Leadership in Action – Move Beyond Employee Engagement to Creating FLOW

woman in brown long-sleeved shirt in front of dry erase board

In this blog, the second of five posts on the PERMA model for Well Being, we cover the E – Engagement. Engagement is a key organizational outcome that has been shown to have tremendous impact on individual and collective performance. In the PERMA model, engagement moves beyond the typical employee engagement conversation to one of achieving a state of FLOW.[1]

When someone is in a state of FLOW, the challenge of the task stretches them into a level of focus that blocks distractions and creates energy towards the effective accomplishment of that task. The brain recognizes the importance of the task to the individual, so it releases endorphins to help sustain the energy to complete the task. The release of endorphins is how task accomplishment and engagement create a greater sense of well-being.

For effective leadership, use this seven-point checklist to create the healthy condition of FLOW through engagement with your team.

  1. “My effort makes a difference.” This is the core belief that drives employee engagement. When individuals believe their work makes a difference, they willingly put in the effort and the time. At the core of self-confidence is a belief that what one does actually matters. As a leader, be sure to connect your team’s efforts to the achievement of department and organizational goals.
  2. The balance between ability and challenge. If the task is too easy or too hard, it does not engage the individual. When leading others, it is important to find aspects of their work that challenge them to be better, as well as strive to improve their performance in preparation for the next challenge.
  3. Cause-and-effect. Reinforcing how effort connects to outcomes, as opposed to a belief in fate, luck, or magic, makes it easier to see root causes and patterns in performance, because nothing just happens by itself. As a leader, connect their actions to movement toward goal accomplishment.
  4. The need to have clear goals. Goals create energy. So, no goal, no energy. The clearer you are in articulating the goals, as well as building co-ownership in those goals, creates accountability and resilience in your team.
  5. Excellence and continuous improvement. This is about believing that things can be better today than they were yesterday, and that tomorrow they can be better than today. Within that context of constantly striving for excellence, individuals are able to celebrate today’s successes. They don’t get caught up in the notion that their work wasn’t good enough.
  6. Intrinsically motivating. This internal drive to accomplish a task helps to make the task seem effortless, or at least energizing as opposed to creating fatigue. As a leader, be sure to create want to goals, not have to
  7. The need for feedback. Feedback creates conscious awareness of being on track or off track. Feedback is essential to knowing if your effort is making a difference. As a leader, provide systems so that there is a continuous stream of feedback. This allows your team members to make adjustments along the way to achieving the goal. This is not a need for external praise. Instead, feedback is a way to measure. “How well did I do today?” “What will my goal be tomorrow?”

As you follow these seven points, as you lead your team, you will Energize Action towards increased productivity as well as enhancing their Well Being.

[1] Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.