Positivity at Work by Chris Edmonds and Lisa Zigarmi

My friends Chris Edmonds and Lisa Zigarmi have written a wonderful book called Positivity at Work Tweet.

[Full Disclosure: Apart from Chris and Lisa being friends, the book is also published by our publishing company ThinkAha]

First, quick bios of the authors:

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies. As Blanchard’s culture guru, Chris has helped dozens of organizations create high performing, values-aligned work environments. You can follow him on his blog at Driving Results Through Culture or on Twitter at @scedmonds


Well-being ally, Lisa Zigarmi, supports individuals and organizations on their development journeys. She is a leadership consultant, coach, speaker, friend and avid learner. Lisa’s committed to helping people expand awareness and cultivate their happiness. You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lisazigarmi


Now, Q&A with the authors about the book and related topics. Chris and Lisa are as insightful in this interview as they are in their book and all their other works. Enjoy!

RS: Why positivity at work, and why now?

Lisa: In an age where people live for their weekends, our wish is for people to begin to see that work can fulfill their needs for autonomy, connection, meaning, impact and vitality. Your well-being impacts your life, your work, and your community so the time is now for people to start bringing their whole self to work and, in doing so, accessing higher levels of well-being.

Positivity matters. According to the latest research, employees with the highest levels of well-being are:

  • 3X more creative
  • 31% more productive
  • 10 times more engaged in their jobs and
  • 40% more likely to receive a job promotion within a year

Neither heroic measures nor huge financial investments are needed to increase well-being. You can simply refine your day-to-day thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to embrace what is good about your work, your colleagues, and your life. According to the Harvard Business Review’s January/February 2012 issue, well-being on the job has more to do with the frequency of positive workplace experiences – your interactions with co-workers, your on-going projects, your daily contributions, etc. – than stable conditions like a high salary or a prestigious title.

Wherever you work, whatever your role, you have the power to create greater positivity at work and enhance your happiness.

RS: You cover a lot of ground with the book. What are the main elements of well-being?

Lisa: Well-being is really an elevated and sustained sense of happiness. Whereas happiness is the opposite of sadness, well-being is not. Well-being is the foundation of flourishing.

Well-being is also a construct, meaning it’s made up of components or elements. We know it can be measured subjectively and objectively, in other words it exists in your heart/head and it also can be seen or verified by others. Well-being is a lot like the weather. The weather is made up of the temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, etc. Likewise, well-being is made up of five elements:

  • positive emotion – expressing good feelings
  • positive relationships – being connected with, family, friends, colleagues
  • meaning/purpose – contributing to something bigger than yourself
  • positive accomplishment – doing something well
  • positive physical health – having a body that serves you

If we want to have well-being and we want our communities to flourish, we must minimize our misery, but in addition we must cultivate these five elements. And the skills of doing that, of maximizing these elements, are entirely different than the skills of not being depressed, not being anxious or not being angry.

RS: You have found that positive relationships are the most important element. Tell me more about that.

Chris: Positive relationships are the most important source of personal well-being. When we enjoy equitable, supportive, and warm relationships – with family, friends, co-workers – we experience greater satisfaction, which increases our overall well-being. With greater personal well-being, we are able to reach outside ourselves and create more conducive environments for others to experience greater well-being.

The research is from the work of Nick Humphrey. His team helped address a question that archaeologists had struggled with for years: why did the human brain double in size 500,000 years ago? Humphrey’s research found that the increased brain size enabled early man to solve social problems. Up to that time, the human brain was focused primarily on survival problems. Even today, our prefrontal cortex is constantly calculating harmonious social possibilities, at work, in our personal lives, everywhere. Evolution is still at work. Socially conscious animal groups (from humans to ants to birds to fish to zebras) survive and thrive because they are able to assess social relations, safety, and opportunity.
Without positive relationships (which we’re physically wired for), we will not experience high personal well-being.

RS: Why positive physical health? How does that connect to the other well-being elements?

Lisa: We are the most in debt, addicted, obese, and overly medicated adult cohort in US history. Why is this? Brene Brown, a brilliant psychologist/researcher, believes we are numbing; we are trying to avoid feeling vulnerable and one of the first things to suffer is our health.

Interestingly, the research tells us that we cannot selectively numb negative emotion. We can’t say I don’t want to feel vulnerable; I don’t want to feel pain, grief, disappointment, etc. so instead I’m going to have a bottle of wine and a hamburger.

