Positivity in Management?

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been intrigued about the research about happiness and peak performance from the new field of Positive Psychology. But like many of my clients, I’ve been waiting for someone to connect the dots between just “feeling good,” and bottom line results in business.

The term positivity has caught the interest of scientists who study the brain to learn more about optimal functioning. How does this play out in the work place, with business teams? What researchers are discovering about positive emotions at work is essential knowledge for anyone who wants to lead individuals and organizations to high performance.

One study of CEOs showed that positivity training could boost their productivity by 15 percent, and managers improved customer satisfaction by 42 percent. Positivity training programs have demonstrated excellent results with tax auditors, investment bankers and lawyers.

Briefly, here’s what these groups are taught to reduce stress and raise their levels of happiness and success:

  1. How to develop a positive mindset
  2. How to build their social support networks
  3. How to buffer themselves against negativity

Despite such training’s amazing results, many leaders remain completely unfamiliar with the concept.  Maybe there’s a stigma attached to positive thinking and happiness.

Being positive isn’t simply about being nice and giving in, nor does it mean suppressing negative information and emotions. Both are critical for optimal performance. Apparently, however, a 3:1 positivity-to-negativity ratio is the tipping point for individuals and business teams to go from average to flourishing.

When you experience and express three times as much positive as negative emotion, you pave the way for excellence and high performance. Most of us (80 percent) experience a ratio of 2:1.

In business, positive emotions yield:

  1. Better decisions. Researchers at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business studied how positive moods affect managers. Managers with greater positivity were more accurate and careful in making decisions, and were more effective interpersonally. (Straw & Barsade, 1993)
  2. Better team work. Managers with positive emotions infect their work groups with similar feelings and show improved team coordination, while reporting less effort to accomplish more. (Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005)
  3. Better negotiating. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, researchers learned that when people negotiate complex bargains, positivity again surfaces as a contributing factor for success. (Kopelman, Rosette, & Thompson 2006)

Negotiators who strategically display positivity are more likely to gain concessions, close deals and incorporate future business relationships into the contracts they seal. Those who come to the bargaining table with a cooperative and friendly spirit strike the best business deals.

For sure, I know for myself that when I’m in a good mood, everything works better: decisions, collaborating, negotiating. The trick is to master thoughts so well that your emotions and behaviors reflect your positive mood. Everything flows from there.

Ah yes, that’s the ticket… yet that can be hard at times. What do you think?

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