The American Psychologist and Author, Martin Seligman, is a strong promoter of positive psychology and well-being. His five-part recommendation for increased happiness and life satisfaction consists of:
- Positive Emotion
This prescription (remembered with the acronym ‘PERMA’) works to make happy and successful individuals; it can work just as well to make happy and successful companies.
The first step to having positive emotions in our companies is to eliminate the negative emotions (pessimism, anger, annoyance, frustration, etc.) at our companies. This often means either changing or parting ways with the cynic, the pessimist, the Debbie and Donald downers in our companies. Without the negative people, we can focus on reducing everyone’s negative emotions by focusing our teams on taking the initiative to make things better. As leaders, we then need to lead by example by emphasizing (through our actions and interactions) such positive emotions as support for one another, enthusiasm, laughter, fun, and good humor, all of which are critical to having a happy and productive workplace.
Our companies cannot be all happy, kumbaya, TV sitcom places of business where nobody seems to do any work. In good companies, good work gets done. The best work gets done when employees and the team are focused, absorbed, and engaged on tasks that are critically important to the business and that these individuals do well. This comes about by having our people working at their highest and best use. This means streamlining process to minimize low-value added and monotonous processes and creating a workplace culture that minimizes unnecessary distractions and disruptions. When people are engaged and working without needless disruptions, productive work gets done well in less time.
Positive, constructive relationships are critical to individual and company’s success and happiness. Survey after survey has shown a direct correlation between having friends at work (even if just work friends) and employee satisfaction and productivity. We spend 35% of our awake lives at work. As such, our people and our team’s anxiety and stress is reduced significantly if we are spending this time with people we like and get along with.
The philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, is quoted as saying: “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.” To weather the daily, weekly, yearly challenges and difficulties in business, all companies need a purpose (a ‘why’) that is more than just to make money. This meaning can be about serving the customer, making the world a better place through the company’s products or innovations, or providing for the company’s employees to enable their families to have better lives. In any event, this meaning, this purpose, this why, helps employees get up every morning and come to work ready to do what is needed to make the company successful and to realize their own and the company’s purpose.
A good and happy company also needs to achieve consistently. This means being profitable, proving good customer service, and accomplishing the company’s goals. As we see in sports, failing teams are rarely happy teams. Achievement is fundamental to individual and company happiness because it gives us pride and self-esteem when we accomplish something and are part of a larger, successful, long-lasting entity.
Martin Seligman’s prescription for a happy, successful, and flourishing life – Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement – is valuable for all of us to keep in mind as we strive to make our companies happier and more successful.