Say the words “positive psychology” in a group situation and it’s likely to garner mixed reactions. The words, first coined in the 1980s, were the foundation of the “new age”, self-help movement and as such has accrued its fair share of cynicism. Historically, up until the 1980s, psychology was mostly concerned with curing illness. So, it was a revolutionary time in the field of psychology, a time where it shifted it’s focus towards the pursuit of fulfilment and happiness and the movement has exploded ever since.
How can we apply some of the findings of what makes people fulfilled to the workplace? How can we, as leaders use the underlying principles to drive deeper engagement and ignite passion in our staff? The founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman identifies 3 paths to a happy life;
- The Pleasant Life – Loaded with opulence and indulgence, this path is about having as many pleasures as possible, and having the skills to maximise your attainment of these pleasures.
- The Good Life – By embracing your strengths and living through your values, you craft all aspects of your home and work life to have more flow in life.
- The Meaningful Life – The ultimate path for happiness, this life is about identifying and using your strengths to achieve something bigger than you, for a greater purpose.
There are two central concepts here, that leadership should be focussed on identifying and harnessing our strengths, and that we need to connect to a higher meaning to feel fulfilled in our lives. As leaders, we need to facilitate a ‘meaningful life’ for our staff.
Let’s explore this concept of connecting to a higher meaning, and how we can make it possible in the workplace.
Achieving a meaningful workplace
‘Working towards something bigger than one’s self’ is how meaning is described by Seligman. It’s important for the leaders of an organisation to ask the question “how can we get staff to connect with the meaning of the organisation, of our higher purpose?”. A charity organisation should regularly communicate the personal stories of the people they are helping.
An insurance company can make and show films of the people affected by floods or bushfires and how the company allowed them to rebuild their family homes and get back on their feet. A bank can also show a personal story of how their loan allowed a family to buy the house of their dreams. Perhaps a company that supports a charity can allow staff to go and personally be involved in helping the charity and meet the people they are helping.
These are just some powerful example of connecting ourselves and our staff with a higher purpose. We can easily get bogged down in the day-to-day challenges of our jobs, so regularly being reminded of how we contribute to the higher meaning of the business overall, helps keep all of us feeling fulfilled and that we are doing something that aligns us with our core values and lets us see how our work is contributing to something bigger than us.
Start the conversation to find out what is meaningful for your staff
It’s important to keep the ‘big picture’ alive and well in your team. Another important question to ask, either in a group situation or one-on-one, is “When was the moment you thought to yourself “that’s why I love my job”, what was the moment that made you really satisfied with your contribution?”. This will help you to identify the core values of your staff, and help them to confirm their purpose to themselves. Together you are work towards establishing more meaningful roles and tasks using the values most aligned with them as goalposts.
As well as connecting to a higher purpose of the organisation, meaning can be achieved in the work an individual does whereby they receive recognition for their personal contribution, they are able to work to their strengths and of course be the best version of themselves in the workplace. Historically we tended to focus on weaknesses in the workplace and how our staff could work to correct and improve these. But good leaders today, know the importance of identifying and harnessing the individual strengths of our staff to let them live a life of fulfilment, doing what they do best.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.