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Leading like a sunflower: the manager as a source of energy at work

Out of curiosity about Positive Psychology, Rosa Helmantel hit the road with Theo Visser and Ilse Boersma in September. What is Positive Psychology? And how can you use it as a manager? In this blog, she describes her experiences of the two-day training course 'Positive Psychology' for managers.


Sunflowers always grow towards the sun: a curious phenomenon that, if we look carefully around us, we see everywhere in nature. The tendency of organisms to face the sun is also known as the heliotropic effect. Humans also have this tendency and are attracted to the positive. Activities that give them energy, people they enjoy working with and also a positive manager. But how exactly does that work? What effect does that positivity have? And how can we ensure more energy and results in the workplace?


Positive psychology is a movement within psychology that focuses on answering these questions. In this blog, we take you through the ideas of positive psychology in a nutshell and what you can do as a manager to put these ideas into practice.


What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is the scientific study of 'optimal human functioning'. This study discovers, enhances and disseminates the factors that make individuals and organisations thrive. Positive psychology aims to enhance well-being and optimal functioning. The focus is on discovering the causes of success rather than the causes of failure.


What effect does positivity have?

Scientific research shows that a focus on 'how we thrive' has positive effects on individuals and organisations. This is because positive emotions broaden our awareness and attention. Energy is released for action, which has a positive effect on well-being. In the workplace, this wellbeing results in more productivity, more creativity, higher customer satisfaction and, ultimately, higher turnover. There is less absenteeism among employees, there are fewer incidents and less turnover on the shop floor. In other words; many positive effects.


What can you do as a manager?

It is clear that focusing on positive psychology is important. But how can you as a manager pay attention to positive psychology in the workplace? This question prompted IGOM to organise a training in which managers got to work concretely on applying positive psychology within their own work practices.


During the training, we looked at various themes from positive psychology that are helpful for managers to put into practice. For example, we delved into the theme of talent. What is it? How do you recognise it? But above all: how do you ensure that employees can make optimal use of their talents? We also reviewed the theme of enthusiasm. How do you keep people inspired and enthusiastic so that they continue to work in your organisation? The participants brainstormed with each other about what you can do to ruin or optimise the atmosphere in your team. The conclusion was that, as a manager, you have a lot of influence on the atmosphere in your team and on the engagement of your employees.


But how do you exercise that influence as a manager? After the training, we asked participants what they are now going to do concretely in their team to apply positive psychology. For instance, one of the participants is going to focus more on the talents of employees. Another chooses to apply appreciative intervision methods more. Yet another is going to pay more attention to people's energisers and yet another wants to get employees thinking mainly by asking stimulating (positive/appreciative) questions.


The answers confirm that there is no one road that leads to Rome. Positive psychology requires a different way of looking at the world, in which we see opportunities, talents and success factors and use precisely these as a starting point. In other words, can we -just like sunflowers do- focus on the sun a bit more often?



Have you become interested in the philosophy of positive psychology, would you like to apply it more yourself or would you like to know more about the Positive Psychology training for managers? If so, please contact Theo Visser or Ilse Boersma.