Alexander Kjerulf: Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo Inc.
Alexander Kjerulf (pronounced like care-oolf) is the founder and Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) of Woohoo Inc. and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work. He is an author and speaker, presenting and conducting workshops on happiness at work at businesses and conferences in over 30 countries. His clients include companies such as Hilton, Microsoft, LEGO, IKEA, Shell, HP and IBM.
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Alex was "officially" introduced to me by Stephen Shapiro, a guest from an earlier episode of the feisworld podcast. Long before I found out that Alex is a connection of Stephen's, I had already been reading Alex's blog called The Chief Happiness Officer Blog. A more recent article I loved is called "Why every company should have a CHO".
Studies show that happy employees are more productive, more innovative, more motivated, more energetic and more optimistic. They are also sick less often, stay with the company longer and make the customers more loyal. For those reasons (and many others) happy companies make more money.
Alex owns the space of Happiness at Work. I find his approach inspiring, intelligent and intriguing. There are 120 million people with full time jobs in the US. In 2010, Business Insider reported that 80% Hate Their Jobs, and there are numerous articles asking you the question - should you choose between a passion or a paycheck?
If we set aside people who are generally depressed and miserable no matter where they go (I hope this is a relatively small percentage of the world population), there is still a significant percentage of the workforce that isn't motivated to go to work for a variety of reasons. Alex suggests that it is not without pitfalls but:
Having a great CHO, a person somewhere in the organization who has the skills, the knowledge and the passion to help create a happy workplace and who has the unconditional support of top management makes perfect sense. It will not only make employees happier, it will also most likely make the company money.
This is all very convincing to me. But, I need Alex to help me understand what companies and employees in those companies can do if their CEOs don't fully buy into this idea, and don't hire CHOs to take charge - what can they do to create a happier work environment?
Is it true that anyone can become a CHO at work (specifically, those who are not just looking out for themselves but also for others)? What are some of the exercises and ideas they can learn from Alex to make real impact in the short and long term?
Furthermore, how does Alex deal with negative feedback? Some news sources find the idea of a CHO creepy and weird.
Alex travels often for his speaking and workshops. I was very curious to learn about the differences between coaching individuals vs. corporate clients. What are some of the findings related to clients and clients' culture? Also from a strategic consulting perspective, what are some of Alex's coaching methodologies that remain constant and those that have to change per client?
Before we close, I asked Alex about his "secret origin story". How did Alex shift from a Computer Science major in college and a career in software engineering to a public speaking and writing? How exactly did Alex uncover his own talent and passion for what he does today?
Watch this video of Alex speaking at TedxCophenhagen and you will find out exactly what he does. I enjoyed it a lot and hope you do too:
- On Alex's Best Selling Book: Happy Hour is 9 to 5
- What inspired Alex to turn 9-5 around? [3:30]
- How do I reinforce the vision and theory so I can positively influence other people? [12:15]
- Alex's secret origin stories - Why did he choose to become a CHO (and able to coach others to become one)?
- Where does Alex source his inspirations from? [23:30]
- What are some of the books Alex gives away as gifts the most? [24:30]
- How does Alex overcome creativity fatigue? [27:15]
- How does Alex build his audience on social media? [37:00]
Books & People Mentioned:
- Turn the Ship Around
- Creativity Inc. by Edwin Catmull
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnerman
- Benjamin Zander (Conductor, Boston Philharmonic)
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*Music played at the end of the podcast was a remix created by Kaytranada