Positive Psychology-Positive Leadership


By Margaret Wood-HR Director

There’s Positive Leadership in All of Us

What is Positive Psychology and Positive Leadership?

Definition:  using positive impetus and methodolgies to achieve the most desireable results in a given negative or toxic situation.

Why is understanding Positive Psychology and Positive Leadership important?  
Gone are the days of firing people on the spot. In many situations, there are laws protecting employees from these types of actions. Moreover, consider how much money your company has invested in training and grooming those employees.
Globally, it is becoming more widely accepted to cultivate employees, utilize their skill sets, and empower them to achieve personal and corporate goals through better management and positive leadership. The results and benefits of this approach are far greater than the alternative.

“What? Why?”

Getting blindsided by losing a top-performer may stymie you. Your initial reaction may be, “Where is this coming from?  I thought everything was going well.” But once you stop and thing about it, was it going as well as you initially thought…

“I’ll never reach these goals-they are so unreasonable?“

“First they say focus on this, and now they say focus on that.  I wish they would get their act together!“” Everyone’s so negative lately. Why bother–they’ll just ignore me …  “

“I have no idea how I’m doing-no sense in going out of my way for anything–it’s  not like anyone notices.“

The reality is that most employees rarely tell their boss the whole truth about how they feel at work, fearful of repercussions and awkward conversations. Some feel it is easier to quit and start over-they don’t know how to ask for help.

Although these are common thoughts amongst low-morale employees, this is where positive psychology and positive leadership can help turn things around. Before you attack the problem head-on,  and jump into fixing the situation,  stand back and analyze each component, and ask some questions. This will help you identify what needs to be done. It’s no different than when you decide to take off for places unknown-the first thing you do is Google a map. The same holds true here.

As this is uncharted territory for you, ask yourself:

  • What could be triggering these attitudes?
    • Let’s consider your most exemplary employee: always on time, great attitude, first one to volunteer for new projects, always follows protocol, every little detail in its place, etc.
  • What/when/where did things  go wrong causing them to quit?
    • Unfortunately, the exit interview is where some of these questions are answered. But, why wait for this to happen?

The first answer is that it was not one event, but rather a culmination of several factors that drove them to that decision. Interestingly enough though, this scenario has a tendency to play out more often within some companies, and rarely at others.

  • So, why the differences?
  • What is driving employees to quit at some companies and not others?
  • Are you doing something to cause this? If so, what is it?

Perhaps the better question to ask yourself would be: What are we NOT doing that those other companies with better retention ARE doing?

Another fact to be considered is that, as managers we make innocent assumptions that leave our teams confused and unfocused. What is obvious and evident to us may be nothing more than dense fog to them.  Here is where positive psychology and positive leadership come in! Take the time to explain all the pain points so that everyone is on the same page. Assume nothing – you are best served with providing too much information than not enough.

Who is most accountable for employee morale – you (the manager) or the company?

The Challenges Today’s Manager’s Face

Being a manager in today’s world, regardless of the industry, is a challenge. Never before has the leadership community had to manage as many as 5 different generations at one time.  Since there is no longer a mandatory retirement age, and for the first time in history, managers find themselves leading teams of mixed generations that include  “traditionalists”, baby-boomers, Gen X, Y & Z and soon the iGens. Not an easy task!

Taking into acount the vast differences in this diversity, it’s no wonder it has become so easy for team members to become disengaged, disenfranchised, demoralized and unproductive-it is a challenge to meet the requirements of so many different generations. However, there is no excuse for all team members not to be onboard with a company’s mission.Underperformers not only drain the morale out of the team, they are the biggest negative impact to your bottom line. One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make that only exacerbates this toxic situation is to avoid dealing with it, hoping it will eventually resolve itself.

What is the best resolution for such a situation?

One of the best resolutions is to make sweeping changes to the culture through positive psychology; additionally, you can either remove the instigators (Path of Least Resistance)  or remediate them through positive leadership. The key to connecting with your employees is communication, therefore gaining buy-in to these changes.

