Want to Be More Productive? Get Happy!

A few months back, I was asked to present a keynote on productivity in the workplace. I was to speak  to 100 top executives in the oil services business.  I wanted to update my productivity program and began doing some research on “productivity in the 2011 workplace.” While I was reading, I received  a call from my sister Terry, who is not only print-maker and artist but also an art therapist. She recently attended the American Art Therapy Conference and was very impressed with Gioia Chilton’s session on Positive Psychology. She gave me some articles to read and a few TED videos to watch, and I became kind of obsessed with what I discovered about productivity.

In a nutshell, here’s what I found and what I presented to the group.

For the past 60 or so years, psychologist have been studying a “diseased model” – that is, doing their research with depressed, unhappy and unproductive patients, rather than the happy, healthy and more productive ones.

When psychologist started studying positive, happy people they found that there were three main differences between them and their unhappy counterparts.

According to their studies positive people:

  • Are social, seek out others and engage
  • Find meaning in their work and their life
  • Enjoy having fun and seek pleasure

So what does this have to do with productivity in the workplace?


What we know about productivity today is that in successful companies (think Apple, Google,  Zappos, Starbucks, Marriott, Southwest…) employees and teams that are connected, engaged, and have a voice are happy at work … and they’re productive!

Similarly, when we see meaning in our work and feel as though we are making a difference, not only do we feel more fulfilled, but we are also more productive. The reverse is also true. Studies show that when people do not find meaning in their work, or when they are given responsibilities with no authority, absenteeism is prevalent.

And finally, as Gen Y tells us over and over – work needs to be fun and pleasurable. Simply stated: when we have fun, we want to do more of it!

As I was giving the presentation, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the managers in the room were Gen X and they were eating this information up! They seek engagement at work and are frustrated with “closed door ” environments. They want a work-life balance and who doesn’t want to laugh and enjoy the day!

They loved this topic it showed. They participated with enthusiasm and they wanted to share their ideas and be a part of the program. Their reaction to the presentation made the one hour more productive than the old days of the speaker speaks and the audience listens. We turned the monologue into dialogue – and everyone got more out of it.

This is a huge SHIFT happening in my presentations and in the  workplace… and it excites me!

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