It is not often that you have the opportunity to talk to someone who has greatly impacted many organizations, contributing to create amazing company cultures and an environment that benefits whole communities. When we met Sunny Grosso, we asked her how her trip to Mexico was going and she answered with a smile, she was friendly and extremely approachable.
Sunny is the Founder of Culture Trails and the Culture Chief at Delivering Happiness, the first known Culture coachsulting (coaching + consulting) company. Their work helps guide employees to a happier, sustainable culture that results in a more profitable business. They work to inspire passion and purpose for a happier world. As Culture Chief in Delivering Happiness, Sunny strives to help create cultures that inspire people to be authentic and the best version of themselves, positively impacting their teams, communities and ultimately, the world.
We had the opportunity to sit with Sunny and ask some questions about her career, what she wishes to accomplish on her life journey and how Delivering Happiness is helping companies all over the world reach great economic success through happiness-based business models.
Who is Sunny Grosso?
I’m the Culture Chief of Delivering Happiness, the concept started as a book that tells the story of Tony Hsieh, creator of Zappos. Instead of relying solely on traditional business models, he built Zappos.com on the science of happiness. It all started with the fundamental belief that if you get the culture right, all the other stuff like great customer service and successful business, will come more naturally.
Short term happiness is easy. But how do you build a culture around it and turn that into a business model? Consulting is a very old term, ‘experts’ come in and told you what you should do in your organization. We have updated this model with the coachsulting approach. You already have the answers, what we do is communicate the models and expertise and help you define your own unique strategy for happiness, based on who you are and your business goals.
What is your purpose in life?
Personally, I’m passionate about inspiring people to pursue authentic happiness in their lives. Inspiration is not a throwaway word to me. It’s when you consult your heart and something blooms into your soul. A vision of what is possible for your life, a better outcome out of your work, your family and community. You see that you can create a better reality for yourself. I love sparking that for people.
Can you tell us about your journey into becoming Culture Chief at Delivering Happiness?
I had a disappointing first job experience. I went to a big college in New York City, studied Psychology. When I got my first job, I remember riding up the elevator in the empire state building, very excited my new job, thinking about how I was ready to change the world. I had been told, work hard and you will have success and you will find happiness. Right from the beginning, as I sat in a great cubicle surrounded by quiet people, I could only hear the computers, people only talked about the weekend. That’s when I realized people were at work in order to escape work. So I left my first job and I became a bartender, then I worked for 3 different startups until Delivering Happiness found me. I realized I was searching for something and going from job to job, I was a job-hopper. There was an emptiness that was growing inside of me, a fear of never finding satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. I kept asking myself: is this all there is? You show up, work, and live for the weekend; I felt like there should be much more, so I kept looking. I was given the book Delivering Happiness and realized it was a company that we needed to build and commit to, an idea we need to get out to the world.
How does Delivering Happiness create a better world?
We help companies find and create a culture of happiness at work. We cannot control a lot of things in the world and change happens very fast, the dramatic pressures of technology and the speed of information, but we can build a culture in our community and at work in our own vision. So, if we take control of that and make it a positive place where there is purpose and passion, people can live their dreams and feel fulfilled; we can create our own little world of happiness. The amazing thing is that when you embody that yourself, you automatically extend it to your team and the people around you. We call this the ‘other ROI’ or Ripples of Impact. We can change the world by changing ourselves; it ripples out to our teams, then our organizations, the community and finally, the world.
How can you shift focus from the circumstances that are out of our control?
You can’t control some things, we have to accept that and look at what we can control: ourselves and how we react to what happens around us; but only 10% of happiness is circumstantial, so we can take control of the other 90%. That means happiness is a choice. Though choosing it is not easy! It means overcoming strong negativity biases and taking control of our emotions, among other things. That’s where the science of happiness comes in. Breaking negative cycles and building positive ones both personally and for teams is not only possible, it’s happening. And raising business to new levels.
How would you describe an ordinary day at delivering happiness?
There is no such thing as ordinary. I was in Barcelona working with HP Europe, and then I was in Bombay, India doing a Public Master Class, then Chicago with a medical tech company. We are remote and entirely self-managed, meaning we don’t have managers or leaders. Our direction entirely comes from purpose alignment, when you know your purpose, you have intrinsic motivation, almost nothing is going to stop you. If you can align that to the organization’s purpose then you are really doing your own life’s work. So the normal day is an interview with you today, traveling to Japan tomorrow, working with the DH team on a new service the next day. It’s self-managed, and always evolving.
