Dec. 29, 2020

The why and how of leadership happiness with Dr. Elia Gourgouris | Global Thought Leader

The why and how of leadership happiness with Dr. Elia Gourgouris | Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Dr. Elia Gourgouris, founder of Happiness Center and author of 7 Paths to Lasting Happiness and co-author of 7 Keys to Navigating a Crisis, A Practical Guide to Emotionally Dealing with Pandemics & Other Disasters.  Dr. Elia Gourgouris shares some of his thoughts and perspectives on how we can nurture happiness in ourselves, and use happiness to become better leaders of organizations. 

Some highlights:

Dr. Elia Gourgouris talks about his Greek heritage and culture and how that influenced him to study happiness

Dr. Elia discusses the importance of self-care for leaders and its importance to great leadership

The connection between happiness and leadership based on Dr, Elia Gourgouris’ research and experience with leaders

Why leaders should extend forgiveness for mistakes in leading teams

How following your passion relates to leading and leadership

Dr. Elia Gourgouris’ advice on how to become an authentic leader


Also mentioned in this episode:

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, the founder, and CEO of Thrive Global


Connect with Dr. Elia Gourgouris:

Dr. Elia Gourgouris Official Website

The Happiness Center

The Kindness and Happiness Podcast

Books

LinkedIn

Instagram


Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 

PartneringLeadership.com



Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli: Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am really excited this week to have a timely conversation with Dr. Elia Gourgouris. He's the founder of the Happiness Center, which is an organization of world-leading experts in the field of positive psychology. He's certified by the American Red Cross in disaster mental health services which is why he was involved in 1994 Los Angeles, and 2010 Haiti earthquakes after the 1999 Columbine shootings. And he's the co-host of a Kindness, Happiness Connection podcast. 

Dr. Elia is also an author of Seven Keys to Navigating a Crisis, and the book we focus most of our conversation on, Seven Paths to Lasting Happiness, primarily because I am seeing more and more leaders with higher levels of anxiety, wondering if it's okay to be happy. Yes it is. And it is important to focus on our happiness and on the happiness of our team members at this time more than ever before. Which is why I'm thrilled to be having this conversation with Dr. Elia to share some of his thoughts and perspectives on how we can nurture happiness in ourselves, and in our organizations. 

Now, thank you for all the positive comments you all are sharing about the podcast. I am thrilled to hear from you. Keep those coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com or at the partneringleadership.com website. There is a microphone icon, you can leave me a voice message there. Don't forget to subscribe or follow this podcast. That way you make sure that every time there is a new one, you will get it on your feed. 

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Now here's my conversation with Dr. Elia Gourgouris.

Dr. Elia Gourgouris, welcome to the Partnering Leadership podcast. 

Elia Gourgouris: Thank you for having me. It's such a pleasure to be with you. 

Mahan Tavakoli: I am absolutely thrilled. Obviously, as the president of the Happiness Center, you've written a couple of books. We're going to focus mostly on Seven Paths to Happiness and how leaders can learn from the lessons that you share, but also you have a great book with your partner on Seven Keys to Navigating a Crisis. 

But I think happiness is an important conversation to get into right now because many of the leaders that I'm interacting with are facing higher levels of anxiety that they've have ever faced before and are taking a lot of this burden on themselves.

But before we get into a conversation on the happiness factor, we'd love to hear a little bit about the whereabouts you grew up, and how that helped you become the kind of leader and person you've become. 

Elia Gourgouris: Thank you. So, I grew up in Greece. I'm Greek. Even though I've been in America for decades, when people ask me, where are you from? I said, I'm a hundred percent Greek. So, very proud of my heritage, as I know, you're very proud of your heritage as well. 

And I think, the things that define me, when I was five years old, my grandpa Elia, whose name I carry and I cherish, this is the first lesson I remember, a life lesson came from my grandpa as a five-year-old little boy. And he died when I was six. So I don't have a lot of memories of him. But I do remember this one very brief conversation I had with him, and he sat down with me, he said, I'm translating from Greek now, he said, “If you want to be happy in life, all you have to do is do something good for somebody else every day of your life and you will be the richest man alive.” 

