Tag Archives: inquiry

Positivity and Collaboration

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.

photo by tbone_sandwich

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.

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Enhance positivity through meetings

Many of my business clients report that an average day is spent going from meeting to meeting.  Some would say that half of their life is spent attending, conducting,  preparing or following up from meetings.   It would therefore seem sensible to assume that if you want to build more positivity in your  workplace, a good place to focus would be in the way meetings are conducted.

In our last blog post, we reported research that linked positivity in a team with the incidence of positive statements made, the degree that the statements are about others and the amount of questions that are exchanged among group members. Here are some tips that may help you put this into action during the meetings you lead.

Meetings can enhance positivity.

1.  Open each meeting asking for recent accomplishments.  “What has happened that you feel good about and want others on the team to know?” In my experience this type of question elicits the telling of stories that help to build a group’s sense of success.

2.  Have a standing agenda item – “Way to go!”.  Ask for people to share personal compliments for others who have demonstrated collaboration or some other high-priority behavior.  In a local medical-surgical nursing unit, this tip is being used to increase the level of coordinated care provided to patients. Compliments help to remind us of our strengths and create stronger relationships with others.

3.  Periodically, use a portion of a meeting for everyone to have 5-10 minutes to check in with every other member.  These “Check Ins” can be structured to cover a specific set of questions aimed at increasing connectivity and positive regard:  What is going well in our relationship? What strengths have I noticed you exhibiting?  What can we create that will enhance our effectiveness?

In future posts we will be offering tips about how to increase inquiry in your teams.  What can you share to get us started?

Maddie Hunter