You cannot numb bad feelings, and simultaneously not numb positive emotion. When we numb with food or medication, we create a barrier to experiencing joy, gratitude, creativity, serenity, etc.

And then, because we cannot feel these positive emotions, we’re miserable, we look for meaning and when we can’t find it, we have a bottle of wine and tuck into a hamburger. It’s a cycle.

One way, to avoid numbing is to leverage your physical body. Physically fit people are happier. They live longer, more successful lives, with less stress, anxiety, physical illness/disease, bad habits, etc.

As my grandmother says, “move it or lose it” and by that she means you could lose your mind, body and, most importantly, well-being if you don’t actively use your physical self. Positive physical health enables us to access all the other elements of wellbeing and, most importantly, a body that serves you allows you to serve the world.

RS: You present actionable quotes in a very inviting format – easy to read and easy to embrace. Why do you focus on personal well-being before collective well-being?

Chris: Lisa and I have been working for years to help leaders be more effective influencers. Teaching the skills of effective leader behaviors significantly increases the likelihood of effective influencing. However, the best behavioral impact consistently comes from leaders who feel good about themselves, who trust others to do their best, who let talented staff do their jobs. Strong leadership skills alone don’t create a positive impact; their own well-being and their beliefs in others generates great employee productivity, wow’ed customers, and improved profits.

Without high personal well-being, one cannot be of much help to anyone outside themselves. By helping readers understand the five elements of well-being, some will be prompted to make different choices to improve their own well-being. They might respond more graciously to others; they might refine their diet to fuel a healthier body; they might take a class to improve their work task performance. Only after creating their own foundation of well-being can they effectively influence the well-being of others.

RS: How have people responded to your “positivity revolution” so far?

Chris: The response has been amazing! During the global recession, work environments became less positive, less inspiring, less healthy for organization members. We present actions that are easy for people to embrace (in work and/or life!) – they don’t need permission from anyone to create a more positive environment in which to exist.

I shared our book excerpt with a potential client who was looking for a keynote for a corporate meeting. He was so inspired by the book’s message that he ordered 450 copies and brought me in to speak to his group.

One of my long time culture clients ordered company-branded copies of the book for his director peers across their global organization. He’s convinced that their organization can be a more positive place for people to work.

One of Blanchard’s top leaders scanned the book and was immediately engrossed in the actionable ideas presented. She selected thirty quotes in her first reading and highlighted three to guide her this month.
We know this information is powerful and are thrilled that people are embracing it so quickly.

RS: If you had to pick your most impactful tweets from the book, which ones would you choose and why?

Lisa: These are my favorite ahhas because they present alternative ways of thinking and living, regarding each of the elements of well-being.

10. Well-being isn’t something you acquire. It’s something you must continuously choose & doggedly pursue. Make it part of your work, everyday.

43. Great leaders demonstrate authentic emotion at work: joy over success, frustration over hurdles, love of their aligned team. Be real.

60. Celebrate the good nature, good work, and good fortune of those you work with. It’s a fast, sensible way to multiply your joy and awe.

75. Reflect on your values, your life themes & your personal story. Then, share your notes so others can remind you of your strengths & purpose.

115. Forget shoring up your weaknesses! Learn your character strengths and leverage them for accomplishment and well-being.

136. Anger, hostility, hurt & resentment are often held in the muscles of our bodies. Learn to forgive.

RS: If I’m interested in putting positivity to work, what’s my call to action?

Chris: In his blog post Dave Witt (Blanchard’s marketing program director) suggests looking at the five elements of well-being from our book with a focus on what the reader can proactively do to improve their own well-being. You’ll gauge your effectiveness on one hand!

We suggest you read through the book once. It won’t take long (140 quotes of 140 characters or less). You’ll find some suggestions that “speak to you” right off – things that you know will have a positive impact. Those actions won’t take much time out of your day but they’ll have a tremendous positive impact on your outlook and your well-being.

THiNKaha publisher Mitchell Levy suggests reading through the book monthly. Each reading will bring new insights because of what you’re experiencing at work at that time. You’ll confidently select 2-3 (or five) actions that will address some issues, that will validate your skills, that will improve your relationships, etc.

Most importantly, read the book and do SOMETHING. Make a constructive difference and you’ll be a force of positivity in your world.