Building a Positive Team

Helping Your People to Be Happy and Engaged

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."– Mahatma Gandhi

Have you ever been part of a highly motivated, high-morale team?

If you have, chances are that most days, you were happy to come to work. You were focused and enthusiastic. You enjoyed collaborating with your colleagues and, together, you worked hard and came up with some great ideas.

Positive, highly motivated teams are fun to be a part of. And they can accomplish far more than teams that struggle with negativity and low morale.

That's why it's so important that, as a leader, you strive to build a positive team. In this article and video, we show you how!

Click here to view a transcript of this video.

The Benefits of a Positive Team

Research shows that positivity can make a real difference to our success and well-being.

One study found that happy individuals are more successful in many areas of their lives, especially at work, compared with those who struggle to find happiness or to think positively.

Positivity increases our ability to think creatively, to progress in our careers, to cope with challenges, and to work with other people. It can reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, and lead to more satisfied and productive teams. In short, it's an essential ingredient for success!

Positivity brings longer-term benefits, too. Social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson created the Broaden and Build Theory to explain how positive emotions can make us more creative and flexible over time. The more positive emotions we experience, Fredrickson says, the more likely we become to exhibit other positive behaviors, such as curiosity, awareness and innovation – and this applies to groups, as well as individuals.

With all of these benefits in mind, consider the following four steps for building a positive team:

1. Become a Positive Leader

Teams often become more motivated when they have a positive leader. This is why focusing on your own happiness, well-being, and emotional intelligence is the first step toward creating a great team.

Martin Seligman, a leading positive psychologist, developed the PERMA model to highlight the five essential elements that we all need to make us happy. PERMA is an acronym that stands for:

  1. Positive emotion.
  2. Engagement.
  3. Positive Relationships.
  4. Meaning.
  5. Accomplishment/achievement.

Start by thinking about how you can increase each of these elements in your life. Read our article on PERMA and then take action – the more of these things you can bring to your life, the happier you'll be!

Next, stop and think about the work that you do. Do you know what your strengths are? And how often do you use them?

Our work is most satisfying when we can use our unique abilities in a way that makes a real difference to other people, or to our organization. So, conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis to discover your strengths.

Then, use the MPS Process (MPS stands for Meaning, Pleasure, and Strengths) to see how you can use these strengths to bring more meaning and joy to your career.

Finally, work on your emotional intelligence (EI). This is a vital leadership skill, because it gives you a deeper awareness of your own emotions and how they affect other people.

If you're feeling stressed or angry, for example, you can learn how to avoid passing on these negative emotions to your team.

Tip:

Read our article, How to Be Happy: the GREAT DREAM Model, to discover another framework for finding happiness and success.

2. Remove Obstacles to Positivity

Before you can really boost positivity in your team, you need to remove the things that stand in its way. "Roadblocks" can quickly undermine your team members' progress and reduce their motivation.

Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors are a good starting point for identifying your roadblocks. Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist, discovered that employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposites. In other words, simply removing the causes of dissatisfaction will not, in itself, increase satisfaction.

Instead, for your team members to be truly happy in their jobs, you must first eliminate the causes of dissatisfaction (the "hygiene factors"), and then add the "motivators" that produce satisfaction.

Think about your organization's policies: what could be causing dissatisfaction for your team members? Is each person's salary competitive? Would your team be happier if you provided more training, coaching or mentoring, or flexible working hours, for example?

Your working environment is important, too. Take steps to create a healthy workplace for your team. Your offices should be comfortable, well-lit, clean, and safe. And, try to minimize distractions, so that people can focus on their work and easily enter a state of "flow."

And finally, support your people by making sure that they have all the tools, skills and resources that they need to do the job.

Tip:

Read our article on Job Crafting to learn how you can shape your team members' roles to fit their strengths and interests. This can increase their job satisfaction.

3. Manage Positively

Once you've removed the roadblocks, it's time to start managing your team in a positive way. There are many ways to do this.

  • Create mission and vision statements. These are inspiring messages that express the deeper purpose of the work that you're doing. Teams and organizations that can rally around a shared sense of purpose often become more engaged and committed.
  • Write a team charter that defines each person's role, the team's aims, and your own expectations. A charter provides focus, direction, and a mutually agreed benchmark for measuring a team's performance.
  • Use Management by Objectives to make sure that your team's goals align with those of your organization. Motivation will likely increase when everyone understands what they need to do, and how their roles benefit the organization as a whole.

