By Deiric McCann Head of International, Genos International. Speaker/writer on sales, marketing & leadership. Author 5 books incl. Leadership Charisma. Leadership Blogger. See more by him here.

For more than fifteen years researcher Marcial Losada has studied what drives the performance and productivity of teams drawn from all over the world.

His research demonstrates that the ratio of positive experiences to negative experiences in the workplace has a huge impact on the productivity of teams.

The Losada Line

Losada found that the absolute minimum positivity/negativity ratio to maintain a neutral workplace environment (neither negative nor positive) is a positivity/negativity (P/N) ratio of 2.9031 – and this lower limit has become known as the ‘Losada Line’.

Get this ratio above 2.9013:1 and you begin to positively impact the productivity of the team. Losada’s research says that the maximum ratio for positively impacting performance is 11:1, and that the optimum for a positive, productive environment is 6:1.

The Losada Zone

The space between the Losada Line at 2.9031:1 (3:1) and the maximum of 11:1 is known as the ‘Losada Zone’.

Operate inside this zone and your team will ‘flourish’, achieving a ‘flow’ state – where team members report that time flies by when they work, creativity thrives and productivity increases dramatically. This flow state drives high employee performance and productivity. Fall outside this zone and your team will ‘languish’ – becoming incapable of working together effectively, and getting into a downward spiral of negativity that stunts productivity and success.

In one organisation Losada worked on the initial ratio of 1.5 was raised to 3.5 simply by managers following a suggestion of providing more praise, recognition and encouragement to their people. As result productivity went up 40% and the CEO reported an entirely more productive atmosphere in the organisation.

How to Get Your Team in the Losada Zone

Every interaction or experience your people have in the workplace has an impact in driving the P/N ratio of your team up or down. The ratio applies to everything: not only the obvious like the words you speak, the actions you take, and the attitudes you display – but even your body language, gestures, and moods have an impact. Non-verbal messages are as important as verbal messages.

With a target ratio of 6:1 you’ll need to continually focus on anything that raises the number of positive interactions and reduces the number of negative interactions in your team. At a minimum:

  • Use praise and recognition liberally – go out of your way to find reasons to recognise people.
  • Avoid, postpone or prepare for negative events. In a heated situation try to avoid responding out of emotion – take five minutes away from things before reacting. Head off big negative events where possible and practical. Bottom line: one negative experience is expensive – it costs a further investment of three positive experiences just to neutralise it, and twice as many to positively eliminate its effect.
  • Be prepared to ‘budget’ positive initiatives before and after unavoidable negative incidents to balance them out and maintain a positive ratio. For example, from time to time there will be unavoidable negative situations – you may have to discipline someone or deliver bad news; have them occur against a strongly positive background
  • Build up a reserve of positive equity that can be drawn upon in times when negativity is unavoidable. In times of greater ongoing stress and negativity – economic difficulties or tight times for example – go the extra mile to find as many additional opportunities for positive interaction as possible. You can build up the ability of a team to deal with negative experiences and interactions by continually topping up the positivity of the environment.
  • Find something to get enthusiastic about in front of your people – enthusiasm is one of the most positive and contagious of emotions, and genuine enthusiasm and energy will spread positive emotions through a group faster than any infection.
  • Celebrate every success – every time the team scores a victory be sure that everyone celebrates.
  • Train yourself to give your people positive non-verbal feedback too – even the simple acts of readily smiling and making eye contact has an enormous impact on the positivity of an environment

There is no more economical way to drive the engagement and productivity of your people skyward. At the beginning of each review how you can drive your people further into the Losada Zone – and at the end of the first month look at the difference it has made: you will not be disappointed.

If you want to truly engage people, engage them one by one

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