Do you need a Mood Strategy?
As I work with leaders to leverage their own leadership capacity and that of their teams, I introduce them to powerful performance levers that they have often never considered. One of the easiest and most accessible of these is positive emotions.
Emotions are powerful, abstract states of mind that influence how you think, what you pay attention to, your identity and self-concept, your evaluations of the world, what you consider important and valuable, how you make decisions and judgement and your personal and professional relationships. Emotional intelligence – the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships thoughtfully and empathetically – is recognised as a critical leadership capacity, but what about the ability to experience, express and generate positive emotions?
The power of Positive Emotions
Research suggests that experiencing emotions such as joy, pride, gratitude, amusement, interest, awe, inspiration, hope, love and serenity can make you more optimistic, more resilient, more open, more accepting and more driven by purpose.
Positive emotions have also been found to produce success in life as much as they reflect it (Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005) through their impact on a wide range of factors, including physical health through immune functioning, work outcomes including productivity and absenteeism, social outcomes such as quality of social interactions and relationships, personal outcomes including creativity and energy, and a range psychological outcomes including resilience, self-confidence and self-regulation.
How can leaders use positive emotions to drive success?
Professor Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina has found that positive emotions help to broaden and build the way our brains respond to opportunities and challenges. Studies have repeatedly shown that experiencing positive emotions broadens our thinking and attention, builds our psychological and social resources, enhances resilience, reverses the impact of negative emotions and triggers upward spirals of connection, collaboration and performance.
Emotions – The tipping point
Research also suggests that there is an optimal ratio of positive to negative emotional experiences. The lower range of this tipping point is around 3 positive, experiences to every 1 negative, experience, or a ratio of approximately 3:1; the upper limit is around 12:1, after which we start to question the authenticity and validity of the positive experiences. There are several names for this, including the Positivity Ratio, the Gottman ratio (after researcher Daniel Gottman) and the Losada Line Model. You can check your individual Positivity Ratio here.
The Positivity Ratio and Team Performance
Understanding what differentiates high performing teams has been a popular research topic in recent years. A Chilean researcher Marcial Losada explored high, mid and low performing teams across three factors: profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and 360-degree feedback ratings. He found that performance was strongly connected with the degree of positivity and negativity within the teams.
This makes sense. Other research has shown that high performing teams are characterised by trust, open communication, and a willingness to embrace conflict; they are energised because they feel they can take risks, innovate, and achieve something that matters. The more positive a team is, the more willing the team members will be to work together in a solution-oriented manner. Positivity has a motivating influence on all team members which means they are willing and able to perform optimally, encourage one another and create a supportive team culture that enables collaborative learning and psychological safety.
Positivity and negativity are strong feedback processes in human behaviour, and these apply to both the individual and the team. Positive feedback motivates a team to continue and look for (joint) solutions and enables individuals to be creative, strategic and resilient in the face of adversity.
The foundation for a happy life is to accept the full range of our emotions – both positive and painful by allowing them to flow through us. So, whilst our focus here is positive emotions, it is equally important to create space in our lives, to give ourselves permission to be human and to experience negative emotions as part of life’s full experience. However, as a leadership and performance strategy, intentionally generating positive emotions for yourself and your team is a sure-fire way to enhance resilience, relationships and performance.
So what can leaders do to support a productive positivity ratio for themselves and their teams?
As with any ratio, there are two sides to play with – it may be just as important to reduce the number of negative experiences as it is to increase the positive ones.
Here are a few ideas to increase your positivity
Appreciating and Savouring
Deliberately look for, register and amplify the good things in life. Look for patterns; try to understand what brings different positive emotions into your life – and then do it more often.
With your team:
Start team meetings with each person sharing something that’s gone well either to the team or if there isn’t time, in groups of 2 or 3. Also, ask them to consider what enabled that experience so that you can identify the root causes of success and make them happen more often.
Understanding and Using Strengths
Discover your strengths and find ways to use them to their fullest each day. You can do this using a number of different tools such as the Values in Action Character Strengths survey or the Gallup CliftonStrengths survey.
With your team:
Ask your team to take a strengths assessment or simply reflect on what you see each team member’s strengths to be. Create a ‘map’ of the strengths you have available as resources to draw upon. Talk with people about how you see them use their strengths and the positive impact it has.
You can decrease your negativity, without trying to remove growth experiences, by:
Countering negative thinking
For yourself and your team:
Challenge negative thinking by asking ‘is this true?’. Break the grip of rumination through healthy, constructive distraction such as challenging mental arithmetic. (Counting backwards from 203 in 7s does this for me!).
Dealing with negative people
For yourself and your team:
Be conscious of the nature of communication. Don’t model, engage with or allow gossip and sarcasm. Encourage and facilitate conversation and dialogue that is positive, constructive and solution focused.
Want to learn more positive leadership strategies like this? Click here to find out more about Paige’s Leading Well Program.
Copyright 2019: Dr Paige Williams
Paige Williams, PhD
Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach
Paige helps leaders leverage their leadership to lead teams that deliver and create culture that feeds high performance.