01/09/2014 01:44 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2014

Profit From the Positive: 5 Strategies for Success at Work

What type of leader are you, and how well do you develop others? Maybe you have explored some of the thousands of management and leadership development courses, books, webinars and seminars that are offered in the marketplace; but, I don't know about you, but so many of the tips and techniques offered just don't resonate with me. They sound too corporate-like and stiff or they lack the research showing they actually work.

The science has shifted in the past couple of decades, however, to focus on "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say, including topics like resilience, strengths, motivation, and emotions to help you become a more complete leader. How can you manage your emotions? How quickly do you bounce back when things go wrong? What are some ways you can exert more influence among those you lead?

These are just some of the questions Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin ask you to consider in their new book, Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business. Based on decades of research in the area of positive psychology, Greenberg and Maymin describe more than 30 tools that actually help make you a better leader -- skills that many traditional leadership development resources don't discuss.

Here are five such strategies to help you boost your productivity and transform your business:

If you're stuck, just start somewhere. A coaching client of mine, a successful businesswoman, found herself dragging her feet and procrastinating on certain projects. This was having a negative impact on her career because her procrastination was causing her to turn projects in late. In order to get her moving forward, we first had to uncover a very deep mindset that was holding her back. On certain projects she felt that she simply wasn't good enough to be working on them (this is one of the 10 mindsets I've discovered that often undercut happiness and resilience for many professionals).

With that barrier removed, I then asked two key questions that Greenberg and Maymin highlight. First, I asked her, "What would you do if you had just five minutes to work on the project?" While her projects usually required hours to complete, she was stuck and this question helped her to inch forward. Then, I asked her, "What else could you do to move the project along by only 1 percent?"

Work less, accomplish more. When I was practicing lawyer, I was a card carrying member of the 60-hour a week (at least) club. After all, wasn't I supposed to work long hours in order to be successful? Greenberg and Maymin discuss a four-year study conducted by Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow in which Perlow found that scheduling time off rather than working more hours actually increased organizational and personal productivity. Additional studies show that for industrial workers, productivity dramatically decreases after eight hours a day. For knowledge workers, productivity drops after six hours (Alcorn, 2013). Simply put, more hours don't automatically lead to more productivity; in fact, it's usually the opposite.

Develop a learner mindset. Using a learner mindset means putting yourself in the position to likely make a few mistakes, get a little confused, probably feel a little dumb at times, but ultimately learn something useful -- either about yourself, your co-workers, or a process. With a learner's mindset, people focus more on effort and gaining competence rather than ability and demonstrating competence. Greenberg and Maymin offer these coaching questions to encourage a learning mindset:

** How can your past experiences help you with this current challenge?

** What do you hope to learn from this project?

** What are some mistakes you might make? And what would you say to persuade yourself that it's okay to make mistakes like these once in awhile?

Manage your emotions -- they are contagious. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler write that, "Social networks have clusters of happy and unhappy people within them that reach out to three degrees of separation ... Each additional happy friend increases a person's probability of being happy by about 9 percent." Research being done in the field of neuroscience also shows that emotions are contagious. "Mirror neurons" in our brains catch another person's mood, much like catching a cold. To avoid spreading your bad mood to others, try one of these techniques referenced by Greenberg and Maymin:

** Actually label the emotion, which helps to diffuse it. I recently appeared on a national talk show with a panel of six other women. We were all excited, yet nervous about the appearance. As we were waiting offstage getting last minute make up and hair touch ups, one brave member of our group said, "Man, I'm nervous." You could immediately see the rest of the group let out a collective sigh of relief and it prompted a very healthy discussion about how we were feeling.

** Get out of your office and go for a walk and talk with a colleague or friend to blow off steam.

Give control back to your employees. As a high-achieving professional, one of the things I hate most is a micromanager. Too many bosses seek to control too many aspects of their employees' work, and we know that employees are at their productive best when they have autonomy, or control over their work. According to Greenberg and Maymin, when employees control their own work, they find ways to improve how work is performed, they take calculated risks, and they are able to continue their work even in their bosses' absence.

Stress and burnout aren't going away in our workplace, and as employees and businesses continue to manage in a culture of doing more with less, new, cutting edge tools are needed to help drive productivity, engagement, and results. Implement just one of the strategies outlined above, and not only will you become a more productive, better leader, but you may also notice a smile returning to your workday!

Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP, is an internationally-published writer, speaker and travels the globe as a stress and resilience expert. She has trained over one thousand professionals on how to manage their stress and increase their happiness by building a specific set of skills designed to develop personal resilience and prevent burnout. Paula is available for speaking engagements, training workshops, media commentary, and private life coaching - contact her at or visit her website at

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Paula's new e-book, 10 Things Happy People Do Differently" is now available. Click here to learn more!



Alcorn, K. (2013). Maxed out: American moms on the brink. Berkely, CA: Seal Press.

Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J. Social networks and happiness. Retrieved on November 25, 2013, from

Greenberg, M., & Maymin, S. (2013). Profit from the Positive: Proven leadership strategies to boost productivity and transform your business. New York: McGraw Hill.

Perlow, L.A. (2012). Sleeping with your smartphone: How to break the 24/7 habit and change the way you work. Harvard Business Press.

** The phrase "Profit from the Positive" in the title of this article was used with permission from Margaret Greenberg and Dr. Senia Maymin.