So that's a kind of rough translation. For whatever reason, in my little five-year-old little brain, it just made sense. Do something good for somebody else, and I'll be a rich man. And I've tried to live my life that way. That's a core value that I have, to serve and to be of service, both personally, professionally. In the corporate world, I encourage people to be of service. And it's something that's really, that's deep who I am. That's what makes me the happiest, is when I help somebody else. So that's one thing. 

And then my mom who was a Saint, I would call her, truly a person so full of love and grace, that she was beloved, not loved, beloved by both men and women because she loved everybody before she died. And I was really young when she passed away. The last words he said to me, and she died of cancer, unfortunately at the age of 51, very young. Anyway, she said, “Don't worry about me. I'm going to be just fine.” This is on her deathbed, “Elia” she said, “I just want you to be happy.” Those were her last words to me.

So between my grandpa and my mom, those two statements have defined who I am, period. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And you've done a lot to share that happiness and those insights with a much broader community. I know you mentioned the Greek upbringing and values. And in my travels, I loved many of the Greek people that I met. We have lots of Greek listeners, which is exciting.

I do give a shout out to Penny Yoda. So rest this Gregory Dimitri, which is great, because I think some of that culture also is a part of what you do and how you advocate and in terms of leadership.

Elia Gourgouris: Yeah. I mean, there's a Greek word called filoxenia, which means Filos--Xenos is a stranger. So it basically means to be a friend of strangers or in other words, hospitality. So when we're growing up in Greece, our home, I swear to you, it was like a Hotel Gourgouris. My parents always have people who were sleeping over, a lot of Americans who would come here, because before we even moved to the United States, we had a lot of American friends.

These tall, gorgeous, big American guys, right? Like on sleeping bags, sleeping on our floors. It was like filoxenia, your door is always open. If I have a piece of bread, I'm going to break it in half and share it with you, Mahan. That's how it is. 

And so we've raised our own boys in our own family. Sometimes our kids say,  “Mom and Dad, is there one Christmas where we can be just us and nobody else here? Because there are always guests, you're always bringing people in.” Even homeless people, we brought into our home. 

And that's how we live our lives, man. Our home is open. We have a nice big home. Well, you know what? It's too big for us. If God gave it to us, let's open up all our bedrooms and have people sleep here, and rest. Even during the pandemic, we’ve done that. And that’s how we live our lives. That's how it is. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And that is absolutely fabulous, Dr. Elia. So what then got you to get fascinated and not only study psychology, but focus specifically on happiness?

Elia Gourgouris: I think Aristotle said it best when he said that happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life. The whole aim and end of human existence. Think about that statement, to me, happiness is the most important thing in life. So I try to live it, they call me the happiness doctor. I truly try to walk the talk because, obviously I'm not happy every single day, every moment of every day, because that's not humanly possible.

But for the most part, I viewed the cup as half full. Sometimes, I view the cup full and overflowing. And specifically I'm talking about gratitude. As you know, you can't be grateful and depressed at the same time because it's physiologically impossible. When you're in the midst of gratitude, there are chemicals that are released in your brain that elevate your mood, there's this euphoric feeling. And the gratitude list is endless. You can write three different things every single day for a whole year, and not duplicate any of the gratitude statements. Think about that.

Mahan Tavakoli: And being grateful is really important, Dr. Elia. Now, with respect to leadership, which is the focus of this podcast and our listeners, I know being grateful is one of your paths to lasting happiness.

How do you think that plays a role in leadership?

Elia Gourgouris: I think it's huge because let's say you're a CEO, I work with a lot of people in the C-suite. So I work with senior leaders primarily. A senior leader that expresses gratitude towards his or her employees. Think about the impact that it has. Listen, we all have a sphere of influence, right?

