Interview with OpenStack Summit speaker Alexis Monville

How the science of happiness can improve OpenStack teams

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What does the science of happiness have to do with OpenStack? As it turns out, a lot. An international community of contributors works on OpenStack, so the overall health of the large pool of community members influences the direction of OpenStack projects. In this interview, OpenStack Summit speaker Alexis Monville (Leadership & Organizational Development Executive Coach at Red Hat) explains how contributors can increase their happiness on individual and team levels, and he offers a few resources for building healthier teams.

What inspired you to study the science of happiness?

As a organizational consultant and coach, I was working with teams to improve their efficiency, and I noticed that there was a direct link between their happy behavior and their ability to introduce changes, to accept new ideas, and so on. The questions I was using to start retrospective was clearly about their feelings, and their happiness level. That was the starting point to deeper analysis.

I introduced the idea to measure the happiness level of all the employees of a company I was working with. Each employee would have to click on one button each day: the smiley face, the straight face, or the frown one. When I was explaining the idea, one person asked me, "what do you mean by happiness?" I found myself in trouble to explain what was happiness, and the relationship between happiness and other factors. So I decided to study more on that topic.

What are three propositions every OpenStack contributors could take at the individual level to increase their happiness level?

The first one is to cultivate optimism, a positive approach to the world. Our mindset drives our way of thinking, and even our ability to think. Our mindset will also impact the mindset of others around us, and so the way they think and behave.

The second one is to be grateful, to thank the people around us, and to savor life's joy.

The third one is to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is something we tend to forget. The first person to benefit from forgiveness is the one who forgives. It will free your mind from holding grudges and give you the ability to use your resources to something more useful for yourself.

What is one thing contributors can do on the project team level to increase their happiness and the value of their contributions?

You can see that the [above] first one, could be developed on a team level, and could have a huge impact on the team. Another one could be to be kind. Even if we are born and wired to be kind, we tend to forget this talent. Kindness is really important to welcome newcomers in a project. I have seen contributors that have email templates and review message templates to answer to basic question a contributor should not have to ask if they were following the contributor guide, if they were respecting the coding guidelines, and so on. Having those templates ready help those contributors to provide guidance to those who are in need of some, without spending too much time to repeat something that hs already been said. They are able to be kind and effective.

What suggestions do you have for team leaders or project managers to help build happier teams?

Building happy teams needs a lot of courage, because your first attempts will not necessarily bring immediate results. It takes time to learn new behavior, and to raise awareness that appreciation of others talents and humanity will bring them to mirror this behavior.

What are good resources for learning more about how to build happier teams?

I can recommend:

You can see Alexis speak at OpenStack Summit in Austin on Monday, April 25, from 12:05pm-12:45pm.

About the author

Rikki Endsley - Rikki Endsley is the Developer Program managing editor at Red Hat, and a former community architect and editor for In the past, she worked as the community evangelist on the Open Source and Standards (OSAS) team at Red Hat; a freelance tech journalist; community manager for the USENIX Association; associate publisher of Linux Pro Magazine, ADMIN, and Ubuntu User; and as the managing editor of Sys Admin magazine and...