Starter For Ten - How To Begin Applying Positive Psychology At Work

For those who would like to dip their toe into the positive psychology world I've plucked a few of the recommendations from my book, Positive Psychology At Work, for you to have a look at. Hopefully they illustrate just how intuitive a lot of this is - which doesn't make it easy to do in a hierarchical, busy organisation of course!

Elicit Success Stories

Start meetings with a round of success stories. Before you get into the meat of the meeting, usually a litany of problems and challenges, start by giving people the opportunity to share the best of their week.

Develop A Success And Achievement Strategy

It is very easy during difficult times to lose sight of achievements and successes. All too quickly it begins to feel as if there is no good news only more bad news. One way to counteract this is to develop a strategy for recognising, capturing and broadcasting the great things people and teams are still managing to achieve, despite a difficult context.

Positive Inductions

Build the sharing of great stories about the achievements and success of the organization into your induction programme. Get the owners of the stories to share their best moments of working for your company. Even better, equip your new recruits with appreciative questions about when people have been most proud to be part of the organization, or their greatest achievement at work, and send them off to interview people. This will leaven the dough of getting to grips with the staff handbook and inspire your new recruits.

Educate Leaders and Mangers about Key Research

Too many managers are quick to offer critical feedback and slow to offer praise, hoarding it as a scarce resource. Share Losada and Heaphy research -explain that they need to keep the ratio of positive to negative comments and experiences above 3:1 and preferably 6:1 if they want to get the best from people.

Help People Identify Their Strengths

There are a number of strengths identifying tools around, particular the Strengthscope psychometric, which also has a great set of support cards. However in a low tech way we can just ask people ‘When are you at your most energised at work?’’ What feels really easy and enjoyable for you that others sometimes struggle with?’ and most interesting of all ‘what can you almost not, not do?’

Move Towards Being An Economy Of Strengths

Find ways to use people’s strengths more at work and, equally important, ways to do less of the work that drains them of energy. Encourage strengths based delegation. Reconfigure how you achieve objectives so the plan plays to strengths. Pair people up with complementary strengths. Allocate tasks in your team by strengths rather than by role and delegate by volunteer rather than imposition when possible.

Advertise Your Strengths

Make sure other people know your strengths, so that they can call on you for opportunities that play to your strengths.

Encourage Good Relationships At Work

To encourage positive relationships at work, help people to be actively positive in their response to other people’s good news. This means not just saying ‘that’s great’, but actively inquiring into how they did it, how they feel and how they hope to build on it.

Find Your Positive Energy Network Nodes

You may have noticed how some people are just people that other people like to have around. They give people around them a general good feeling. People are attracted to them. The research confirms the existence of such people at the centre of networks of positive energy. They have the knack of giving people little boosts of good feeling in their conversations or interactions with them, and they leave feeling better than when they arrived. These people are gold dust in terms of organisational motivation and performance. Notice who they are, place them strategically in projects and initiatives to which you want to attract other people, for example.


Other Resources

The book itself - Positive Psychology At Work, published by Wiley.

Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management'.

See more Positive Psychology articles in the Knowledge Warehouse.

For case studies on positive psychology at work visit our case studies collection



Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with LeadershipCulture change and with employee Engagement.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715. A selection of strength card packs are available from our online store.