So who is a leader? Let's start with that first. A leader could be a CEO. It could be somebody in the C-suite. It could be a VP, or it could be a head of a department or even a head of a team, a manager, or it could be an older brother to a younger sister. Because they're leaders too, if you think about it.

So it's all about a sphere of influence. So with that sphere, the greater the sphere, of course, the greater the responsibility, it's almost like Spider-Man, right? The more power you have, the more responsibility you have. Well, in this case, it has to do with influence. So as our influence grows, as we move up on the organizational chart, we have to make a decision of how we are going to treat those people.

And are we truly grateful for them or do we take them for granted? And you and I both have worked with a lot of leaders. We know some leaders that have gratitude in their hearts, morning, noon, and night, and others that completely take their employees for granted. And almost don't even see them as human beings, but rather than the cog in the wheel to make me money. And we see what impact that has. 

So yes, gratitude is used when it comes. And it's not just gratitude in your heart. As a leader, you have to communicate it. So a lot of the leaders that I work with, I help them in their state of the union address. Meaning every once a year, when they bring the whole company together and they have this great gathering, lots of food and drinks and all that stuff.

And at some point the CEO gets up and speaks. I'm not a speech writer. I wouldn't say I write their talk for them, but I counsel them. Make sure early on that you express your gratitude for every single person here. Not necessarily by name or by position, but express your gratitude. Cause you know what, you wouldn't be standing up there if it wasn't for them, don't ever forget that. 

And I kind of go back to Steve jobs. He has so many great quotes, but one of the best quotes he had, “I hire smart people so they tell me what to do. I don't hire them so I can tell them what to do.” 

That to me exemplifies exactly what I'm talking about. He's grateful for all the smart people that he hired to build the world's first trillion dollar company, Apple. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And for that gratitude, you actually mentioned that one of the paths to lasting happiness is loving yourself. Now, my question is, isn't that hedonistic? Isn't that wrong for the leader? I mean, we've heard all these things about the leader's role should be to serve everyone else.

Where does loving yourself come into it?

Elia Gourgouris: Service actually is the seventh path to happiness. So we will come back to  service and I do believe in service leadership. However, if your batteries are not full, if you're struggling physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, how long would you think you're gonna last, being at your peak performance as a leader, as the demands of the world have shifted, certainly in this, think about this year, that the year that we've had.

We have to practice more self-care. Be more selfish. Selfish in quotes by the way. Cause I think there's selfish in a positive light in order to be able to handle this stress. 

Globally, right now, according to the United Nations, we have over a billion people, struggling with depression, anxiety, and stress related symptomatology. Mind you, these are people that did not have a pre-existing condition. That's really important. In between you and I. I think those numbers are way off. That implies they're only one out of seven people on this planet are struggling with depression, anxiety, and stress. I personally think it's seven out of seven.

I don't know anybody who hasn't been impacted to some degree, large or small. So the thing is with leaders of companies, one of their biggest right now during COVID-19 and all the other crisis that we're facing, the biggest issue facing senior leaders is what? To ensure the mental and physical well being of their employees.

Guess who else is an employee? The CEO themselves. It's not for everybody else. You have to be at your best, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in order to be able to lead your company to greater success. Even in the midst of this pandemic, even in the midst of the economic shutdowns lock downs or whatever you call it. If you don't do that, you're going to burn yourself out, and you're not going to lead very effectively.

That's why this is important. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Absolutely, Dr. Elia. I couldn't agree with that more. In many of the leaders that I'm seeing, are facing burnout. Now, many months after this started the pandemic, feeling tremendous anxiety. And part of the point you're making is you can't love anyone else if you don't love yourself. You can't take care of other people if you don't take care of yourself.

So that self-love, that self appreciation is a critical part of being able to focus on other people. 

Elia Gourgouris: Yes. And people have asked, what's the connection between happiness and leadership? Cause I think sometimes that's elusive, people don't find it. So think about it this way.

