Can you feel it? The Feeling-well Doing-well link.

How are you?

It’s a standard greeting for most of us, and the reply is often a pretty standard “I’m good thanks’.

But really, how are you feeling?

A surprisingly high number of us don’t really know how we feel. I often ask my coaching and mentoring clients at the start of our time together how they are feeling, and once we move beyond the ‘standard’ answer, I find that many of them haven’t really checked in with themselves in a while. And they sometimes don’t have the language to describe how they’re feeling.

Emotions are powerful, abstract states of mind that influence how we think, what we pay attention to, our identity and self-concept, our evaluations of the world, what we consider important and valuable, how we make decisions and judgement and our personal and professional relationships.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) – the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships thoughtfully and empathetically – is recognised as a critical leadership capacity.1

As I work with leaders to leverage their own leadership capacity and that of their teams I introduce them to powerful performance levers that they’ve often never considered. One of the easiest and most accessible of these is positive emotions.

The power of Positive Emotions

Research suggests that experiencing emotions such as joy, pride, gratitude, amusement, interest, awe, inspiration, hope, love and serenity can make you more optimistic, more resilient, more open, more accepting and more driven by purpose.2

Professor Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina has found that positive emotions help to broaden and build the way our brains respond to opportunities and challenges. Studies have repeatedly shown that experiencing positive emotions broadens our thinking and attention, builds our psychological and social resources, enhances resilience, reverses the impact of negative emotions and triggers upward spirals of connection, collaboration and performance.3

<<Related post: 3 ways to do more with less as a leader>>

Emotions – The tipping point

Research also suggests that there is an optimal ratio of positive to negative emotional experiences, approximately 3:1 (three positive experiences for every negative one). The upper limit is around 12:1, after which we start to question the authenticity and validity of the positive experiences. There are several names for this, including the Positivity Ratio, the Gottman ratio (after researcher Daniel Gottman) and the Losada Line Model.4 You can check your individual Positivity Ratio here.

How can leaders use positive emotions to drive success?
The Positivity Ratio and Team Performance

Understanding what differentiates high performing teams has been a popular research topic in recent years. A Chilean researcher Marcial Losada explored high, mid and low performing teams across three factors: profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and 360-degree feedback ratings. He found that performance was strongly connected with the degree of positivity and negativity within the teams.5

This makes sense. Other research has shown that high performing teams are characterised by trust, open communication, and a willingness to embrace conflict; they are energised because they feel they can take risks, innovate, and achieve something that matters.6

The more positive a team is, the more willing the team members will be to work together in a solution-oriented manner. Positivity has a motivating influence on all team members. They are willing and able to perform optimally, encourage one another and create a supportive team culture that enables collaborative learning and psychological safety.

As with any ratio, there are two sides to play with – it may be just as important to reduce the number of negative experiences, as it is to increase the positive ones.


What do you do to dial up the positive and dial down the negative with your team?

Dr Paige Williams

Dr Paige Williams

International Speaker, Author, Mentor


Determined to help leaders move beyond just the need for resilience, Paige provides practical, evidence-based strategies for leaders to become antifragile, lead themselves and their teams to thrive and succeed in the Decade of Disruption.

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