In the book, Positivity, by Barbara Fredrickson, she discusses a fascinating research project about what makes businesses successful.
In the mid 1990's, Marcial Losada undertook extensive research into the characteristics of high performance business teams.
Behind a two-way mirror, his research team observed business meetings and tracked whether statements were:
- Positive or negative
- Self-focused or other focused
- Based on inquiry (asking questions)
- Based on advocacy (defending a point of view)
Teams were then classified into high-performing if they had high ratings for: customer satisfaction, profitability and evaluations by peers, subordinates and superiors.
60 business teams were researched and of these, 25% were classified as high performing, while 30% were poor performing.
When he divided the teams into high, low and mixed performance teams striking differences emerged.
What he found was that:
- High performance teams had high positivity ratios of 6 to 1 (or 6 positive statements made to 1 negative statement). They also had high connectivity (which means they were responsive to one another) and they asked questions as much as they defended their own views. They also cast their attention outward, as much as inward.
- Mixed performance teams had ratios of 2 to 1. As could be expected, mixed teams sat in between.
- Low performance teams - had ratios well below 1 to 1, they were far less connected to one another, asked almost no questions and showed no outward focus (Sound familiar? I've attended meetings like this and I wondered how that business managed to stay in business).
High performance teams really did outperform the other teams in more ways than one. And while other groups crumbled under pressure, these teams carried on, asking questions, thinking through ideas and working together for a successful result. They were more flexible and resilient.
The bottom line is that positivity is linked with business success. And for business teams to be successful, they need 6 positive to 1 negative comments.
In "Candor, Criticism, Teamwork" written by Keith Ferrazzi for Harvard Business Review in January 2012, other research has also found that high performance teams have high levels of candour among team members. High candour workplaces have colleagues speak honestly about the risks involved and other issues, rather than talking behind people's backs. While it is understandable that people prefer to avoid conflict, it's debilitating for organisations. Lack of candour contributes to slow decision making and longer cycle times. The higher the candour, the better the business performance.
But a high candour workplace needs the right organisational culture to allow it to flourish. In fact, low candour workplaces signify a highly politicized workplace where people do what they told and do not question anything.
Seven Steps to a High Performance Culture
The seven steps to creating a high performance team and culture is by encouraging team members to:
- Focus on positive statements, while only using a negative statements if it helps clarify an issue (6 to 1).
- Focus on what is best for the company or group rather than overly focusing on themselves.
- Ask questions when they do not understand issues or someone's point of view (rather than openly criticize).
- Defend their point of view provided that it is for the best interests for the group, rather than for their own personal agenda or pride.
- Form smaller groups (5 people or less) so that opinionated people do not dominate. A spokesperson can be nominated to report back to the larger team.
- Designate a "chairman" who notices when something is being left unsaid or someone cannot get their say and encourages people to speak or cover issues that are being ignored.
- Start sentences with "I might suggest..." rather than openly criticizing the person.
High performance teams occur when true collaboration and a positive environment is able to flourish. This occurs when people trust one another enough to speak with candour.
Tune in to the next week about why positivity is so important for personal success.