3 steps leaders can take to achieve and encourage flow
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Working in a flow state allows anyone from a cashier to an extreme athlete to accomplish amazing things. Experiencing flow states in the office increases pleasure and creativity, produces lasting satisfaction and better results faster, plus it reduces stress.
Here are three ways leaders can tap into this amazing momentum to achieve and encourage flow on their teams.
There are two steps to defining flow. First, understanding and getting clear on what it means to be in a flow state. Second, delineating ways to get there.
Before encouraging team members, a leader should think of a time he was in a flow state and jot down what it felt like. In most cases, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the father of flow notes, it is like losing time — being so immersed in an activity that an individual is unaware of any distractions including how much time may have passed.
For leaders, the key is to make the experience real by anchoring it to something specific to which team members can relate. Next, leaders should consider what it took to achieve that state. Flow states often come about when someone is safely consumed in a defined activity with clear rules, goals and outcomes — something that happens frequently in the workplace.
Understand — and make it clear to the team — that working within parameters allows for creativity and more free thinking. For example, a leader can present his example of a flow state by noting the problem to be solved, the constraints within which he had to work and the resources he had available, concluding with the MacGyver-like solution.
Once everyone understands what a flow state is and can recall a time they experienced it (or at least understand what it must be like), it is time to afford the opportunity for experimentation. Specifically, each employee should come up with an activity on which to focus.
For a receptionist, it could be interpersonal interactions. For a graphic designer, it could be the creation of a specific campaign. For a line manager, it could be increasing efficiency.
Then, within that activity, consider the following questions noted in this Psychology Today review of Csikszentmihalyi's book "Finding Flow." Pay close attention to each step involved and then ask:
- Is it necessary?
- Can it be done better, faster, more efficiently?
- What additional steps could make my contribution more valuable?
Practice, practice, practice
For most of us, entering a flow state is not second nature. However, with practice and effort, it can become a lot easier and more consistent.
The best way for leaders to encourage and reap the benefits of leading teams that flow is to continue to practice and encourage accomplishing it. Talking about and rewarding successful examples, providing specific opportunities for practice and regularly incorporating it into performance management conversations will help everyone become more skilled at achieving flow states and increase the occasions it can be achieved.
For more on flow states at work, visit this article: "4 reasons to encourage flow states at work."
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