'I want everyone in my team to be happy.'
He made this declaration half way through a Good Decision Making Workshop with a group of senior leaders.
He was experienced, but new to my client organisation. He'd arrived half an hour after the Workshop had started.
It's wrong to argue with a manager who wants happy workers. So I did.
'What about if two of your staff members are in conflict?' I asked. 'How would you know when it was resolved?'
'When they were both happy,' he said.
I was distracted by a unicorn passing beneath a rainbow made up of a chorus of coloured butterflies outside the window. So I don't know whether the other executives were rolling their eyes.
'What do you think is the likelihood of resolving it then?' I asked.
He made a speech about how he could never work in any organisation that did not put the happiness of its employees above everything else. It was a very good speech. It gave me time to think up a response that would help him to realise the folly of his ways without embarrassing him in front of his peers. I was all loaded and ready with my rebuttal when he concluded with:
'So I'm sorry - but my Widget is the happiness of my staff.'
I screwed up my mental notes.
'You're right,' I said, triggering the other executives' heads to swivel from him towards me.
'As the line manager of your staff - it's your Widget and it's not for me or anyone else bar one person to tell you otherwise. So if your Widget is universal staff happiness - then so it is.'
He looked disappointed that I'd laid down arms.
'And if your line manager is satisfied with that Widget, then great,' I continued. 'If she affirms you producing happy staff and that serves her Widget - excellent.'
I was being sincere.
I hope that he was as well.
I hope that he had a line manager who did support his Widget and that his line manager's manager supported her...and so on.
I hope that his staff is happy.