Building a Positive Team

Helping Your People be Happy and Engaged

Positive teams accomplish far more than teams with low morale.

© iStockphoto/digitalskillet

Have you ever been part of a highly-motivated, high-morale team?

If you have, chances are that most days you were happy coming in to work. You had fun collaborating with your colleagues, and, together, you were able to come up with some great ideas. Because of your focus and enthusiasm, you probably did some of your best work with this group.

Teams that are highly motivated and positive are not only fun to be part of, but they also accomplish far more than teams that are struggling with morale.

This is why it's so important that, as a leader, you strive to build a positive team. In this article, we'll show you how!

The Benefits of a Positive Team

Research shows that positivity can make a real difference to people's success and well-being.

In one study, researchers found that happy individuals are then more successful in many areas of their lives, especially in their careers, compared with individuals who struggle with happiness and positive thinking.

Other studies show how much of an impact positivity has on people's ability to think creatively, progress their careers, cope with challenges, and work with other people. Positivity is an essential ingredient for success!

Positivity also brings longer-term benefits. Barbara Fredrickson, professor and social psychologist, created the Broaden and Build Theory   to explain how positive emotions can broaden our behaviors over time. According to Fredrickson, the more positive emotions we experience, the likelier we are to exhibit other positive behaviors, such as curiosity, awareness, discovery, and creativity – all essential for successful innovation. In short, the happier we are, the more creative we are, and this is true for individuals as well as for groups.

Becoming a Positive Leader

Teams often become more positive because they have a positive leader. This is why focusing on your own happiness, well-being, and emotional intelligence is the first step in creating a great team.

Martin Seligman, a leading positive psychologist, developed the PERMA Model   to highlight the five essential elements that you need in order to be happy. PERMA is an acronym that stands for:

  1. Positive emotion.
  2. Engagement.
  3. Positive Relationships.
  4. Meaning.
  5. Accomplishment/achievement.

Start by thinking about how you can increase each of these elements in your life. Spend some time reading our article   on PERMA and then take action – the more of these things you can bring to your life, the happier you'll be!

Next, stop and think about the work that you do. Do you know what your strengths are? And how often do you get to use these strengths?

Our work is most satisfying when we can use our unique abilities in a way that makes a real difference to someone else, or to our organization. First, conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis   to discover your strengths. Then, use the MPS Process   (MPS stands for Meaning, Pleasure, and Strengths) to see how you can use your strengths to bring more meaning and pleasure to your career.

Last, work on your emotional intelligence  . Emotional intelligence is a vital leadership skill, because it gives you an awareness of your own emotions, as well as for the feelings and the needs of others.

Emotionally intelligent leaders understand what their emotions are telling them, and, because of their inner strength and awareness, they don't take out their own negative emotions on their people. This is definitely a skill that you should cultivate if you want to lead a positive team!

Removing Obstacles to Positivity

Before you can encourage positivity in your team, you need to remove any obstacles to it. By doing this, you can ensure that your team won't start getting motivated and then run into a series of roadblocks; this start-and-stop progress is dispiriting, and it can quickly undermine your team's sense of motivation.

Herzberg's Motivator and Hygiene Factor Theory   gives you a great starting point for working on motivation. Psychologist Fredrick Herzberg discovered that employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposites. For your team members to be satisfied in their jobs, you must first remove the causes of dissatisfaction, and then add factors that contribute to satisfaction. Both of these steps need to take place for your team members to feel truly happy in their work!

For example, are there policies in your organization that could be causing dissatisfaction for your team members? Is each person's salary competitive? Would your team members be happier if you provided cross-training opportunities, or flextime? These are just a few of the elements that could contribute to your team members' satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

The office itself is something that has the potential to destroy motivation and positivity. So, take steps to create a healthy workplace   for your team. Look at the work environment; it should be comfortable, well-lit, clean, and safe. Other elements, such as life balance, employee recognition, and involvement, also play a big part in your team members' happiness (or lack thereof).

Praise   your team members for the good work that they do, and ensure that everyone has a healthy balance of work and time off.

Managing Positively

Once you've removed obstacles that could slow your team's progress, it's time to start managing your team in a positive way. There are many ways to do this.

  • Teams that fully understand the purpose of what they do are usually more engaged than teams without this focus. This is why it's important to create mission and vision statements   for your people. These statements are inspiring messages that express the deeper purpose of the work that you are doing.
  • Create a team charter   to define each person's role, the group's projected outcome, and your own expectations. Team charters are useful for a happy team, because they provide focus and direction. After all, when your team members know what they're doing (and why), they can all move forward together, instead of pulling in different directions.
  • Next, look at the objectives that you've set for your team. Make sure that your team members' goals align with those of the organization by using Management by Objectives  . Without this framework in place, your team members might feel unmotivated, simply because they're not sure what they should be doing, or because they don't understand how their role benefits the organization.
  • Keep in mind that you play an enormous part in how your people feel day-to-day, as well as in their long-term success. Look at how you're communicating with them, and how you're helping them develop on an individual level.
  • Keep your team informed about what's happening in the organization, as well as within the team; the more open and transparent you are, the easier it will be to build trust   and create good relationships. Schedule regular meetings to discuss important updates or changes. This also gives your team members a chance to voice any concerns or issues that they're having with their work.
  • Research shows that autonomy plays a significant role in how satisfied people are in their jobs, so do what you can to give more power to everyone on your team. This might mean delegating important tasks, or simply stepping back and letting people choose how they're going to complete a project. An added benefit of encouraging autonomy is that people's work often improves when they have the power to choose when and how they complete it.
  • Your team members can't be positive and focused if they don't have the resources they need to do their jobs. So, are you supporting your people   as effectively as you could be? The only way to know for sure is to ask them.

    Find out what their biggest frustrations are at work, and discuss how you could eliminate them. Are the processes and procedures that they use working well? Do they have any trouble finding key information? By practicing Management by Walking Around   on a regular basis, you can connect and communicate well with your team, and, by doing this, you can understand what's really going on.

Reinforcing Positivity

Positivity is a habit, and the only way that you'll cultivate long-term positivity with your team is to reinforce it daily. This takes focus and self-discipline, but the benefits can be huge!

  • First, make an effort to build confidence in your team  . Giving autonomy helps you get started with this, but you can also build confidence by celebrating the successes that your team members achieve. Another way to help your team is to encourage training and development opportunities, so that your people can build additional skills and knowledge.
  • As you've likely experienced in the past, one person's bad attitude can affect the entire group. If you have a team member who consistently thinks negatively, then you need to take action before he or she drags the group down.

    The Betari Box   is a useful tool for explaining how someone's attitude and behavior can affect the people around them. Meet with your negative team member one-on-one, and use this tool to explain how his or her attitude is affecting the group. Approach the situation with sensitivity and respect; this person might be experiencing problems at home, or may have deeper issues that might be contributing to his or her negative attitude.

    Next, try to understand the problem. Is this person unhappy in his or her role? And what could you do to help him or her turn things around?

  • Also, coach your people to use affirmations   to be more positive. Affirmations are positive statements that help you overcome negative thinking. They're great for helping your team members overcome self-sabotaging   thoughts and behaviors.

Key Points

While there are countless benefits of building a positive team, one of the most significant is that people are most creative and productive when they're part of a happy, healthy group.

Positive teams are led by positive leaders, so start with yourself. Next, remove the obstacles that could have a negative influence on your team's positivity.

Manage positively by creating a mission and vision statement so that your team members know why they're there. Then, reinforce long-term positivity by building self-confidence and using affirmations.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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