Happiness is like a magnet. It attracts others like a moth to a flame. People move towards those that are happy, and want to share in that positivity. 

Some examples of happy leadership. What do they do differently than those that are miserable? They exude a sense of optimism, and confidence to those within, again, their sphere of influence. They bring their teams together and inspire them. They foster loyalty and collaboration through their leadership. They also inspire their followers to join them as they pursue their vision and purpose with passion.

I'm actually working with an executive VP of a company. When you walk into his office and his whiteboard, do you know what he has written in capital letters across, he only one sentence, best idea wins. And when he says my door is open, his door is physically open unless he's on a call or in a business call, his door is wide open and anybody within the organization can walk in if they have a good idea. 

He says, best idea wins, puts his name on there. And then, you know what he does, he picks up the mic and he broadcasts it across the whole corporate office. 

Joe came in, and Joe could be a mechanic. Joe could be like a blue collar worker that came up with some innovative idea to solve a problem. And he went in, he picks up the mic and he tells everybody. And then, so it is just, what happens to Joe the rest of the day and the rest of the week. Everybody goes up in congratulations, “Hey, I've heard the senior VP call out your name today.”

Think about the impact that has on the culture by being positive and happy that way. 

Mahan Tavakoli: That is a fabulous example. I love that because that spreads that happiness to the other team members also, not just that one individual. 

Elia Gourgouris: Best idea wins. Best idea. That's three words. But the power that they have, because I've been with this company for a long time and I consult with them. I've seen that transformation take place. It's remarkable. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Fabulous. So also you mentioned another one of the pathways is to extend forgiveness. How does this apply in leadership? I thought in leadership, you hold people accountable. You don't forgive them for the mistakes they've made. 

Elia Gourgouris: So, this is another example from another company, and this is a three and a half billion dollar company. You know what they did? They would meet together once a week. The first thing that they did, they would celebrate their mistakes. 

Now this leader was kind of unorthodox. At first, he says, “Can you come and observe my meetings and give me some feedback?” So, I was getting to know him. He starts off by celebrating mistakes. I'm like, well, this is different. Because even I wasn't used to that. 

So after the meeting, and they were celebrating, like truly celebrating, “Hi, I made this mistake.” Afterwards, I said, “Let's go out to dinner, you and I. I need to understand why do you do that?”

He says, “Because if people are afraid to make mistakes on my team,-” And this was an IT guy, “-if they're afraid to make mistakes, they're going to be afraid to take chances, which means they're going to be afraid to be innovative, which means they're going to be afraid to be creative. And with that innovation, especially in this fast changing world in IT, I want them to make mistakes. What I don't want them to do is to make the same mistake twice.”

And that was the clicker, I was sold on that when he said that. So therefore extending forgiveness to somebody. 

Look, we're all imperfect human beings. I make mistakes every single day. I hope I don't make the same mistakes. And you know what, the difference between successful leaders and others is they do three things differently.

Number one, when they make a mistake, they take personal responsibility. Meaning this is on me. I own it. Nobody put a gun to my head to make this. I made this mistake. 

Number two, they learn from it. 

And number three, personally, I think number three is even more important than owning it and learning from it. They have the ability to let it go. Meaning they don't carry 2020 mistakes into 2021, or even last month mistakes into this month, or even this week's mistakes, or even yesterday's into today. They're able to like, I learned my lesson. I'm going to forgive myself as a leader. 

I used to be a clinical psychologist, the first half of my career. So if I put my psychology hat on right now, people may forgive others, they have a very hard time forgiving themselves for their mistakes. That's been my experience and I work with thousands and thousands of people. They can forgive somebody else. They can’t forgive themselves. 

So now bring it back in the corporate world. Who am I not to forgive somebody else if I'm not a perfect human being? As a leader, I certainly don't want them to make the same mistake twice or three times, or keep making the same mistake because at some point that's going to be very cautious of my company, obviously. But if you do it once and you learn from it.

