January 2014
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TD Magazine

Positive Psychology Made Practical

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business

By Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin

McGraw-Hill, 256 pp., $25

A quick read that offers numerous scientifically supported strategies that can be implemented today, for free, to boost productivity in the workplace—too good to be true? I might have thought so before reading Profit from the Positive, but that is just what this book offers.

Positive psychology is a relatively new field of study that analyzes how individuals, workplaces, and communities thrive. Greenberg and Maymin translate findings from research in positive psychology into a set of practical tools for improving organizational performance.

Their book presents more than two dozen strategies for creating positive change in organizations. It is divided into three sections: Part I focuses on the leader as an individual, Part II addresses team issues, and Part III provides practical suggestions for implementing the ideas presented in the two previous sections.

Recommendations for leaders include tips for being more productive, such as setting habits, not goals; and leaving work unfinished to trick yourself into getting started. There also are strategies for helping leaders become more resilient, manage their emotions, and develop their unique strengths.

Suggestions for improving teamwork include hiring for fit, increasing employee engagement, and introducing much-needed changes into the performance review process (think previewing rather than reviewing performance). The authors also provide helpful tips for making meetings more productive and upbeat.

I found Profit from the Positive to be an easy read that offers actionable business solutions based on rigorous scientific research. Case studies from companies such as Google and Zappos help to bring the ideas to life, as do personal stories from the authors' work with their own clients.

Greenberg and Maymin introduce their book by writing, "You've tried everything. Now try something that works." Positive psychology works. Readers can apply the strategies outlined in this book to foster positive transformation.

I recommend Profit from the Positive for leaders, human resource professionals, and coaches interested in harnessing the power of positivity to improve performance at the individual, team, or organizational level. It is a useful resource for those wanting to lead positive change.

The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say

David M. Dye

Trailblaze Press, 118 pp., $17.97

Organizational performance and results are shaped by the interactions between teams and their leaders. The messages that are communicated by those leaders have the power to inspire, galvanize, and energize others—or not. Written by an in-the-trenches practitioner and experienced manager, this book outlines the seven critical messages that teams need to hear (and see) from their leaders. Filled with examples and practical tips and tactics, Dye draws on his more than 20 years of executive, management, and coaching experience to provide a roadmap for immediately changing the conversation—which changes team dynamics, the culture, and ultimately, results.

Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned From Online Dating

Paul Oyer

Harvard Business Review Press, 256 pp., $25

It's not very romantic to equate dating with economics, but that's exactly this book's premise. Oyer, a Stanford University economist, draws fascinating comparisons between the online dating "market" and the business markets he studies every day. He shows readers how the behaviors and trends that influence online dating sites are parallel to those that drive the modern economy. Oyer uses the framework of online dating to structure the book, presenting a new economic concept in each chapter. By the end of the book, readers will have gained new insights into our economy and how it shapes our everyday interactions.


Finding Allies, Building Alliances: 8 Elements That Bring—and Keep—People Together

Mike Leavitt and Rich McKeown

Jossey-Bass, 240 pp., $29.95

Although we are connected in more ways now than ever before, are those connections yielding the results we want? Or are they just distracting us from the tasks at hand? Leavitt, a former Utah governor and former U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, and McKeown show readers how to forge connections that solve problems and lead to new opportunities. Their eight strategies apply to both individuals and organizations. Finding Allies is for any business leader who has ever felt like an island, or for those who have 500 LinkedIn connections but don't know whom to turn to with a problem.

What's on John Boudreau's Bookshelf?

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. This book is a vivid and thought-provoking treatment of the way the context of culture and social messaging can affect entire societies, reminding me of the upside and downside of powerful cultures.

The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook by Anne Willan. The expression of rich history through something as familiar as cooking and recipes shows how much of our development is actually through the way that small everyday endeavors evolve and combine, just like at work. Plus, the recipes are really tasty, and the author devoted her life to this amazing collection of cookbooks.

Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song by Graham M. Schweig. This ancient parable about a warrior and his mentor is not only filled with small gems that I can apply in my daily life, but is a great example of quiet influence through education and Socratic questioning.

About the Author

Beth Cabrera is the author of Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being and a senior scholar at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. As a writer, researcher, and speaker, she helps individuals achieve greater success and well-being. Beth’s leadership development programs focus on strengths, purpose, mindfulness, and workplace well-being. After earning her PhD in industrial and organizational psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, she earned tenure as a management professor at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain. Beth later taught at Arizona State University and conducted research at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Read her blog at www.cabrerainsights.com or follow her on Twitter @bethcabrera.

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