Leadership Positivity: Yes, but…Productivity and Profits?

I read a study of CEOs that showed that positivity training could boost their productivity by 15 percent, and managers improved customer satisfaction by 42 percent. Positivity training programs have shown good results with tax auditors, investment bankers, and lawyers… and these are people who deal with a lot of negative emotions.

Briefly, here’s what these groups of people are taught in order to reduce stress and to raise their levels of happiness and success:

  1. How to develop a positive mindset
  2. How to build up their social support networks
  3. How to buffer themselves against negativity

Yet despite the amazing results in positive training programs, these incredible findings are almost unknown. Maybe there’s a stigma attached to positive thinking and happiness in business.

What good are positive emotions in business?

  1. Better decisions: Researchers at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business studied how positive moods affect managers. Managers with greater positivity were more accurate and careful in making decisions, and were more effective interpersonally.
  2. Better team work: Managers with high positive emotions infect their work groups with similar feelings, and show improved team coordination while reporting less effort to accomplish more.
  3. Better negotiating: At the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a team of researchers learned that when people negotiate complex bargains, positivity again surfaces as a contributing factor for success.

Negotiators who strategically display positivity are more likely to gain concessions, close deals and incorporate future business relationships into the contracts they seal. Those who come to the bargaining table with a cooperative and friendly spirit, showing positive emotions, strike the best business deals.

These and other results are reported in the book Positivity by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.

Paying attention to positivity in the workplace isn’t common, at least not in my experience as an executive coach. Positivity training programs don’t seem serious enough for business allocations. What comes to mind? That silly smiley face and the song “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Maybe most of us think we’re already pretty positive. We are: most people score around a 2 to 1 positive to negative ratio. But it’s rare to find people who have a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts. And that is the tipping point between average and flourishing.

Here’s an interesting way to evaluate your own positivity/negativity ratio: www.positivityratio.com. You might be surprised at your results!

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