So if somebody makes a mistake, that's my first thing, what'd you learn from it? Well, you know what? I think this approach, I tried something, it didn't work out. I'm going to do it differently. I'm like, case dismissed. Now, get out of my office and then they go do it and try something new. And that's it. 

Mahan Tavakoli: What fabulous advice, Dr. Elia. I'm a big advocate of authentic leadership and that by itself is authenticity. And the leader showing the fact that a leader is a flawed human being. Makes mistakes, learns from them, then creates the kind of environment where other people are also comfortable and willing to own up to their mistakes.

Elia Gourgouris: Exactly. And think about what kind of culture the person has created as a leader, a fantastic culture. So celebrate your mistakes. Don't celebrate the same mistake twice though.

Mahan Tavakoli: Another one of the pathways is follow your passion. Now, how does that relate to leadership? I've heard, follow your passion with respect to advice to graduates of college, but how does following your passion relate to leadership? 

Elia Gourgouris: When you stand in front of a leader who's passionate about what they do. It just inspires you. You want to, what you have for breakfast this morning? Showing up every day, you’re like so full of energy and they can't wait to do it, right? You're almost addicted to it. Like you're addicted to that kind of energy, that positive, and infusion, and everybody gets-- I mean, you look at sports, there are certain leaders of sports that inspire, that they make their teammates better. People get traded into that team to play with that one player, and they become better. Their statistics become better. Why? 

And, when I was younger, I met a guy by the name of Magic Johnson, who used to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who was passion personified. You know, one of his earliest interviews when he joined the NBA and won an NBA championship with Lakers, and he won five, actually.

They said, you know, you seem like this, you're playing this as if this is a game because I would do this, even if I wasn't getting paid. So when I do what I love. The money that comes is the applause the world gives you for a job well done. I don't do it for the money. I do it for making a difference. And when people pay me is like, well, this is great. Obviously getting paid is good but I do what I do because I want to make a difference in organizations and to see them transform is a beautiful thing. I used to do it on an individual basis. Now it's done on a corporate basis and it's beautiful to see that happen. 

From dysfunctional, not communicating, not getting along, to seeing them come together. And, when leaders do that, because they believe in what they do, if they have a purpose. It isn't just to make money and to make sure that the board of directors is happy with me and so on. It's like, what do we do to make this world a better place, either with our services or with our products?

And if they're aligned like that, I can't describe it. I mean, I'm sure you've felt, you've seen it with leaders. It's beautiful when that happens. 

Mahan Tavakoli: It truly is. And to your point, you also mentioned that serving from your heart is a way of adding more happiness to your own life, along with other people's lives.

Elia Gourgouris: Yeah. And I've been in companies where they dedicate, either a day, a month, or sometime during the week or two, to help either their communities where they go in the community and they actually do that. And this isn't about just writing a check. Let me be clear about that. You know, money is good, but if you have a lot of money, it's easy to write a check for whatever the amount is.

The more money you have, the more zeros you got. Sometimes it's great to see the leader roll up their sleeves, and go out with the fellow employees in work, side-by-side, to be of service to, perhaps those less fortunate in their community. I think it tells you how inspirational that is, to see the boss who's worth millions, get down and dirty wearing blue jeans, roll up their sleeves and get to work side by side with perhaps a blue collar worker and everybody's the same, that's true leadership.

Not talk about it. Yes, writing a check, 'm not saying people shouldn't write checks that are wealthy. I'm just saying, get out there yourself and show it, in front of your employees and notice what happens. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Those actions definitely make a big difference. Now, I want to touch a little bit more on a couple of other elements you mentioned. 

Nourish your spirits. So again, at this time when leaders see so much disruption in their businesses, in the community around them. Obviously there are so many people that are so much less fortunate and are being impacted even more so in the community. 

How would you advise leaders to nourish their spirit to add happiness to their lives?

