Does Positivity = Productivity?

Does Positivity = Productivity?

by elainesuess

As equations go, I’m generally in favor of them. I was an English Writing major in college with a minor in business, so equations usually showed themselves only in my statistics class, and came up again as I earned my MBA.

But really an equation can be:

  • The process of equating one thing with another
  • Defined as a situation or problem in which several factors must be taken into account.

This sounds a little bit like life then, doesn’t it?

Equality for Equations

I’m onto the equation discussion here because I’ve recently been researching a different kind of equation (as defined above) – one that takes positivity and negativity into consideration, and how the relationship between the two affects our lives – at work and at home!

It turns out that Marcial Losada spent a lot of time studying team performance. He looked at interaction patterns between team members, and noted that when teams were highly connected and successful they held a positivity/negativity ratio above 2.9:1, which is ideal.

Performance was defined in his studies by three criteria: profitability, customer satisfaction and 360-degree evaluations.

Positivity vs. Negativity and High Performance Teams

Not too hip on the term positivity, versus standard business measures like productivity and efficiency?

If you’re on a team, managing a team or managing managers managing teams (got that?), I think you will be interested in positivity as it applies to our work lives, and in what Losada found.  His studies found that if you want sustainable high performing business teams, they’ll generally have:

  • High levels of connectivity
  • A Positivity/Negativity ratio of at least 6:1
  • A balance between internal and external orientation
  • A balance between inquiry and advocacy

Like I tell my mentee – Knowledge is Power, and like my doctor tells me – if you know you’re allergic to ice cream, you can limit your hot fudge sundae intake.

What’s great about these findings is that if we know about it, we can do something about it.  If we want high performing teams we can take action!

Positive Outcomes For Individuals

Still, what does this mean for you and me as individuals? Well, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson took a cue from Losada, and has done some studies of her own. Rather than focusing on teams, she focused on individuals, and wanted to find out what makes people flourish. Among other things, what she found is that:

• Positive emotions open our minds for creativity and innovation
• People are more intelligent under conditions of positive emotions
• As we cultivate positive emotions, negative emotions are actually undone

Not to mention the fact that our positive to negative ratio also affects our health and wellbeing!

What’s the Big Idea(l)?

Dr. Frederickson found that the ideal ratio for individuals is 3:1 positive to negative, but nearly 80% of Americans fall short of the ideal.  This might sound familiar to you – Marcus Buckingham found that most people do not use their strengths on a regular basis!

Neither Losada nor Fredrickson found that we must live our lives without any negativity, but certainly, anger is different than contempt and our bodies and behavior react to these feelings and input. There will be negativity. Positivity overcomes and overwhelms it.

Knowledge Is Power

If you’d like to take Dr. Fredrickson’s 2-minute self-assessment to discover your positivity ratio, you’ll find it online here. You may wish to do take this assessment repeatedly, over a period of time.

You might already have an idea of how positive or negative your daily life is, and how it contributes to your work and your life. If you don’t; you can do that math, and do something about it. I’m happy to help if you need a calculator!

Have you ever thought about positivity as an
indicator of business success?

Please share your thoughts here.

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