Happiness – harnessing the power of being positive

2020 saw most businesses experiencing unprecedented change – few would argue that – and often fighting for survival. As we progress through 2021, with a route map out of the pandemic and the promise of the ever-elusive ‘New Normal’, it’s clear that the resilience of your workforce is, and will be critical. But let’s look beyond resilience and towards happiness.

Why does it matter if your people are happy? Because attitude directly impacts performance. An article in the Harvard Business Review cites a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, showing strong evidence that life satisfaction affects business outcomes. Put another way, a workforce with a positive mindset and attitude (happiness!) performs better.

But how to attempt to address the attitudes of your people? Training and development activities are often focused directly on building knowledge and skills, but attitudes are deeper, more established. How to influence attitude in a positive direction? This is where Shirzad Chamine’s concept of Positive Intelligence offers a practical approach.

Positive Intelligence

Be honest, how often do you listen to that little voice in your head, the one that says, this is too hard, this can’t be done, I’m not good enough, or wait, this thing over here is more interesting… or any of a thousand other, more subtle excuses for not doing something?

The Positive Intelligence framework calls these voices, Saboteurs. These are the ingrained negative patterns of thinking that we’ve acquired during our lives. They may be once-useful leftovers from childhood, or ‘learned’ responses in various stressful situations. They’re the voices that judge us harshly, tell us we’re a failure, or a victim, or distract us from unpleasantness tasks and situations. And once we get into the habit of listening to these voices, giving them credence, it’s hard to do our best work.

The trick is to listen to a more positive voice, that part of us that is calm, and brings curiosity, empathy and creativity to the table – referred to as the ‘Sage’. The Sage is literally your voice of wisdom, but many of us – according to Chamine’s research at Stanford, around 80% – find our Saboteur voices all too often drown out the Sage.

Getting ‘fit’

Using a muscle-building or physical fitness analogy, working on Positive Intelligence means exercising the right ‘muscles’, working on Sage-like activities, such as exploration, empathizing, innovating, etc. While also focusing on ‘exercising’ the Saboteurs less.

The difference offered by the Positive Intelligence model is a highly structured programme of activities – an exercise regime – to help anyone do just that: be more focused on positives, to actually think positively, and to handle daily challenges from a calmer, more self-controlled place.

All of which impacts directly on job and business performance. To quote some of Chamine’s results:

  • MetLife saw trained people outselling untrained by 37%.
  • Motorola saw a rise in productivity in 93% of people trained.
  • Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceutical saw the average salesperson sell $55,200 more per month.

Add to these direct performance results and then factor in the overall benefits of fewer sick days, lower burnout rate, and better physical health (due to reduced stress). All of which sounds good if you’re facing a year like this one…


If a happier and better-performing workforce sounds good, you can talk to us about how Positive Intelligence could help. Maximum Performance are working in partnership with Shirzad Chamine to offer a fully-supported programme with additional coaching from a trained PQ coach. Check out the full programme details, or give us a call on 01582 463460. We’re here to help.

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