There is so much that developing a positive attitude can contribute to your business. TIM SHARP
By Tim Sharp
Has your company experienced significant growth in recent years? Do you want your business to grow in the coming years? If so, there’s much that you might want to consider from the science of positive psychology.
Just yesterday, I facilitated a strategic planning day for a medium-sized organisation that’s undergone, and continues to undergo, rapid growth. This business has experienced 40% year-on-year growth for the last four to five years; staff numbers have almost tripled; and it has expanded from one state in Australia to now having a presence in four states and one territory.
My preparatory discussions with the two directors before yesterday revealed that the ride had been an exciting but also a very challenging one. The future similarly looked very exciting, with even more opportunities for growth, but also just as challenging, with several large contracts up for renewal and a business more than stretched to its limits.
It was, as you can imagine, a thoroughly fascinating day with many issues on the agenda and many opinions (from the 22-strong management team) strongly expressed.
The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I was brought in not just for my facilitation skills but more specifically because the two directors, who’d previously heard me speak at a large industry conference, were very keen to explore ways in which they could integrate the principles of positive psychology into their organisation – first, to help them continue to grow positively but also to help them prepare for the future, which would definitely involve change, but might either be more rapid growth or possibly shrinkage if existing business was not renewed.
Either way, they recognised the need for boosting resilience within their enthusiastic, but relatively young and inexperienced team.
Now I don’t want to bore you with all the details of the numerous discussions and debates we had, but I did think that many of you might also be facing challenging times and building on some of the ideas I wrote about in a previous column (on coping positively with change) I thought I’d briefly outline some of the key issues identified as being crucial for keeping their train on track.
First, there was no doubt that the way their organisation had evolved, organically and mostly reactively, was not necessarily ideal. In short, there was general agreement that for them to function at their best, and to position themselves to handle whatever the future held, they’d need to develop a much clearer organisational structure.
Second, and as noted above, despite staff numbers increasing significantly several areas of the business were still significantly under-resourced. Accordingly, many people were simply facing unrealistic demands.
Although they were coping, there was evidence some were beginning to fray at the edges and it became clear that if this business was going to cope with the future they needed to ensure the health and wellbeing of their key people.
Third, despite the future being uncertain it was clear that there would be more change ahead. As a result, everyone was determined to explore ways to build more optimism and resilience into their systems to ensure not just that the managers were able to cope (which was relatively easy because most of these people were naturally good at coping) but more so, that each and every one of their employees felt confident that whatever happened they’d manage effectively and hopefully even flourish.
Fourth, one of the strengths of this business, and one of the reasons it had been so successful, was the fact it offered multiple services to the same clients. It differed from many of its competitors in that it was a “one stop shop” for a range of related services.
Despite internal awareness of the benefits of this, the extent to which synergies were explored or different units collaborated was far from ideal. It became apparent, therefore, that there were significant opportunities to increase performance and to grow the business simply by collaborating and communicating more effectively within and across the organisation.
And finally, when I introduced the concept of becoming more aware of and more fully utilising individuals’ core strengths there was much excitement and enthusiasm. Every single person in the room was energised by the thought that they could contribute even more and even more effectively if they approached many of their tasks as an opportunity to apply their strengths; there was also much discussion about how this would improve team work.
So although everyone reading this is probably keen to grow their business or team, and although everyone reading this would probably love to double or triple their business over the next few years, there are, as I saw yesterday, challenges that come with this form of success.
At the same time, however, there is much that people leading these organisations can learn from the science of positive psychology and I’ve no doubt that if the team I worked with yesterday (and will continue to work with in coming months) go away and implement the strategies we discussed they’ll not just survive the period ahead but thrive and succeed.
Dr. Sharp’s latest book (published August 2008) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at www.drhappy.com.au and www.thehappinessinstitute.com. You can also ask him questions using the Comments panel below.
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Merja Lehtinen writes: Great article! With all the issues facing our economy and country, the key thing we all need to do now is become positive change agents… like the old fashioned Marble Collegiate church membership from NYC who coined the power of the positive thinking for everyman and woman and made it a common phrase as well as movement. I have been reviewing all the disgruntled blog sites out there claiming the demise of the newspaper industry, for example, and I just do not buy into that. People love newspapers because they are disposable. Although the internet is global; news and human interest is still largely local and the after use of a paper is so diverse. And with positive news (as well as honest straightforward hard news about bad news as well as how to take a positive approach to the bad news, that is solutions such as the incoming hurricane Gustav)… we could turn entire industries around.