Elia Gourgouris: Yes because I've encouraged people to go out and do acts of kindness and service to others and believe it or not, I've gotten pushback. People have said, “Dr. Elia, I'm drowning here. Like I'm depressed. I'm stressed out. I can't take care of my family. Are you seriously asking me to go out and help somebody else?” And they actually, this is a direct quote, “What am I, my brother's keeper?” 

These are people who have actually said that to me. You know what? I pushed back even harder. And I'm like, “No, you're not your brother's keeper. You're your sister's keeper, and your mother's keeper, and the homeless person's keeper, and your colleague, and your direct report and somebody 10,000 miles away because in the end, we're all connected. We're all brothers and sisters on this planet. We're all part of the one race, the human race.” And that's more of a spiritual, bigger discussion. 

And people have also said, what's the role of spirituality in companies? I spoke in Europe last week and they asked me that specific question. They said, “We don't quite get what you're saying with that.” I said, “Listen, I've worked with companies, maybe if they're family owned businesses, where spirituality is a core value, it's much easier to have those discussions. But you know, I've also worked with fortune 500 companies, that's not part of their core value necessarily. But certain individuals in terms of leadership can be that way.”

So obviously, and this isn't a religious thing by the way. I kind of espoused in the philosophy that I'm not a physical being, having a spiritual experience on a planet, but rather I'm a spiritual being, having a physical experience. So whether I live to be 20, 50, a hundred years on this planet, that's a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things. 

So I feel whatever we can do to make this world a better place, I work with senior HR leaders right now in the midst of all these crisis. And I'm like, listen, when you advise your managers, your supervisors, basically anybody that has a direct report and everybody's working remote right now. Here's what I want you to do. When they talk to them, don't just ask them, look, you know, the zoom call and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” And then ready to get into business. 

I'm like, don't do that because everybody's going to say, I'm fine. Close the door, lean into the camera. Say, “How are you really doing? How is your family doing? How are your kids? Is there anything I can do as an HR, or this company could do to make your life easier?”

And by the way, as a leader, be vulnerable and compassionate. Say “I've been struggling too. This has been really hard. I miss not coming to work. I miss not seeing you guys. I'm kind of lonely and isolated too.”

Like be vulnerable, be real, be authentic. That's what leadership looks like in the next normal. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And that is absolutely fabulous. Because even as you were demonstrating that and you were mentioning it, I was seeing the authenticity. 

And part of what you're urging all leaders to do is not to go through the formalities of asking how people are doing, formalities of the meetings, but show that true humanity and empathy that is absolutely critical now for the leader's own happiness and the happiness of their team members.

Elia Gourgouris: And don't be afraid to be vulnerable and just be honest. People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I don't care what your name is, how many PhDs you have or CEO's or whatever. They don't really care until they truly care.

“You know what? This person really cares about me.” And if you say, “What can I do? And they say, “Well, actually I could really use a day off”, or whatever, make sure you follow through. Don't just say it, don't make any promises you're not willing to keep because people are struggling through post-traumatic stress disorder right now. We have a COVID fatigue syndrome because there's no end in sight. 

Mahan, I used to say that life is not a sprint. It's a marathon. It's not a marathon. This is an ultra marathon, right? It's a hundred miles, and then it keeps moving. Like when can I cross the line to finish. Isn’t it? And that keeps moving farther and farther back. So we need to have more practice, more self-care. 

Fill up our own batteries, more compassion, more authenticity. I would even say more transparency. Like be real with people. Once they know that you care about them and say, look, “I really need you to work a 14 hour day tomorrow. Or we have to work extra hard because the economy shut us down for two months. We're way behind. And at the end of the month, I don't want to let go of 10% of my workforce. I care about you and your family. I don't want to have to fire anybody, or let go of anybody. This is the reason why I need you to work harder. There's a reason for it because I don't want to lose anybody.” 

