How to Use Positive Psychology to Be a Better Leader

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Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, November 26, 2020

If you're looking for a new approach to management that could help you become a better leader, positive psychology could be the answer.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Use Positive Psychology to Be a Better Leader

The best managers are always looking for ways to improve so they can deliver better results for their organization and the people under their leadership.

Constantly developing and expanding your management capabilities can also help you gain more satisfaction and fulfillment from your work, so you can maintain a positive attitude and set the right example for the workforce.

If you're looking for a new way to approach your development as a leader, one concept that could be of interest is positive psychology.

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is "the scientific study of what makes life worth living".

It's about taking a positive, constructive approach to the examination of human thoughts, emotions and behavior. Rather than focusing on people's weaknesses or struggles and how to resolve them, positive psychology emphasizes individuals' strengths and how to maximize them.

Key topics and principles in this field include:

  • Character strengths
  • Optimism
  • Life satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Gratitude
  • Compassion
  • Self-esteem
  • Confidence

So how can positive psychology help you be a better leader?

Recognize people's achievements

One of the most dangerous traps managers can fall into - particularly during performance reviews and appraisals - is focusing on the negatives. Becoming preoccupied with areas where workers have fallen below the required standard can make people feel disheartened and under attack, which could prove fatal for working relationships.

Since positive psychology is all about building on people's strengths, it provides the ideal framework to approach staff assessment.

You can achieve great results by ensuring that every evaluation or appraisal places a big emphasis on the individual's positive attributes and achievements. If an employee's performance is deteriorating, talking about how you can help them learn and develop may prove more constructive than passing judgment, criticizing or threatening disciplinary action.

Show gratitude

Gratitude is a key concept within positive psychology. In fact, it's the basis of one of the most common positive psychology interventions - a range of tools and strategies that focus on "increasing happiness, wellbeing, and positive cognitions and emotions".

The simple act of showing appreciation for someone and all the hard work they do can unlock a powerful emotional reaction in both parties.

In business and the world of work, a lot of weight is given to financial rewards and benefits, but the power of a simple 'thank you' shouldn’t be underestimated. Managers who make the effort to thank employees for their hard work - ideally in person, rather than in a faceless email or a company update - are likely to see stronger loyalty and engagement in the workforce.

There's a strong argument to be made that showing gratitude is one of the most important things you can do to become a better leader.

Provide positive experiences

You'll struggle to get the best out of your people if they have negative associations with their work and view their job as nothing but a source of stress and anxiety.

It's important, therefore, to think about how you can relieve the pressure on your workforce and reward them for their commitment by delivering some fulfilling experiences. This could be anything from team activity days to opportunities to do some volunteer work or give something back to their local community.

Engage with your employees to get an idea of how they're feeling and what the company can do to make their experience at work a more positive one.

Focus on growth

Positive psychology advocates looking forward and striving to build on the features and characteristics you already have to make them even stronger. This can be an extremely beneficial way to look at business, particularly for firms that are currently targeting expansion and have grand plans for the future.

If, as a leader, you're able to show your employees that you're firmly focused on growth and pushing the business forward to achieve bigger and better things, you'll nurture more confidence and positivity in the workforce.

This is also relevant from the perspective of career development - a key factor in employee engagement and productivity. Demonstrate to your employees that you're dedicated to supporting their learning and professional growth - the results could prove just as beneficial to the business as to the individual.

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