When I was a little girl, my parent’s friends used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse and my brother wanted to study medicine. I remember they looked a bit surprised by my answer: “I want to be happy”. Already at that young age, I had noticed that when grown-ups talked about their jobs they didn’t always have happy voices. And I knew I didn’t want to feel like that. Sometimes I got a follow-up question: “Yes, but what do you want to DO when you grow up?” I gave them my brightest smile and answered: “I want to have fun!” I recall their overbearing laughter as they walked away: “Well, well, she’ll soon enough grow up and realize the harsh realities of life”.

Nearly 4 decades later, I happily choose among 3 scenarios:
1. I still haven’t grown up
2. I have been very lucky
3. (And this is my personal favorite) By setting such a clear intention already at a young age, I ended up attracting and being drawn to jobs where I could be happy and have fun.

For the last 15 years my job has been to inspire and motivate others to enjoy their jobs too and develop leaders in how to build highly engaged, inspired cultures and unleash passion and joy in their organization. Whether it’s been luck or intention, I can tell you that I have experienced some pretty fabulous workplaces. I vividly remember the job-interview with the chairman of the company I spent 8 years with. “So Annicken” he said after the initial small-talk “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I answered like I always did “I want to have fun”. “Then you’re our girl” he said. I got the job as Chief Cultural Officer for this global technology company who had Fun & Profit as a core value. As fun comes first and profit follows as a consequence. My kind of company!

Since then I have countless times witnessed and experienced how people who truly enjoy their jobs collaborate better, innovate more, do outstanding work, deliver excellent results and are overall happier people! I have also noticed that the last few years there has been an increased focus on the importance of culture, engagement and happiness at work in articles, leadership literature and economic studies. When research proves that highly engaged employees deliver 30-50% better results, business leaders and economists start paying attention. Engagement and culture has gone from something only a few talked about a few years ago to be the most popular word of 2104 (Merriam- Webster Dictionary). And according to Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015, culture and engagement is the number 1 challenge for companies globally!

This is of course great news as conscious change usually starts with the awareness of needing a change. And change is indeed needed! In Gallup’s 2013 engagement survey, 87% of the global workforce replied that they did not feel engaged at work. This is bad for people and it is bad for business. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the American economy alone up to $350 Billion a year! Happy, engaged employees are no longer a nice to have, it is a need to have in order to stay profitable, competitive and growing – in today’s economy and for the future.

So how can we turn this around? How can we create the kind of workplaces where people look forward to work, are highly engaged, collaborate, innovate, enjoy themselves and do absolutely fantastic work as a consequence?

In my opinion it starts, continues and ends with leadership. Not any kind of leadership though. I am talking about the kind of leadership that inspires and lifts people to their fullest potential, who help people learn and grow, who motivate their teams to do their absolutely best through shared purpose and values, high level of trust and a good dose of love & care. The kind of leadership that speaks to people’s hearts and minds, unleash passion and joy in their teams and create inspired cultures of infinite possibilities.

I call it Elevating Leadership, it is the kind of leadership that every leader can embark on at any time, just by making the choice. Each of these “elevators” has the capacity to elevate your engagement and your culture to new heights. The true magic happens with all 7 combined.

7 Elevators for Elevating Your Culture to New Heights 

1. Purpose
You inspire and energize your people around a purpose and a vision way beyond numbers and shareholder value. People want to make a difference and you show them that they do.
2. Identity
You create a sense of belonging and a strong team-identity, based on shared values and attitudes of the team. Your values and attitudes guide your behaviors and actions.
3. Trust
You believe in your people, you trust and empower them to influence their own work. You communicate honestly and truthfully. You don’t play political games.
4. Love & Care
You bring your heart to work, you genuinely care about your people and treat them with fairness, kindness and respect. You bring humanness to work.
5. Growth
You encourage people to learn and grow by coaching and supporting them. You gently push people out of their comfort zones and applaud their courage when they fail.
6. Passion
You always look for ways to ignite the fire in people’s bellies. Passion is like engagement on steroids. When it’s there, you know there are no limits to what you can achieve. So you make sure to keep your own fire alive too.
7. Joy
When you consciously invite the first 6 Elevators into your way of leading, the 7th Elevator will follow as a consequence. Creating a deep sense of joy for work amongst your people is the ultimate leadership capability. Look for the shiny eyes. They tell it all.

If you are a leader, believe me when I say that by embarking on the elevating leadership journey, you will not only quickly see changes in your teams; higher levels of engagement, more inspired cultures and better business results. You will all also be having more fun and live happier lives.

And by the end of the day, nothing beats that!

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