Most people would say, you know what? That's a worthy cause. He's not telling me to work harder so he can make more money. He's saying work harder so we don't lose somebody. Because for every person that I have to let go, there's a family behind that. 

And I've worked with leaders like that, that truly have that compassion and say, “I'm going to stop being myself.” 

And I worked with companies so I can make payroll this week. And then said to the senior leaders, “Nobody's getting paid this week. We can’t afford it, but the people on the front lines, they need a paycheck. They come first”, which is kind of a different way of looking at things.

Mahan Tavakoli: Actually, Dr. Elia, many of the organizations that I work with and I've been tracking, their employee engagement numbers have gone up since the beginning of the pandemic. Partly because of exactly what you're mentioning, the authenticity that the leaders have had to show.

They are also, in many instances, in their work environments where they have their kids interrupt. They don't always have everything together. They have been stressed, but they have shared with their team members some of those stressors, some of those tough decisions that the organization has to make. So what you're mentioning is great for leading a business, and better for the happiness of the individual leader also. 

Now, you also mentioned creating loving relationships, and the importance of that to happiness in life. And we all understand the importance of our families, those relationships. How does that relate to leaders and leader’s happiness?

Elia Gourgouris: It's very applicable actually. The Beatles has this great song back in the sixties. Number one hit. Everybody loved it. All you need is love. And all you need is love. Great song, wrong tune because in relationships all you need is trust. 

I know. And again, this is my psychology hat on. I work with so many couples that were married couples that there's lots of love, but when trust was violated repeatedly, that relationship was over. That led to divorce, basically.

So trust is the foundation of any relationship. In the corporate world, if I don't trust my manager, if I don't trust my leader, is that going to impact me? Yes or no? Greatly.  And you know, the flip side, when I talk about loving relationships is this. Get rid of toxic relationships. 

In the workforce, if you have a toxic person on your team, either you coach them up or you move them out. You cannot allow toxicity to be part of this environment, especially in a world that is so toxic and negative already. I want to make sure that my team is united. They trust one another, they're collaborative and so on, but it only takes one bad apple. And you've seen this many times, one toxic person that continues to undermine the team. You can have cancer spreading throughout your whole department. 

So toxic relationships need to be identified. They need to be confronted. They need to be coached if it's possible, cause I'm all for that. But at some point you have to cut people loose that don't change in essence. 

So that's the thing about maybe loving relationships is more of a personal thing, but in the corporate world, you got to get rid of toxic relationships in there. 

Mahan Tavakoli: And as you mentioned, that trust adds to the strength of the relationship. That trust adds to this speed of decision-making. That trust adds to the opportunity of the many employees that are working remote organizations have shifted into two modes.

There are some that are using these web trackers to try to figure out minute by minute what their employees are doing. 

Elia Gourgouris: Big mistake.

Mahan Tavakoli: Absolutely. And there are others that have the level of trust and boundaries that they understand with the trusting relationship for their employees to get the right results done.

Elia Gourgouris: Yes. You know, the CEO of Siemens, which is a global conglomerate, German company, 350,000 employees. At the beginning of the pandemic, when people started to work at home, he came out and said something brilliant. I wish every CEO would copy him. He said, “I don't care about how many hours you spend at home working. What I care is about productivity. Did you get the result done? If you got it done in four hours, then go play with your kids for the rest of the day.” 

It's not about, did you clock in at a seven o-one? You're one minute late. And did you clock out 4:59pm? You're cheating me. It wasn't like that. Basically, what he was saying, what matters to me is results. I trust you get the job done and then enjoy yourself. 

Think about the impact that has on 350,000 employees throughout the world. If the CEO says that, that's the only thing that matters to me. I trust you basically. Now go and get the job done, and if you do it early, go and play. 

I'm paraphrasing, but that's the message, you know, you can find it online. CEO of Siemens, fantastic attitude towards his employees that have had to work from home. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Absolutely critical. And this is really important.

