didn't go to Amazon, go to from your website. But

[00:15:14] I tend to highlight a lot in export my highlights to make notes. And there's a there's a, there's a U

[00:15:19] w if you do it for Amazon,

[00:15:20] I think it's 15, 20% of the book you can't export more because otherwise you're infringing. So I'm glad That I've, I've, I've got the PDF directly from the

[00:15:28] website because there's a lot of

[00:15:29] highlights. I made a lot of comments. But the the kind of the, the, the, the story that I'm really interested in is

[00:15:34] obviously you, you described a bit of a journey that

[00:15:36] you've been on with happy as well, and kind of things that have happened.

[00:15:38] I'm really keen on the, the one element that actually made you start

[00:15:43] happy or kind of you've when you realize you realize that you've, I think it was, you were working for some sort of a project where you were given a grant with an, and you just kind of within a number of weeks, you manage to spend the, the, money that was that was given to you were

[00:15:57] for the organization and how, what, what was that?

[00:15:59] Yeah.

[00:16:00] Henry Stewart: in the

[00:16:01] Eighties or eighties, you know, I was a bit of a left wing activist and I had was together with other activists. We decided to set up, but national newspaper, we thought, you Know they'd stop complaining about the media and start and create some new media.

[00:16:15] So we created national left wing campaigning from the newspaper, which Those new K is it was going to be the left main equivalent of the daily mail. And we raised six and a half million pounds in, in, investors. And you're right. We lost it. We lost it all in six weeks after the lodge which was a bit of a disaster.

[00:16:35] In fact, the book it, about the paper is called disaster. and what we did was okay. A true deal for culture. You know, I often say that we should have, should have had a bunch of managers and been the journalist on that, but we instead became the managers and we weren't very good at it and we're great to Trudy or for culture.

[00:16:56] And so I left that determined to find out how you create a great workplace culture that is principled and that's an effective place to work because realized while I was there. That the IBM, which had worked on back in my year off was a better place to work. Then the news on Sunday, despite all I find principles, not ethics and all this kind of thing.

[00:17:18] So been my journey in the 33 years since then to find that how you create a truly great workplace and I'm still learning

[00:17:26] Lech Guzowski: I was going to say. I was actually going to ask, what, how would you feel, how far along that journey are you in terms of figuring that out?

[00:17:35] Henry Stewart: February. Know what I mean? Back in years, but we, we were