Top-Shelf Tip No. 155:

"Willpower by itself is not enough. If we want to achieve lasting change, we must have an effective strategy."

Tony Robbins

Three Keys To Thriving In Your Workplace

Have you ever noticed that some people in your organization tend to thrive? Connections, engagement and success seem to come easily to them, and they are recognized and promoted. Other individuals tend to struggle, seeming unhappy and not motivated, or never quite get programs across the finish line. Why is this? All are hired with high hopes, solid experience and abundant motivation. So, what leads some to thrive in their work and others to barely survive?

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we're sharing insights from key research into this psychology from Brett Steenbarger, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, who says there are three significant characteristics for those who thrive.

1. Subjective Well-Being. Pioneering work from Ed Diener and Associates finds three important components to psychological wellness:

  • Positive emotional experience - This includes experiences of happiness, energy and attachment to others
  • Absence of negative emotional experience - Well-being is enhanced if stress and frustration levels are not high
  • Satisfaction with life - A key finding from the researchers is that there is more to our well-being than simply being happy. It is also necessary to feel fulfilled and gratified by one's activities.

The research states that people who bring a high level of well-being to their work lives are most likely to be productive and successful, and they are most likely to be creative and helpful to others. If a person does not feel fulfilled by their activities, it's unlikely that they will be sustained by day-to-day pleasures. Indeed, the absence of satisfaction is most likely to lay the groundwork for negative emotional experience, such as frustration.

Steenbarger uses the example of a stock-trading floor. Some managers are highly focused on making money and quickly lose a sense of positivity and satisfaction when profits are scarce. Others are more focused on the process of uncovering opportunities in markets, immersing themselves in intellectual curiosity and rigorous research. The intrinsic rewards of their hunt for ideas sustains them emotionally during those inevitable periods of reduced profitability.

2. V.I.G.O.R. Research from Dr. Nico Rose uses the VIGOR acronym to identify key drivers of productivity and well-being:

  • Vision - Having a sense of personally meaningful and relevant goals
  • Integration - Experiencing a harmony among different facets of the self, rather than inner conflict
  • General Consensus - Feeling a sense of being deserving of achieving one's goals
  • Organization - Having the ability to assemble relevant resources toward achieving goals
  • Rigorousness - Ability to persist in the pursuit of meaningful ends

Overall, people with high VIGOR scores reported significantly higher life satisfaction than those with lower scores, according to Rose. And high and low VIGOR can be measured in organizations as well based upon the salience of their visions, the integration of members and their activities, the "general consensus" of mission, and the organization and rigor of their productive efforts. The high VIGOR organizations are more likely to bring out VIGOR in their employees, creating a culture of well-being. It is unlikely that a VIGORous individual could fully thrive in an organization that did not foster vision, empowerment and support.

3. Autonomy. Research also shows that those who are self-directed display higher degrees of well-being and better working relationships with others. According to Weinstein and colleagues, autonomous individuals view themselves as the authors of their behaviors and display high degrees of self-reflection and low susceptibility to external pressures. In a money management example, an investor or trader with high autonomy would view success as the result of their efforts in generating ideas and managing risks. Those with lower autonomy would attribute success to market conditions. During periods of poor performance, the autonomous group redoubles their efforts, whereas their less autonomous counterparts feel victimized and powerless.

According to Steenbarger, our ability to thrive in our workplaces is a function of both our own psychological makeup and the structure of our work environments. While interviews and personality assessments are important in identifying good hires, organizations must also focus on the work environment to drive autonomy and visionary inspiration.

Source: Brett Steenbarger is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. He works as a performance coach for hedge fund portfolio managers and traders and has written several books on trading psychology.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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