Companies that love customers are just plain different. They have this remarkable tendency to be wildly successful. When leadership has both EQ – Emotional Intelligence – and reasonably good IQ they have people smarts as well as business smarts and can discover how to sustain and cultivate success.
As work and the workforce changes, the role of leadership is changing. While it’s still critically important for a leader to set direction, it’s no longer so important for a leader to give directions.
Capable people, enabled by the intelligence they access through search engines and social connections, often create new (and better) ways to do things. Just witness the number of young successful entrepreneurs in so many fields.
Now, more than ever, that means that leaders must be clear in their vision and clear in their expectations – and – simultaneously hold open a space for possibilities they never could have imagined on their own.
That means that they as leaders must bring focus as well as emotional intelligence to the table, creating freedom, with a few fences. In my article, A Passion for the Possible I introduce you to the the idea of Positive Leadership – an intentional form of values based leadership which uses the evidence-based strategies from the field of Applied Positive Psychology.
This less-than-twenty-year-old field is the science of what goes right with people, it’s the science of what makes people bring their best to any situation, it’s the science of well being.
When this science is practiced by the leadership team, their goal becomes building more “positive capacity” in their team. As the ratio of positive versus negative occurrences rises so does creativity, speed of problem solving, team ‘connection’, collective intelligence, higher sales, happier customers, productivity, as well as physical and financial health of the organization and its people.
Positive psychology is essentially about high performance and how to create it.
In one of the most authoritative studies to date, 200,000 respondents in 8,000 business units show that outcomes – such as employee turnover, productivity, customer loyalty, profitability – are all influenced – positively – by the way leaders and managers address the issues of well-being and engagement. And we all know that an engaged workforce and engaged customers go hand in hand.
When people feel good at work they are more productive, more creative, more resilient, more likely to achieve their goals. In this tip and the next one , I’ll be your “official happiness coach” and share 7 sure ways that you can us to create happier, engaged employees and customers that come back with money and friends.
1. Give people the opportunity to use their strengths and skills.
People who have the chance to do what they do best – to be in their strength zone – are more likely to be engaged in their job then those who don’t.
When you’re NOT in the strength zone you’re 6 times LESS likely to be engaged in your job – you are more likely to dread going to work, you are more likely to have negative attitudes and interactions, you’re more likely to treat the customer poorly and have few, if any, creative moments.
That makes sense – when people have the chance to do what they do best – they FEEL good about where they are and what they are doing. Sadly – when asked the question “What percentage of a typical day do you get to play to your strengths?” the average answer is 14%.
Many managers, stuck in old deficit based thinking, are much better at noticing and focusing on what employees are doing wrong – then on where their strengths are and how to build them. In a study done by Marcus Buckingham – author of four books on the topic, the question was asked: When you talk to your manager about performance, what do you talk about? 36% said weaknesses, 24% said strengths and 40% said “we don’t talk about these things at all.” That says a lot about why we see the behaviors we see in some companies.
We all know we get more of what we focus on. Focus on weaknesses – they expand. Focus on strengths, they do too. When leaders emphasize weakness performance decreases 26.8%. When a leader supports, praises, acknowledges and develops strengths, performance increases by 36.4%. That’s a hefty point spread, I’m going to bet on the leaders that encourage strengths!
There are many good levers for engaging performance – by far the master lever for engaging employees and increasing performance is to help people discover and play to their strengths. Focusing on an employee’s strengths gives them confidence, self-assurance and increases their well-being. Positive psychologists have discovered – and verified scientifically – when people identify their strengths and focus on improving even one of them a week, over time their level of happiness goes up. It seems the more time people get to spend doing what they do well, the more likely they are to perform in ways that increase your profitability.
2. Provide challenge, stretch goals and opportunities for advancement.
Ongoing surveys by Career Systems Int’l say that almost half (48.4%) of their respondents claim that “exciting work and challenge” top the list of reasons for staying on the job. Second on the list is “career growth, learning and development.”
People today are on the move, they don’t want a job they can have forever, they want a job that stretches them, a job that expands them and that helps them move to the next level. Strengths-based doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses – it means identifying and using strengths to improve in all areas.
When our strengths meet our challenges at the far end of our comfort zones we go into a positive state called flow. When in that state, we’re highly productive. The “flow” state is where we lose track of time and get into the “zone.”
As we help employees make their comfort zones larger in this way, they become more and more capable, more and more competent and create more and more value for us in the marketplace.
Take time to help your employees’ career path, ask them about their dreams and aspirations. In companies where there are limited opportunities for advancement up the ladder, look for places for learning, places where people can use their skills and strengths on projects that have heart and meaning to them.
3. Provide a balance between stress and recovery.
Everybody’s stressed – nobody has time – everybody’s inbox is full. We’re multitasking so much that we are becoming ineffective. Accuracy rates are going down and stress related illness going up.
We try managing our time but TIME is really not the issue. Energy is. Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. When we work from our strengths we create more energy, when we work from our weaknesses we deplete energy.
Every thought, feeling, activity, or behavior has an energy cost. All day long there are energy gains and energy drains. Becoming more aware of where our energy is going, and when it’s spent frivolously will help us manage it.
Tal Ben Shahar, who taught Happiness and Psychology of Leadership at Harvard, believes that while most of us are capable of some level of multitasking, today most people are required to go beyond their optimum limit.
Tal suggests that we need rituals – he calls them “restorative niches” – throughout the day where people can work on a single project for an hour. He recommends small bits of time where people can relax, renew, rejuvenate before taking on the next thing. He, and other experts say we need recovery time. It’s perfectly okay to have the stress on the system – as long as we build in the recovery time as well. Build rituals – a 15 minute walk at lunchtime, a place where people can go and meditate, nap times, a quiet cup of tea are all things we can do to restore energy.
Research shows that if you are working on a project that requires focus and you have your email client on in the background your IQ level drops by ten points – that’s the same amount it would drop if you had been up all night and hadn’t slept. For comparisons sake – Your IQ would only drop 4 points if you were smoking marijuana. Now there’s something to think about! We can’t actually live without stress, but it’s important to differentiate between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). Often a leader has an opportunity to shift the teams focus by contexting the current stress into an exciting, worthwhile and meaningful situation. Positive Leaders are “Meaning-Makers”.
Well, that’s Part 1…
Join us in two weeks for our next tip and discover 4 MORE ways you can profit from positivity at work!
Be well, choose happy,
If you are curious how Positive Leadership can help you improve your customer experience go to www.PositiveLeadershipCoaching.com
If you’d like to participate in an executive study with JoAnna and 4- 6 members of your leadership team call for details, or write JoAnna at ReturnOnHappiness.com with Exec Study in the subject line and we will send info.