• clock8 mins to read
  • clock
  • Published Feb 12, 2024

Innovative Leadership with Happy’s CEO: James Lawrence on Lead to Succeed Podcast

James Lawrence shares leadership and tech insights on the Lead to Succeed podcast, sharing how to build strong, innovative teams with empathy.

Happy Companies
Happy Companies

Happy Companies

Podcast Alert: Happy Cofounder On Innovative Leadership. Lead to Succeed, impactfulcoaching.com

This article recaps a recent episode of the podcast Lead to Succeed, hosted by Naphtali Hoff. Listen to the full episode The Science of Team Building with James Lawrence.

Embracing Change: A Conversation with James Lawrence on Leadership and Innovation

In a recent Lead to Succeed podcast with Naphtali Hoff, Cofounder and CEO of Happy Companies, James Lawrence, talked about his experiences and ideas on being a good leader and improving how teams work together. He discusses the importance of understanding people, being ready to adjust to change, and the transformative power of behavioral science and AI in enhancing company culture, communication, and manager effectiveness. Lawrence's story shows us how being kind, flexible, and smart with technology can help build strong teams and make companies more successful.

The Genesis of a Leader

Growing up with two parents who were psychoanalysts, Lawrence learned a lot about human behavior early on. This early exposure to psychological principles guided Lawrence through his entrepreneurial journey. His reflection on leadership reveals a crucial shift from striving for personal competence to empowering those around him. Over time, he realized that being a good leader wasn't just about being skilled himself; it was more important to help his team members grow and succeed.

Lawrence has a true entrepreneurial spirit, having founded five companies throughout his career, each with a distinct culture. He realized that getting his company to perform at its best meant that he had to perform at his best as a leader. He started looking for tools for self-improvement and ways to support his team better, eventually leading him to executive coaching.

A diverse team of professionals engaged in a meeting, discussing ideas and collaborating at a table in an office setting.

Seeking out executive coaching was a pivotal decision for Lawrence. It also highlights an important lesson in leadership development: becoming a better leader is an ongoing process that requires looking inward. The coaching, and use of assessments like DISC, made him better at his job and got him thinking about how to help his whole team improve. He tried to spread the benefits of coaching to his leadership team, hoping it would reach everyone in the company. But as his company grew, this became harder to do. He realized even great coaching is challenging to manage at scale.

This challenge planted the initial seed for Happy prompting Lawrence to wonder if technology could universally provide the kind of personal coaching and support he found so valuable. Was there a better way to bring the benefits of individual coaching to whole organizations through technology?

The Spark that Led to Happy

Lawrence's journey to create Happy demonstrates how simple ideas can lead to significant changes, especially in solving old problems with new technology. The big a-ha moment started with a small, everyday moment.

Lawrence had created some physical cards for his team, similar to baseball cards, featuring their photos along with tips on the best ways to work with them. They were meant to be an easy tool for the team to share information about themselves and how they like to work with others, and they were meant to be as easy to share as trading baseball cards. It was a fun idea, but when a visitor mistook these personalized cards for the product of a software application, it sparked and idea in Lawrence.

He recognized a gap in the market: there wasn't an existing software that could simplify the process of understanding and improving team dynamics, one that combined the individualized touch of real human coaching with established methods like DISC. This realization opened up the possibility of creating such a platform.

This idea led to Happy, a platform that uses the latest tech to help team members learn each other's working styles quickly. By filling out a quick assessment, everyone on a team can get a "user manual" for their colleagues, making it easier to communicate, understand, and work together efficiently. This approach tackles the age-old challenge of team dynamics—how different people can best collaborate and understand each other—in a new and effective way.

Lawrence's story highlights a key point: technology has the power to make our work lives better and solve long-standing issues in new ways. It shows how paying attention to simple interactions can inspire innovative solutions, like Happy, that change how teams interact and improve workplace relationships. This example underlines the importance of embracing technology thoughtfully to enhance how we understand and engage with our colleagues, leading to a more connected and productive work environment.

The Power of AI in Personalized Coaching

The inception of Happy marks a significant milestone in Lawrence's mission to revolutionize how companies approach team building and employee development. By leveraging behavioral science and AI, Happy aims to create a user manual for every team member, facilitating improved communication, empathy, and collaboration. This helps people understand each other better, communicate more clearly, and work together more smoothly.

A visual representation of a coaching showing a person spelling out the word coaching with wooden blocks

At the heart of Happy's system lies innovative technology designed to discern how each person works best, employing methods akin to DISC assessments. It then gives advice tailored to each person's style, making it easier for team members to get along and work together without running into problems.

One of the keys to Happy's success is its linguistic preference feature. The Happy Assessment starts with understanding your Workstyle as you answer questions and then tailors specific questions based on that style. Specifically, it allows you to select the words and descriptors you feel best fit you. The result is a Happy Workstyle report that is informed by the language the user selected. It provides a level of agency in how people are described, making people more likely to use it and feel good about the advice they get, helping everyone on the team understand each other better and work more closely as a group.

It is also important to note that despite the technological advancements, Lawrence feels strongly that human coaching is irreplaceable. The role of AI is to enrich human lives, not to replace the human connection that is vital in coaching and leadership. Happy's platform uses generative AI to create coaching content, but human curation is essential to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.

Key Takeaways for Modern Leaders

Listening to the full podcast with James Lawrence is time well spent. He not only talks about how Happy is changing the way teams work together but also shares the most valuable lessons he's learned about leadership:

James Lawrence Quote: "Whatever you do in life, do it with love"
  • You Don't Have to Know Everything: Lawrence points out that a good leader doesn't have to be the one with all the answers. Instead of worrying about that, he suggests that leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are and focus on making them better. Leadership should be about elevating others to their greatest potential.
  • Make Personal Connections: He also talks about the importance of creating real connections within your team. Even though we often focus on technical skills and achievements, being able to form supportive and understanding relationships is what really makes an organization work well together.
  • Be Ready to Take Action: Lawrence says that teams that do well are those that aren't afraid to take risks, make decisions quickly, and act on them. He believes creating an environment where people feel safe to try new things is crucial to bringing out creativity and flexibility in everyone.
  • Leverage Technology Thoughtfully: Organizations benefit from the smart use of tech. Happy uses AI and the study of behavior to help team members understand each other better, showing that technology, when used thoughtfully, can solve old problems in new ways.
  • Prioritize Self-Improvement: Lawrence is a big believer in constant, ongoing efforts toward self-improvement. He's a big supporter of coaching and self-reflection for leaders at every level, showing that growth is a continuous journey.

Perhaps the most poignant message is one that Lawrence says he has carried through in every major decision he has made as a leader. When recounting a tough conversation he had to have with a team member, he recalls the guidance he got at the time from a trusted advisor, "Whatever you do in life, do it with love." Lawrence points out that even in the toughest and most challenging situations, we are always capable of acting with kindness and empathy. In fact, those are often the situations that need it the most.

James Lawrence's journey and the creation of Happy remind us that leadership and innovation are about more than just strategies and goals. They're about how we treat people and the connections we build.

Keep Reading

Get the 5-minute newsletter that keeps innovators and leaders in the loop.

Easy opt out any time. View Privacy Policy.