You have mentioned how happiness comes from the inside. How can a company encourage its employees to look for it?
First, by helping them explore their passions. Ask yourself this question: what would you do every day for the next ten years without getting paid? By pursuing our own passions we understand what motivates us and what truly calls us in this life. For a company that’s very good, because when you understand what your passion is, you can bring a whole new level of energy to work. If you love interviewing people, then I can put you in a position to do that and unlock a new drive and passion in your work. So we all benefit when we help our employees understand what they’re most motivated to do. Second, a little more complicated but essential, is knowing yourself. What’s makes you happy? What are your core values? Are you living true to your (weird) self?
How do you define what is happiness at work?
At work, happiness is basically these five things:
VALUES - What are your values and the organization’s values? The spoken or unspoken ones, like when you see how your CEO is inclusive and open-minded. Those values aren’t written anywhere, yet they are still there.
PROGRESS - This is about moving to mastery, learning and feeling like we are moving forward or meaningful goals.
CONTROL - You shouldn’t feel like a robot where someone is telling you how to do it and when. This kills motivation, and deeply inhibits productivity. There has to be some kind of autonomy.
CONNECTEDNESS - This is about the depth and breath of our relationships. It’s not enough to ‘get along’ with people at work. We need to connect authentically and care about each other for lasting happiness.
HIGHER PURPOSE - What is beyond you, beyond shareholder’s returns and profits that you work for? What are you a part of that that is bigger than yourself? Seeing how our work contributes to a higher purpose is the strongest driver of organizational happiness known.
How can a company define its purpose?
Ask, why did you originally start this company? To make money? Probably not. It was probably to make some kind of difference in the world. When we connect with that, with the difference we are making in the world , or the dream we want to achieve together, we are into the realm of higher purpose.
What’s the difference between momentary and long-term happiness?
Momentary happiness is what most of us get caught in seeking. Many of us are following a formula, something like “I’ll be happy when I get…”, often referring to things that are related to happiness but that are external. So as soon as we acquire them, our mind changes the goal and we start chasing something else. For example, you find someone climbing the corporate ladder, and when they get there, they realize the view is facing the parking lot, so then they start climbing the next ladder. It’s very hard to sustain happiness with pleasure; passion is longer lasting.
The most sustainable happiness at work is a higher purpose, connecting to something bigger than us. We need pleasurable things: drinks, chocolate, a new pair of shoes, but that’s not going to keep you happy long-term. In an organization, you need profits, yes, but just focusing on that will not be sustainable; you also need passion and purpose today to compete.
Is there a process that helps people design their culture? How do you help them get there?
It’s a five-step roadmap for any organization. The first step is to inspire, any change that is going to be sustainable and lasting has to come from the level of authenticity. So inspiration is connecting with intrinsic motivation. From there we need to measure happiness because what you measure is what you manage. Number three is do you have values that really represent the beliefs of your organization? Do you have a higher purpose? What you say has to be authentic with what you believe and it has to show in your actions. Number four is to live, testing and checking them out, for example if you want to give more control to your staff, you can allow them to choose their own titles, so maybe instead of having a receptionist, you have a director of first impressions, and that will make them proud.
How does it all impact a company’s success in economic terms?
There is a ROI of happiness, you can measure it. Happy teams are 30% more productive, have higher sales, they are up to 300% more innovative and they are more adaptable to change. So you have actual statistics to talk about the impact of happiness in a company. There is something else though, what is your employee lifetime value? If you have a happy culture, you’re going to attract good employees faster; you cut out cost by spending less money on attracting. They also have a better culture fit so you spend less money training them, they become productive faster, their more innovative. And finally, they stay longer because they enjoy being there; they tell their friends about it, they promote your business. If you add up that employee lifetime value, it could be extremely high. Meaning huge savings to the organization.
Can you leave us with a culture change tip?
People ask me a lot, how do you change an organization’s culture? 20% of the people in a company will be open to change, another 70% will be ambivalent and 10% are going to be against it. So go for the 20% that want change and focus on them to achieve it.
Eva Caballero & Eugenia Ganem