Written by Andy Cope
Let us start by asking you a simple question:
Are you ‘alive’?
We wrote ‘alive’ in inverted commas because it’s important to know the difference between ‘being alive’ and ‘living’. You see, technically speaking, you can be alive (showing all the classic signs: breathing, moving, eating toast, etc.) without really living. We figure that if you’re going to the trouble of being alive, you should upgrade to ‘properly living’. It’s more than having a pulse. It’s about energy, passion, motivation, effort, colour, excitement and making that pulse race a bit.
So, congrats, you’re alive. But are you really living?
You see, the blood supply of any business is its people, they are the heartbeat, the temperature gauge. Walking into any organisation, we don’t need to read the endless data captured, or the latest staff engagement survey results to know whether it’s flourishing or not. Simply walk around, observe and listen to what’s going on and then you’ll know if it’s flourishing or not.
The science of positive psychology has a habit of proving what we already intuitively know. For example:
- Happy people get sick less often (and when they do get ill, they recover faster)
- Happy people have more energy
- Happy people are more optimistic
- Happy people are more motivated
- Happy people are more creative
- Happy people learn faster
- Happy people make better decisions
- Happy people make flourishing organisations
Now simply turn the positive statements above to negatives, and you get the workforce from hell! Is it really in anyone’s interest to have a negative, uncreative, sickness-prone, pessimistic, lack-lustre, depressed workforce?
We work in organisations every day and have noticed a lot of mismatch between what is said and what is real. The way we run businesses is being stretched beyond breaking point. People have a job rather than a career and are clocking on for a shift of toil. It’s often dread and drudgery rather than joy and passion.
The result of these frustrating and joyless workplaces, is that staff spend too many working hours dreaming about their next holiday or counting down to retirement.
So here are our top tips for creating that “flourishing environment” full of people who are actively engaged in their work
- Encourage staff to go way beyond SMART objectives they’re sooooo dull! We encourage HUGGs (huge unbelievably great goals), exciting things that are on the edge of achievability. Goals that are worth getting out of bed for.
- Strengths: uncovering people’s strengths and then finding ways for them to use their strengths every day. Simple? Are more organisations doing it? Nope.
- Positive communication ratio of 6:1. If I was a fly on the wall in your office and could hear 6 positives for every whinge, I’d be fairly sure that your team is rocking and rolling. If it dips below 2:1, the energy will be leaking. If your communication dips the other way i.e. there are more negatives than positives – I’d be worried.
- Purpose is key. If people have a clear and compelling reason to come to work, they will arrive with a spring in their step. Find (or remind them of) their ‘why?’ A point worth noting, you cannot command happiness or purpose. It’s about creating insight, so they can realise it for themselves.
- And I mean genuinely care. Chances are that if your people can respond affirmatively to ‘someone at work seems to care about me as a person’, they will turn up with a positive attitude.
So imagine an organisation free of bureaucracy, burnout, resentment and apathy. Is it possible to create a new kind of organisation that makes work productive, fulfilling, meaningful and purposeful; where staff play to their strengths and are challenged the way they like to be challenged?
Our short answer is ‘yes’. In fact, most organisations already achieve it – sometimes! We have all experienced days of heady joy where, whisper it quietly, it was so fabulous that you’d have done it for free. Mountains of work got done, everyone was smiling and you felt invigorated rather than exhausted.
But then people go back to ‘normal’, that sense that they are surviving until the weekend, or until their next holiday, wishing their lives away.
The challenge is to reset ‘normal’, away from ‘mundane and lacklustre’ towards ‘vigorous and passionate’.
And so we come full circle to the difference between ‘being alive’ and ‘living’. One involves a pulse, the other a whole mind/body immersive experience in this adventure we call ‘life’. For most people ‘work’ is a massive part of their life. If vigorous, energetic, passionate workplaces exist (and they do, we’ve experienced them) then the question is: How do we create them?
Herein lies the value of this article. It’s the missing link in organisations and leadership today – the connection between past, present and a future so bright, you’ll need to wear shades.
An organisation cannot command employees to flourish and be happy and motivated – it’s something that has to spread naturally throughout the organisation. Emotions and behaviours that go with them are contagious. It is contagion which makes positive emotions an incredibly powerful tool in creating organisational cultures in which people can flourish.
Dr Andy Cope has spent 10 years researching positive psychology, culminating in a ‘PhD in Happiness’ from Loughborough University and is the UK’s first Doctor of Happiness. His latest book LEADERSHIP – THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT is out 2 August 2018, published by John Murray Learning and available on Amazon £12.99