There is a plethora of programmes on television built around home improvements. You may have watched them. As someone who finds any form of DIY a challenge, I am slightly in awe of the people on these programmes. One of the buzzwords you hear on these shows is ‘flow.’ It has to do with unimpeded progress around the house.
The idea of flow has entered the workplace as research has been carried out to see why some people are more productive than others. A Hungarian psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, pioneered this research into people deemed successful in a wide range of professions. When digging into the reasons for their success, he found that their secret was to be able to enter into a state of flow frequently and deliberately.
What is flow at work?
“They would describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self-consciousness, and such intense absorption in the task at hand that they would lose track of time” (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).
Flow, in other words, has to do with intense focus on an activity to the exclusion of other distractions. It is a place of high productivity where a person is totally engaged with what they are doing. A place where their perception of time is altered, where there is high creativity. It is desirable because this is where someone is more likely to bring their best work. It doesn’t happen by accident, but it occurs in the right environment and sits squarely in the whole realm of employee engagement.
How many times have you been so absorbed in your work that you have lost awareness of things around you? Psychologists describe this as being in a state of flow.
Flow is key to the workplace. If more of people can enter into a state of flow, then the productivity and engagement of any team will be higher. At its heart it is more likely to occur when you are enjoying your work. Certain conditions need to be in place if that is going to happen. What are they?
Keys to Engagement and Flow
The right team environment is key if your people are to be more productive. In its project Aristotle research, Google found that it was not the individual skills around the team that made for a high performing team, it was the way the team interacted with each other.
- The team needs to feel safe to take risks. This area around psychological safety is well understood from research. Essentially if you as a team member are going to step out and take a risk then you need to believe that your colleagues have your back. It is an environment of experimentation and of learning.
- The team has the freedom to be themselves, to be vulnerable and collaborate in terms of risk taking. This builds deeper connection in the team.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”- Brené Brown
- The team has a strong sense of shared purpose; they are working towards a shared goal. This is key when engaging with the Millennial generation who have a much stronger desire to work towards purpose rather than just the paycheck at the end of the month.
- Tasks to be done cannot always be challenging; some things just have to be done. However, for someone to enter a state of flow, the task needs to be challenging but not so challenging that stress is the main result. As leaders when setting projects this means being clear about expectations and providing the resources needed for the task.
How is the flow going in your workplace? Remember it is the leader that sets the culture. The good news is you are in front of great potential waiting to be unlocked.
To explore creating a culture to unlock more of the potential in your team book a discovery call with me here.