Today’s most successful companies tend to have one thing in common: positive work cultures.

It’s simple. Positive work cultures cultivate resilience, provide constant sources of motivation, and foster collaboration and innovation.

All of that translates into higher levels of job performance and job satisfaction, which in turn draws top talent.



If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, though, here’s a few techniques you might want to start introducing at your own workplace.

(Or just take SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage yourself and others at work!)


1. Facilitate “flow”


What flow is


When you’re working on something you’re good at, you’ll enjoy it and perform better at it compared to if you were working on something you’re bad at.

That’s one of the ideas behind the psychological state of “flow”. 

Flow = an optimal inner experience that comes from being engaged in a task which:

  • suits your talents
  • but is slightly more challenging than your current skill level.



Research has shown that employees who regularly experience flow states at work weren’t just happier.

They could concentrate better, were more creative, and performed better.


How to facilitate flow

As a manager and a leader, your task is to help your employees achieve flow at work.

When assigning tasks, for example, you can optimise talent-project fit and encourage flow by being more deliberate about your delegating decisions, instead of assigning it purely based on who’s available.

That entails having a deeper familiarity with your individual team members’ strengths and their differing skill levels.



Alternatively, opening up the choice to your employees directly presents a more organic way of ensuring a good talent-project fit.

One good real-life example of this is Facebook’s famous hackathons: all-nighters where employees can put forward any idea that might improve systems or end products, and get together with other employees in a team to get it up and running.


2. Highlight praiseworthy actions regularly


Underappreciated = undermotivated


Even if you’re consistently churning out excellent work at a higher and faster rate than you were in your previous job, feeling undervalued and under-appreciated can be a major detriment to job satisfaction.

If it gets bad enough, it might even spiral into toxic environments fuelled by rampant gossiping behind closed doors, and generate feelings of enmity that reduce intrinsic motivation.



Insincere praise backfires

Recognising your employees’ hard work doesn’t necessitate a huge amount of fanfare or coming up with a ton of new awards and participation medals to give out.

In fact, it might have the opposite effect of coming across insincere and inattentive if you seem to only ever wait for opportune moments to give praise and recognise successes.




Similarly, creating incentive systems to encourage better performance is a popular practice today, but it can just as easily backfire and encourage employees to achieve tangible KPIs while paradoxically forgoing less tangible aspects of job performance.


Sincere praise validates

The easiest and most inexpensive solution here is also the one with the highest returns and the highest chances of being overlooked: practicing honest gratitude on a daily basis. 



Simply thanking your team, celebrating collective and individual successes, and being specific about the praise you give them goes a long way in helping your employees feel validated, successful, involved and appreciated at work.

For example, don’t just say “Good work on the presentation yesterday.” Give specifics about what was good about it: the delivery, the content, the way he or she engaged with the audience, and so on.



Don’t stop there: augment these positive sentiments by making it a habit for your entire team to express gratitude to one another regularly.

Consider, for instance, setting aside 5 minutes during your regular team meetings for anyone to bring up someone’s else successes or thank someone for helping out on a difficult task.

Not only will it help everyone feel more appreciated, it also builds rapport and rewards collaboration over counter-productive office-politicking.


3. Remind your team what the work is all about


Finding purpose


You aren’t here to sell a product or a service; you’re selling an emotion, a lifestyle, a benefit, a perspective, that accrues to your customer when they buy in.

Being cognisant of that can completely change the way you go about your work, because it re-frames your purpose in coming to work every day.




Disconnected = Disengaged


Amidst the daily hullabaloo of routines and workloads in the office, it’s easy to find yourself adopting a “just get the job done” mindset.

Similarly, the further down the pipeline your work is in the organisation and the more distant the direct relation between what you do and the end product or service your company sells, the more detached you can get from the company’s raison d’etre.



Conversely, if you can sit down to your desk every day knowing that the work you do really makes a difference in adding value and catalysing some kind of positive change to your end user’s life, you’d be much more resilient in facing new challenges and being committed to constantly outdoing yourself.

The challenge is doing this is in a way that doesn’t feel forced.


Reconnected = Reenergised

Constantly repeating your company vision, mission statement and core values to your team is great, but it can get too repetitive to have the desired effect on intrinsic motivation.

Worse, do it often enough and it starts to sound fluffy, like a utopian reality that’s only a vision and nothing more.



Make it a point to allow your team to actually witness or interact with the end user. 

When your employees can actually see tangible evidence of the positive effect their work has on someone or something out there in the real world, it can be a huge morale-booster and provide an excellent incentive to keep performing at work.



If bringing in someone who’s greatly benefitted from the work done at your company isn’t an option, sharing a glowing testimonial from a happy customer with your team is a simpler way of achieving the same ends.



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