By Roxanne Pals, Founder, 3 Consulting
As we implement changes in the workplace – whether it’s to improve business performance or respond to changing conditions (or both!) – we often see the impact on people. Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman has been a defining book in my work to help leaders engage and retain people through these periods of disruption. Here are my top takeaways and how I’ve used them to hone my unique approach to creating a culture that allows people to flourish at work.
Takeaway 1: Focusing on flourishing is essential to our existence.
As the founder of positive psychology, Seligman focuses on what can be done to improve overall well-being, rather than the traditional view of psychology as treating what is wrong or needs to be fixed. His work initially centered on happiness and how to foster it. This book acknowledges that happiness is only one component of what people need to flourish and that flourishing leads to a more fulfilling life.
Takeaway 2: Flourishing happens when several elements come together.
The book identifies five key elements of well-being captured in the acronym PERMA:
- Positive emotion moves beyond happiness and is about being aware of the feeling of joy in the moment.
- Engagement is looking back and seeing that you were in the flow of a task and lost track of time and space.
- Relationships are important, especially making sure you have more positive than negative ones.
- Meaning is a sense of having a higher purpose for your existence, that you are serving something bigger than yourself.
- Accomplishment means doing things for the sense of completing them.
Each element adds up to flourishing. Seligman uses the analogy of weather to explain how this happens. Several components – temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind, etc. – make up what we experience as weather. In the same way, each component of well-being adds up to what we experience as flourishing.
Takeaway 3: We can measure the elements of well-being.
Each of the five elements of well-being are things we may already know are important, but Seligman puts research and data behind each one. His book explains how each component can be measured independently. Being able to measure each component allows us to see where we can improve conditions to create a culture for flourishing within our environments.
He offers a few tools for getting started on his website.
How I apply it
Seligman’s book has been transformational in understanding well-being theory and how flourishing can happen within ourselves. Using my own experiences in working with leaders, I developed the 9 Core Elements of Flourishing, that takes a look at what needs to be in place at individual, team, and organizational levels to create a culture of collective flourishing. Focusing on the individual level is a critical first step. When leaders flourish, they can inspire flourishing for others.
We see how disruptive change causes people to become stressed and burned out, leading to negative interactions and a toxic environment. Intentionally identifying and measuring the elements that allow people to weather these disruptions can shift your company’s culture to a place where people have remarkable resilience and engage in their work at high levels.
As we think about the disruptions caused by the pandemic and the ways in which our world and how we do work are changing, this intentional focus on flourishing is needed more than ever.
Let us help!
Often times, we hear that the focus on well-being can be surface level, when businesses needed to address deeper issues of productivity or sales. But we believe well-being is the deeper-level work that needs to happen in order to get at those results. We help companies measure each of the elements for flourishing and then put intentional strategies in place to shift the culture. These shifts ultimately lead to increased retention, engagement, and success.