    Also, make sure that your team members' goals are realistic, and reward people appropriately when they achieve them. This doesn't always mean offering a bonus or other tangible reward. Simple things, like saying "thank you" for a job well done, can show people that you appreciate their efforts.

  • Communicate effectively. Aim to create an environment that's open and nonjudgmental. Encourage people to voice their opinions, and don't censor discussions. Keep your team members informed about what's happening in the wider organization and how it affects them. The more open and transparent you are, the easier it will be to build trust and create good relationships.

    Meetings are a good opportunity to discuss important updates or changes, and for your team members to voice any concerns that they may have. But make sure that your meetings are focused and productive, so that no one's time is wasted.

  • Practice Management by Walking Around. Going "back to the shop floor" helps you to stay in touch with your team's daily challenges and concerns. For example, what frustrates them? Are the processes that they follow working as they should? Do they have any trouble finding key information?
  • Build positive relationships in your team. Encourage team members to spend time together outside of work. This might mean socializing at a restaurant to celebrate the end of a project, or organizing team-building days, for example.

    Keep an eye on office politics. And, if conflicts do arise in your team, deal with them appropriately. You can learn about this in our Bite-Sized Training™ session, Managing Conflict.

  • Avoid micromanagement. Research shows that autonomy plays a significant role in job satisfaction, so learn to delegate effectively, or to step back and allow people to choose how they're going to complete a project.

Tip:

When you're allocating tasks and projects to your team members, The Inverted-U Model can help you to strike the right balance between pressure and performance.

Finding This Article Useful?

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4. Reinforce Positivity

Positivity is a habit, and the best way to cultivate it in your team is to reinforce it daily. This takes focus and self-discipline, but the benefits can be huge!

First, make an effort to build confidence in your team. Allowing team members a degree of autonomy is the first step, but you can also build confidence by celebrating their successes, and the milestones and "small wins" that they achieve along the way.

But staying positive isn't always easy. Sometimes, one person's negative outlook can impact the entire group. If you have a team member who consistently thinks or acts negatively, it's important to take action before he or she drags the whole team down.

The Betari Box is a useful tool that explains how a person's attitude and behavior can affect the people around them. You can use it in a one-on-one with your negative team member, to show how his or her attitude is affecting the group. But always approach the situation with sensitivity and respect – the person may be having problems at home, or have deeper issues that contribute to his or her negative behavior.

Try to understand the problem. Is this person unhappy in his role? What could you do to help him to turn things around? Look out for self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors, and offer coaching on how to overcome them.

Our article, Positive Thinking, Thought Awareness, and Rational Thinking, offers a useful framework for reframing negative thoughts. Practices such as affirmations and mindfulness can also be beneficial.

Finally, remind your team members how their work has a positive impact on others. If it's appropriate, share testimonials from happy customers to show how your products or services can improve people's lives. Make sure that your people know about your organization's charity work, its initiatives in the local community, or its efforts to reduce its environmental "footprint."

Key Points

Your people are at their most creative, energetic and productive when they're part of a happy, positive team.

There are four steps that you can follow to build a positive team:

  1. Become a positive leader. Use the PERMA model to identify the five things that you need in your life to make you happier, and work on satisfying these needs.
  2. Remove obstacles to positivity. Find out what causes dissatisfaction in your team. Make sure your working environment is safe and healthy, and that your people have the resources they need.
  3. Manage positively. Create a mission statement, set realistic goals that align with your organization's objectives, and foster good relationships within your team.
  4. Reinforce positivity. Build trust and confidence every day, deal with negative behavior as it arises, and remind your people of the positive impact of their work.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (3)
  • Over a month ago charlieswift wrote
    Since your comment, goodjobfit, we've produced a resource to help people with Aspergers and their managers to get the best from each other and their team. Have a look here: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/managing-people-with-asd.htm
    We hope you find our new video about positive teams useful, too - see it embedded in the article above and in our collection of videos under Other/More resources. - Liz and the MT editorial team.
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi goodjobfit

    I can understand how challenging that situation can be as I have a close family member with Aspergers.
    Do your colleagues know what your challenges are? Does your team leader know? If not, you may want to tell them that you need certain things explained as you don't pick up on it easily.
    If they do know, I'd suggest that you keep on asking them to help you understand what is going on and how to make sense of what's happening. Open and honest communication in both ways is going to be hugely important to make this situation work.

    Best of luck!
    Yolandé
  • Over a month ago goodjobfit wrote
    How can I be a team player if I have Aspergers. Teams don't use my abilities and I can not see what is going on in the team. The Aspergers disconnect seems to prevent team playing.