In Barbara Frederickson’s book, Positivity, she talks about her wonderful collaboration with Marcial Losada. Building on Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory, Losada’s mathematical model determined exact ratio of positive to negative emotions, 3-to-1, that distinguishes those who flourish from those who don’t.
Losada had an ordinary looking boardroom with walls made of one-way mirrors, video cameras, and special computers which they provided to intact business teams. Research assistants coded every single statement made by every single team member during the business meetings they observed. They tracked whether the statements were 1) positive or negative, 2) self-focused or other-focused, and 3) based on asking questions (inquiry) or defending a point of view (advocacy).
Of 60 teams that were studied, 25% met the criteria of high-performing. They achieved high scores on profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and evaluations by superiors, peers and subordinates. 30% scored low on all three business indicators and were floundering. The rest, the majority, had a mixed profile, doing well in some ways and poorly in others.
Losada also quantified a new variability called Connectivity – how much each team member influenced the behavior of the others, how attuned they were to each other.
There were huge positivity ratio differences between the different types of teams: high-performing were at about 6 to 1, mixed-performance at 2 to 1 and low performance were well below 1 to 1. High-performing teams also had higher connectivity and were equal in the balance of inquiry vs. advocacy and outward vs. inward focus. Low-performing teams were low on connectivity and showed almost no outward focus.
So how can you use this data to improve your collaborations? Comment with your ideas and check back to read some practical steps for fostering positivity and collaboration in your teams.