Again, as you mentioned, these are paths to happiness. Both for the leader and creating a happy work environment that increases engagement, productivity, retention rates. So a lot of positive results for the organization as well. 

Elia Gourgouris: Well, of course. Think about it. Happy employees, people don't really think about is, happy employees are physically healthier because that does impact the bottom line, meaning they don't miss work as much. They don't get depressed. They don't have those extra expenses. They don't miss work, basically. They're physically healthier. Then, they're more collaborative. They're better teammates because they're batteries are full. They're like, well, how can I help my teammate versus like selfishness, right? They're more creative, they're more innovative, greater retention, less turnover. So as a result they're more productive, which of course impacts profitability. So this is all connected. 

It isn't, well, let's just be happy, you know, superficially. We're talking about a corporate cultural transformation, which is long-lasting and pays dividends forever after that. And you know, I'm a corporate wellness expert and that's why people bring me in this, like help us.

In corporate wellness the oldest used to be, well, let's put a ping pong table in the back and feed them apples instead of junk food. It's a lot more than that, believe me.

Mahan Tavakoli: Well said. Now, Dr. Elia, are there any resources that you find yourself recommending to leaders when they want to develop themselves, develop their teams, the culture of their organizations, any resources you recommend?

Elia Gourgouris: Yeah. I really recommend Thrive Global, thrive global is a platform,  Arianna Huffington, as you know, from the Huffington post. Although I write for Thrive Global, I'm not pitching them because I write because I want to make sure that that's out in the open. 

She has the best studies, the most up to date, to help organizations thrive on all sorts of levels. So I actually would highly recommend Thrive Global. It's free. Just get every day, you can read it or not read it, but every day there's gems. I mean, they're just like things, I get it every day and I skim through it  and if I find an article or a study that's new, then I read it and then I applied. So I would highly recommend Thrive Global, it’s fantastic. 

And another company that I work with, it’s called Achievers. And they're basically an employee recognition platform, which I think, if you want to Google them or to learn more about them, I have a lot of friends there. I mean, I'm not affiliated with them per se, but I feel like they moved the needle to teach organizations how to help their employees feel recognized in very tangible ways, not theoretical. So I think those are the two that come to mind right off the top of my head. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Fabulous recommendations. Thank you for that. And also, how would you recommend for the audience? We will link to your website, your LinkedIn profile, your books in the show notes.

How would you recommend for the audience to learn more about you and learn more about the great content that you produce? 

Elia Gourgouris: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on your show because you asked me, I get interviewed all the time and you asked me some very profound questions. I had to twist my mind to come up with the right answer but I love it.

So thank you for having me on your show. I think my LinkedIn profile, you know, Elia Gourgouris PhD, the Happiness Doctor.  Instagram is Dr.Elia G. And then, on my website, dreliagourgouris.com. As an international keynote speaker, when companies bring me in, if you want me to come and speak to your organization, that's the best place to go.

And, you know, LinkedIn and thehappinesscenter.com is my business. 

Mahan Tavakoli: Dr. Elia, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your insights with the audience. Fabulous book on lasting happiness. Outstanding book that you just released on navigating a crisis. 

Most importantly, though, you show us that happiness is critical for leaders themselves to focus on themselves. And then how to generate that happiness in their teams, which does produce better results for the organization as well as a bigger impact on the society at large.

So really appreciate the insights that you shared with us today. 

Elia Gourgouris: And you're welcome. And my final thoughts are in what the pandemic has taught me personally is do not procrastinate your happiness. In other words, don't wait until when I get a raise or when the kids leave the house, or when this happens, forget all the whens. None of us are guaranteed we're going to be here next month, let alone next year. So be happy now. It does take work, like everything else. But in the end, it doesn't matter what we know in life. What matters is what we do with what we know. So take action. 

Mahan Tavakoli: What fabulous insights, Dr. Elia. Thank you very much.

Elia Gourgouris: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.



Dr. Elia Gourgouris

Author; Founder of Happiness Center