Positive Psychology – Praise, Recognition, and Rewards

Employee engagement takes an entire range of factors into consideration, from adequate tools to do their job, to fair compensation and benefits, to appropriate training.  However, at the end of the day, without a solid connection to their manager or faith in their manager’s abilty to engage them, connecting with them is all but impossible. Although free snacks in the breakroom are great, they are not as important as having a manager who appreciates them. They will leave.

Here are some questions managers should ask themselves :

  • Do you express your gratitude and let people know you appreciate them (verbally)?
    • Although actions often speak louder than words, we are becoming a very disconnected society due to the many electronic means of communication. Take the time to call or tell someone in person how much you value their work.
  • Do you provide good feedback?
    • Everyone likes to know that they are on the right track. Providing good feedback, both critical and complementary in a positive light helps your team members understand where they stand and where they need to improve.
    • This will also eliminate the fear of awkward conversations as they will not feel threatened.
  • Are you secure in your management style ?
    • All managers have self-doubt to a certain degree. If you don’t, you will stop growing.  If you are confident that you are being fair in your actions and requirements, go with it. Getting accused of being demanding, yet fair, is a good thing!
  • Do you recognize employees when they bring you strong ideas or do you steal their thunder?
    • There is no bigger assault to an ego than someone standing by watcing you take credit for their hard work and contribution. Public recognition is paramount to an employee’s well-being. Praise them that they made you look good!
  • Do you limit praise & rewards fearing others will become demotivated?
    • Actually, the opposite tends to happen. Others start to see that, with some effort, they too can be recognized.
  • Do you wait to recognize employees once a year or on an ongoing basis?
    • Do your employees perform well only once a year? Take the time to recognize those who strive to be and do their best, not just the top-performers. Periodic and spontaneous rewards and recognition not only build confidence, they also build trust between employee-employer and lets them know they are genuinely appreciated.
  • Do you measure others on their own accomplishments or as compared to others?
    • People are the sum total of all their experiences-which can be quite divergent. Recognize those who put forth effort and have accomplished a landmark-whatever you do, avoid comparing them to any one else. Recognize them for who they are, their efforts, and what they’ve accomplished .
  • Do you lead by example?
    • Setting good work habits, taking issues ‘offline’ to discuss on a 1-on-1 level, accepting accountability, following protocol,  etc. goes a long way in demonstrating your character and integrity. Earning your team’s respect is important to everyone’s success

Traditional approaches to leadership often focus on fixing problems, maintaining the status quo or helping people be good rather than EXCEPTIONAL.  However, by using positive psychology, you, as a manager can build a leadership framework to enabling thriving performances. Around the world, smart organizations are achieving organizational improvement and business benefits through those leaders who demonstrate the ability to create these positive cultures.

When leaders discover how the latest research in emotional intelligence, positive psychology,  and neuroscience is transforming workplaces, many are eager to learn more about these interventions and apply them.  Positive leadership is based on positive psychology and is designed to enable the best in people and to inspire them to strive for remarkable results.

Understanding the Four Major Behavioral Traits

Behavioral traits determine an employee’s actions, reactions and inactions. Everbody has has dominant traits as well as other less intense ones.  As a Positive Leader, a comprehensive understanding of your team will come by seeing your team members for who they really are – inside and out.

Take the time to learn what makes each of them “tick”, what  depletes their energy and what motivates them. By doing so, you will be able to talk to them in a way they will understand you as well as improve team dynamics.

  1. Dominance – the control trait
  2. Extroversion – the social trait
  3. Patience – the “reaction” trait
  4. Conformity – the structure and detail trait

Figuring out how to improve morale, and therefore increase productivity is a best-guess game, once all the components are analyzed.

On Becoming a Positive Leader

  • Positive Leaders are often the energizers and catalysts for organizational transformation
  • Positive Leaders create a roadmap for developing positive team members
  • Positive Leaders strategically create a positive culture and generate exceptional performance in themselves, their teams and the whole organization
  • Positive Leaders understand and tailor their management to the unique behavioral strengths of each individual
  • Positive Leaders are self-aware of their own dominant behavioral style – and how it may color their judgement
  • Posiltive Leaders recognoize that unintentional neglect leads to distrust, loss of social capital and poisoned morale
  • Positive Leaders understand that in order to be a GREAT manager is to be resourceful.


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