THE SCIENCE OF OPTIMAL FUNCTIONING

Our philosophy and methods are informed by applied positive psychology and related scientific fields that emphasize positive, life-giving, and generative phenomena in organizations. Leading organizational scholars have started to investigate positive approaches to managing people and organizations that, instead of focusing exclusively on overcoming problems and deficiencies also seek to develop strengths, abundance, and possibilities. It turns out that these positive practices do, in fact, predict organizational performance.

Research has found that positive approaches deliver significantly better business outcomes -such as sustainable engagement, improved energy and well-being, winning teams, human performance improvement- as they focus on:

  • Thriving at work
  • Interpersonal flourishing
  • Virtuous behaviors
  • Positive emotions
  • Energizing networks and relationships

Founded in 1998 by the president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Martin Seligman, positive psychology is the science of how people and organizations thrive and flourish. Today, positive psychology is a well-defined field of inquiry within psychology that focuses on building strengths for optimal functioning. It is founded on the belief that people aspire to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences in life and at work.  

Find out more about positive psychology by watching the following "Whiteboard Animation":

WHAT IS POSITIVE LEADERSHIP?

Leadership is a most important source of competitive advantage for organizations as it predicts employees' job performance and satisfaction, group effectiveness, and organizational results. Great leaders are positive energizers who are able to create a positive culture that increases the flow of positive emotions in their organization. They deliberately do this because it leads to a measurable increase in performance.

Figure 2. Competing Values Framework
(Source: Cameron and Quinn, 2011)

What makes a great leader?

Studies show that leadership is more than meeting performance standards. Figure 2 illustrates that the best leaders are results-focused: they do things first, fast, and right. At the same time they possess the social skills that make their teams more productive as people do things together. Positive leaders leverage the strengths of those around them by developing a collaborative culture where each complements the strengths of others in the team.

 

 

  • Positive leaders favor positive relationships that are mutually beneficial and filled with positive emotions and regard for others. These high-quality connections establish a safe context that enables people to learn about themselves, experiment with new ideas, learn and develop, and achieve extraordinary performance for themselves and their organization.
  • Positive leaders foster a positive emotional environment. They focus on enhancing strengths and affirming human potential, engage in affirmative and supportive communication, invest in their people, not merely on resolving problems or attaining profitability.
  • Positive leaders empower individuals to discover their sense of purpose and meaning at work and beyond that leads to high levels of loyalty and engagement.

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR ENGAGEMENT

Studies show that thriving employees have, on average, 21% higher productivity, their sales are 37% higher, and their creativity is three times higher.
— Gallup, 2015

An overwhelming majority of people considers that work is very important (35.6%) or rather important (44.3%). In fact, research shows that relationships and work are among the major contributors to individual well-being. There is ample evidence that jobs that were redesigned to include employee engagement as a goal generally produced thriving work teams that also tended to be more productive. This should not come as a surprise as research shows that thriving people do better in nearly every domain in life. 

Flourishing workplaces where employees thrive generate desirable other positive outcomes, such as: 

  • People succumb to fewer illnesses, work harder, make more money, display more mental acuity, make higher quality decisions, are more creative and flexible in their thinking, and are more resilient

  • Workers high in well-being perform better, have better relationships, and are better organizational citizens

  • Companies with higher numbers of engaged employees have lower business costs, improved performance outcomes, such as higher productivity figures and customer rating, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents

THE WAY WE WORK IS NOT WORKING

Today’s corporate environment is highly volatile and requires organizations -and their people- to be adaptable and resilient, in addition to focused and efficient. For that to happen, employees are expected to bring initiative, imagination and passion to work every day. Furthermore, employees are becoming increasingly diverse and want to be empowered and engaged by meaningful work and supportive managers. Yet most organizations don't get the "social" aspect of work right and often fail to create the adequate social context that will allow employees to contribute their best effort.

A majority (51%) of full-time workers in America are not engaged in their jobs while another 17.5 percent are actively disengaged.
— World Values Survey, 2011; Gallup, 2015

Research on employee engagement suggests that too many managers are out of touch with their workers and that they rely on mechanical incentives (carrot-and-stick) and bureaucratic, hierarchical, command-and-control approaches. Not surprisingly, this results in high voluntary turnover and absenteeism rates and in a majority of full-time workers not being engaged in their jobs. The paradox of the command-and-control ethos is that the more it is used the less effective it becomes, especially with today’s workforce. Here are a few examples:

  • The time of day when people are least happy is when they are in the presence of their line manager
  • Over one-third (38%) of American workers consider that their supervisor focuses on their weaknesses or negative characteristics
  • The likelihood of an employee being engaged is 9% in organizations that don't focus on strengths, and is 73% in organizations that do