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Positive Psychology at work: a performance vector!

Increase team performance by acting on their level of well-being? Yes it's possible ! And here we will see how to act on this causal link in a positive way, both at the individual and the organizational level.

Let's start with a bit of contextualization. There is what is known as the virtuous circle of performance: more well-being leads to increased employee engagement, which in turn leads to increased performance. "Well-being" and "enterprise", often perceived as antagonistic, are actually two inseparable notions to perform. So how to operate this performance lever? A key: to rely on Positive Psychology.

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Theorized in 1998 by Martin Seligman[1], Positive Psychology "represents the study of processes and conditions leading to the optimal functioning of individuals, groups and organizations". Beware, positive psychology is not positivism. It is not a question of denying the negative, but of reinforcing the positive!

A company that focuses on the weaknesses of employees, that is to say, that puts its energy to overcome its shortcomings, decreases its performance by 27%. On the other hand, a company that focuses on the strengths of employees, that is to say, who puts his energy to grow and potentiate the talents of employees increases its performance by 36%.[2]

I. Reverse the recipe for success

The recipe for success most commonly followed is this: "If I work hard then I will do better. And if I succeed better, then finally I'll be happy! This motivational formula stems from our modes of education, management and our belief system. However, this formula is scientifically invalid. Indeed, every time our brain is successful, it seeks to accomplish more and to go even further. Thus, if we rely on the motivation recipe above, the brain will never reach the level of happiness it has set itself.

In fact, scientific research shows that our brain works the opposite of this formula. It is when we increase our internal level of positivity that our brain feels what Shawn Achor[3] has called a happiness advantage. An advantage of happiness allows the brain to be 31% more productive, efficient, creative, dynamic, resilient and motivated than in negative mode.[4] It should therefore work according to the following recipe: "If I am happy, then I would be more productive, faster and more motivated. And if I'm more productive, faster and more motivated, then I'll do better. "

II. The benefits of the positive mode

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Well-being leads to commitment that drives performance. The central question is therefore how to increase one's level of personal well-being and favor that of one's employees.[5][6]

III. Cultivate our own personal experience in a positive way

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Cultivating our personal experience ultimately represents the bulk of the work. If I change, the system will change by itself!

It is true that we are not all born with the same happiness set-point. Indeed, our perception of positive emotions is hereditary at 50%. Against all odds, only 10% depends on the external circumstances of life. So winning the lottery, having a baby, losing a loved one, becoming tetraplegic, etc., all these events of life do not change very much our level of happiness in the long term. The good news is that there is 40% left which only depends of the way we act!

"No event in itself your life has ever made you happy or unhappy. It's the event in comparison to how you want life to be that makes you happy or unhappy."[7]

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Carol Dweck, psychologist and professor at Stanford, has dedicated all her research work to understanding the mechanisms of success and failure. Thus, she discovered that there are two different mindset: the fixed mindset which corresponds to the belief that one has a fixed quantity of intelligence, talents and capacities, and the growth mindset that corresponds to the belief that one can develop one's intelligence, talents and abilities over time. By adopting this second vision, failure becomes an opportunity for development and our ability to succeed is doubled.[8]

Shawn Achor sums it up as follows: "It's not the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality"[9]

IV. Positive management: From individual motivation to collective mobilization

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Several ingredients can be used as a positive motivator to enable a change of mindset at the organizational level. As we know today, well-being is inseparable from management.

A study showed that empathy was a key factor in positive leadership and team performance in organizations.[10] Empathy is defined as the ability of people to understand the feelings of others.[11]The expression of empathy within a team or with managers significantly improves relationships and generates trust and cooperation.[12] More generally, the expression of feelings and emotions in business is a vector of performance. Daniel Goleman, a famous American psychologist, states that "emotional intelligence accounts for 80% of success in life". Psychologists [13] have shown that the use and regulation of emotions facilitates cognition. In other words, using your emotions and being able to name what you live makes you learn faster, and the team becomes more cooperative.

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Another ingredient of Positive Psychology that organizations should cultivate is: using the room for error as a tool for improvement and performance. The error first of all makes it possible to find what one did not seek and thus to innovate[14]. The room for error reduces the stress of employees, promotes risk taking, and benefits well-being. If this engineer from Canon had not accidentally put his hot iron on his ink pen, he would not have understood the principle that led to the invention of the inkjet printer. If the Tatin sisters had not clumsily toppled their apple pie, the delicious tarte tatin would not have seen the light of day. More and more companies are using the room for error as a lever for innovation and well-being. This is particularly the case of Facebook and Blablacar who decided to integrate and display the room for error among the values ​​of their company. At Intuit we even went so far as to introduce "Failure parties"[15], and Brogan & Partners[16] celebrate failures by awarding the "Error of the Month" award.

Establish the culture of feedback comes out from the room for error. Feedback promotes commitment, employee satisfaction and therefore improves performance. Knowing how to give and receive feedback is not easy. This is based on nonviolent and positive communication. According to an Officevibe study, 43% of committed employees receive feedback at least once a week; the regular use of feedback within an organization reduces the turnover rate by 14.9%; and 78% of employees indicate that being recognized in their work is a motivator.[17]

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille

Finally, in order to promote a positive corporate culture, the organization must allow each person to lean on their individual strengths with the aim of enabling the team to perform. The use of forces is recognized as one of the top three drivers of engagement. A person who uses his forces on a daily basis is six times more likely to be engaged and fulfilled in his work. Teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5% more productive than others.[18]

In conclusion, remember this formula - not magic but super effective! -:

"Happy employees are more engaged in their work, and everyone's commitment builds overall performance"

Psychologie Positive Grenoble Camille Lamouille
- Camille Lamouille -

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[1]Martin Seligman, Ted Conference, « The new era of positive psychology », 2004

[2]Corporate Leadership Council, 2002; n = 19,187

[3] Happiness reasearcher in Harvard, Positive Psychology

[4]Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage : The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, 2010

[5]Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, 2010

[6]Hom, H., & Arbuckle, B., Mood induction effects upon goal setting and performance in

young children, Motivation and Emotion, 1998, 12, 113-122.

Et Estrada, Isen and Young, Happiness and Intelligence, 1997

[7]Mo Gawdat, “L’équation du Bonheur”, interview pour Brut, 2018

[8]Mind Parachutes, « Psychologie positive : changer d’état d’esprit de Carol Dweck »,

[9]Ted Conférence de Shawn Achor « The happy secret to better work », 2011,

[10]Menegazzo and al., « Positive Institutions and their relationship with transformational leadership, empathy and team performance », Multidisciplinary journal for education, social and technological sciences, Vol 2, n°2, 2015

[11]Huy, 1999

[12]George and Lewis, 2000

[13]Peter Salovey et John D. Mayer

[14]Innovation managériale, « Ces entreprises qui accordent et valorisent le droit à l’erreur », Francis Boyer

[15]Innovation Managériale, « Quand la défaite se fête – Intuit », Francis Boyer

[16]Inc., « The mistake of the month award », Jennifer Gill, 2005

[17]Officevibe, Jeff Fermin, « Statistics on the importance of employee feedback », 2014

[18]Gallup Strenghs Center


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