How Managers can use positive psychology to help individuals smash their goals and reach their potential

Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment. 

How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?

How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings.  Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.

Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.

A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.

Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?

So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?

Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better. 

As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.

Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting in the comments below.


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Is a decent salary and good pension really enough to motivate people?

After watching a video on motivation shared by Harvard Business Review, there were some points I wanted to share.

Firstly, The Explainer: One more time, how do you motivate employees? says that force is the first thing not to use if you want to motivate employees.  It seems widely accepted today that ordering people to do something is not the way to inspire people and get them on board.

One of my early blogs focused on Daniel Pink’s thoughts on motivation, set out in his book Drive.  He says that the basic need is salary so employers should ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.  This video says something similar, setting out Hertzberg’s ‘hygiene factors’ of salary, working conditions and job security.  These factors echo Maslow’s theory of motivation which suggests that motivation requires people’s basic needs to be met as a starting point.  I’ve worked in organisations where the belief seemed to be that paying a decent salary and good pension is enough to motivate people.  Instead, I would suggest that these basic factors encourage people to stay with your organisation and so come to work every day but they are not enough to make people perform.

What we need to be thinking about as leaders is how to get people to take responsibility and move forward on their own.  This next layer includes factors such as challenging work, autonomy, recognition and advancement.  These things get people interested and fired up to push things forward so that they achieve high performance.

As a manager, I believe that achieving this is about taking a more hands-off approach and giving individuals space to try things and learn from them.  To avoid things taking a long time or moving in the wrong direction, I provide clarity around the overall aims and objectives, advice and guidance on how to complete the task and parameters for the work.  This includes my thoughts on the best way to go about things, how I envisage it will look or feel and time allowed for the task.

For me, this all takes the form of a discussion where individuals can challenge my views and share their own ideas.  Once we have agreed the requirements of the work, I leave them to carry on with it, checking progress on a regular basis and offering support so they know where I am if they have questions or need advice.

This approach requires trust and humility; it requires me to let them be expert in what they do and accept that they might know more or have better ideas.  The more I can let them act on their own beliefs and draw on their expertise, the more happy, satisfied and motivated they feel in their work. It has always seemed to me that it increases loyalty, respect and commitment as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that motivating people requires an appreciation of the individual and respect for a diversity of views and opinions, spending time as a team and allowing space for relationships to develop, celebrating success, encouraging them to push forward and supporting them to achieve their personal goals.

Do you use any of the techniques above? How do you achieve motivation and performance within your team? Share your thoughts below.

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Why settle for mediocre? Aim to make your people outstanding

It’s that time of year for me when I’m talking to people about performance over the last six months. 

Committed to helping people be the best they can be and also to delivering maximum value with public funds, this is a process I’ve spent much time considering in order to ensure it delivers for the individuals I support.
My quest for perfection in performance management, has led to a number of steps that can provide a framework within which individuals can develop and deliver for your organisation.

Setting clear objectives is the first task if you want to create an environment where people can succeed. This step should provide clear direction in line with the organisation’s aims and ensure that person can meet their goals in a timely manner and know when the objective has been achieved. In particular, agreeing objectives which are SMART brings clarity to plans and ensures they can be completed within an agreed timeframe.

After this stage, it is important to work with the individual to agree what ‘good’ looks like. I’m not sure it’s possible for individuals to really excel in delivering their priorities if you haven’t discussed exactly what is required. Setting out expectations clearly from the beginning allows people to go the extra mile to ensure a high standard.

In observing performance management in a number of organisations, I’ve noticed that reviews too often become a process that people have to go through with little awareness of what they are about (see what’s wrong with performance management and annual reviews). In many cases, managers set objectives and sign off progress without much thought or discussion.

For me, it’s about creating a structure for people to succeed with a focus on encouraging and supporting them to exceed expectations. It seems to me that managers should consider it a priority to ensure their people are encouraged able to become ‘outstanding’ and concentrate their efforts on achieving this goal. I’m sure all organisations desire to have high performing teams so let’s stop thinking that mediocre is good enough and give people something to aim for.

Finally, I don’t believe that performance conversations looking back over a six month period go far enough to provide focus and motivation. Whilst my objectives might be set annually, I set out my plan to achieve them by looking forward over a three month period and reviewing progress on a monthly basis. This ensures the thinking time and prioritising which is necessary to make an impact. I’m then able to look back and see if I have achieved my goals, ensure my time is spent on the right things and to know if my objectives are the right ones.

