Work performance tied to attitude

What would help your employees be more productive, thus enriching your bottom line?

Performance coach Chris Cook of Ashland says it's hope, confidence, optimism and resilience — and though they may seem like frills, they are proven to hike profits.

"Happiness is a mind-set that enables employees to work to their full potential," says Cook, who just finished her Master's in Management degree at Southern Oregon University.

Cook surveyed 85 companies in the Rogue Valley and found very few are practicing a Performance-Happiness Model in the workplace.

Her survey, conducted through the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County, found that "large businesses were doing more than small, both large and small were doing more for managers than workers, the best weren't doing more than they could and there is a lot of opportunity to increase competitive advantage and profit by doing it," she said.

Cook teaches both managers and employees to prioritize a new set of values with pride, trust and recognition, as outlined by social psychologist Fred Luthans, who called it "positive organizational psychology."

Cook, 51, spent 35 years in marketing and public relations, her last post at SOU.

"The people who are the happiest at work, compared to unhappy ones, take 10 times less sick leave, are twice as productive, stay twice as long on the job and believe they're achieving their potential twice as much," she said.

The Performance-Happiness Model calls for a culture of contribution, conviction about your motivation, a feeling that you fit in the culture, a commitment to engage and the confidence of believing in yourself and your job, she said.

The idea of happiness can be elusive, but research shows it's 50 percent genetic and 10 percent about health, marriage and money. That leaves 40 percent, she said, for workers and managers to play with.

Cook conceded it's a hard economy for a startup as a consultant in on-the-job happiness, but she pointed to booming corporations such as Google, Apple and Facebook, noted for having "a culture of helping people achieve their full potential ... motivating by mastery, autonomy and purpose, where people are able to grow and get better at what they do."

"You can do both, make money and be happy — and I try to demonstrate that in dollar figures."

Client John Schweiger, chief executive officer and president of Coming Attractions Theatres, headquartered in Ashland, said Cook's training improved his employees' communication as a team.

"Our communication was all over the place, not cohesive," he said. "We learned a lot about ourselves and our team. You want people to have fun on the job. When you're having fun you are happier — and happy people make better decisions and accomplish more."

Cook presented the findings of her survey to the Medford chamber's board and approached the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, but so far has few nibbles, she said. She plans to pitch to all the chambers in Southern Oregon.

"Most employers think they don't have the time or money to put toward something like happiness, and it's my job to communicate the benefits of doing so," she said.

Pointing to the work of Martin Seligman, author of the website "Authentic Happiness," Cook said society is gradually focusing more on the idea of achieving happiness in work and life and "achieving goals by looking at people's strengths and how they can flourish and attain authentic resilience and happiness."

Cook's website,, offers links, tips and a survey to determine how happy you and your worksite are. She can be reached at or 541-601-0114.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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