As the year comes to a close, I wonder how your teams have performed over the last twelve months and offer a challenge to all of you to make a commitment for the new year to adopt a system that allows your people to shine in 2017.

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Leading a resilient nation for future generations

Last week, I attended an event led by Cardiff Business School which explored how procurement can be used as a tool to tackle poverty. With a background in equalities, I have been promoting this kind of approach for a while as a way to increase social value by ensuring public funds are used as a lever for change so it was exciting to have a whole day talking about how we might do that.

One of the main topics of discussion in Wales right now is the Well-being of Future Generations Act which came into force earlier this year. The Act legislates for sustainable development and sets out seven well-being goals that public bodies have to work towards.

During the day, we discussed the goal for A Resilient Wales and how we might achieve this nationally. The discussion was informed by a presentation on resilience in manufacturing and covered resilience in its broadest sense.  As we explored the challenges, it became obvious to me that there is a fundamental requirement for strong leadership which facilitates the development of resilience in organisations, communities and individuals.

Firstly, to achieve resilience, leaders have to mark it out as a priority. We can all continue delivering in a way that is unsustainable, providing services for the here and now without protecting our resources (human and financial) to continue into the future. Or, we can take a moment to think about what we’re doing and whether we are doing it in the best way, not just for now but for the long term. In order to make this happen, we need our leaders to take a stand and consider how we can stop doing more for less and instead focus on ensuring we can stand up to the pressures of reduced budgets and increased expectations to ensure we maintain economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being.

Once we have committed to achieving resilience, I would argue that the first step in reaching the goal, is building resilience amongst our people. Delivering national well-being requires energy and commitment from our officers in the public service. Richard Branson was in the news not long ago for saying that the customer comes second and staff come first. His rationale being that if you look after your employees, they will look after the customer. This kind of philosophy is one that I believe is in keeping with the objectives of well-being and sustainable development in Wales. If we are thinking about the long term and the impact on future generations, then surely what we need to do is consider the way we are working and address that for the long term so that the people who will deliver national well-being have the energy, passion and drive to do so.

 

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Mastering motivation

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and found myself engaged in a debate around what motivates people at work.

The colleague I was talking to was from a large public sector organisation and seemed to be a Theory X thinker, assuming that people would rather be anywhere than in the office and only go to work for money.

My perspective is that whilst people ultimately work because they have bills to pay (who wouldn’t prefer to be on the beach or in the garden), once that basic need is met, money ceases to be the main motivator. In this sense, Theory Y is where I sit as I assume that people want to work and manage my people with this in mind.

Most of my thinking has developed from a concept set out in Daniel Pink’s book called ‘Drive’. This book is so recent that it was not covered in a recent management course I attended. We were told in the session that ‘there hasn’t really been any theory developed on motivation since Maslow’.

But some of us know different.

Pink starts off with an argument that book that generations coming through today are not motivated by money. He believes that the model of performance related pay where people are set targets which are rewarded with bonuses is out of date and actually those joining the workplace over the last couple of decades are driven more by values than money. With this in mind, according to Pink, the first thing employers have to get right is to ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.

Once the basic financial need has been met, we can move away from Maslow’s basic needs of food and shelter and move towards the top of the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualisation.

So to bring it back to Pink’s ideas, achieving motivation requires leaders to allow our employees to achieve the following three things:

Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

Basically, to motivate people we need to trust them to do things their own way, setting the direction and letting them get on with it. This is AUTONOMY.

We need to give them the space and support them where necessary, allowing them to get really good at what they do. This means that they are able to learn and improve until they achieve MASTERY.

And we need to be clear about why they are doing what we have asked them to do so that they know what they are doing is for a good reason. This means they understand their PURPOSE.

Applying this to the way my team works completely changed my focus and delivered some fantastic results. Of course it didn’t mean I left them on their own completely, it just changed the way we worked together. Instead of telling people what to do and how to do it, this approach requires leaders to set the direction and support individuals to achieve. It requires managers to ask more questions and find out where you can add expertise to improve the outcome. What you will find is that the team checks in with you more because they want to get things right. It’s definitely worth adopting because the rewards of empowering people are immense.

Go on try it! I dare you…

If you want to hear it from the man himself, check out this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

Or you can buy the book here:

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