Why do I care about contributing to positive organizations? Maybe because I know what it’s like to be “doing time” within a locked building, ruled by the clock. I’ve been there. If this is our only turn on planet Earth our time is priceless. Being worried about Mondays is not necessary. We can’t afford to wait for 6 PM to be allowed to go home and live. What if there was more life in the office? More kindness, connection, development, contribution to the greater good?

We are blessed to live now: we have many more opportunities than our ancestors ever had. It’s vital that we develop our potential to meet the current challenges. That’s why we need positive organizations where people and performance thrive.

If you want to know more about why I care, here’s an interview I did with Carrie Koens of the LeadChange blog. I’d love to hear your Why. What do you care about?

Carrie: How long have you been focusing on a positive culture in the workplace?

Marcella: I’ve been working with culture more than 20 years, but the focus on a positive culture dates from the last 5 years or so. Kim Cameron’s recent positive leadership research (based on Positive Psychology) inspired me to take culture further, from “okay” to “thriving”.

Especially if you look at the Gallup research that claims that only 32% of US employees is engaged at work, and only 13% worldwide. Shocking! That means that so many people are just going through the motions to pay the bills. It means they are not tapping into their potential to live a truly fulfilled life, that their “best selves” might not show up at work, or at home… What would happen to the world and our workplaces if we would thrive?

I’ve been fascinated with culture as long as I can remember. It’s been a journey. First, experiencing culture in school with all the clans and who fits in and who doesn’t. Next, at university and my first jobs. I landed a job where I brimmed with energy because my work mattered, my colleagues were supportive, and I was challenged to give it my all.
But after this temporary project ended, I was “doing time” between 8 AM and 6 PM in an office to pay my bills. I didn’t feel appreciated and, worse, it felt like a prison. I started my own company because I wanted more freedom, autonomy, and purpose. My biggest fear was that I’d be sorry on my dying bed. Our time on earth is so precious! I didn’t want to spend my time dreading the workweek to pay the bills.

As a consultant working with clients I encountered culture as a challenge to organizational change. People saying yes but doing no – because it wasn’t the habitual “way we do things around here”. I started to work with culture directly, engaging people in Change Circles of 10 colleagues to change together.

Now, by using positive psychology at work, I help people and organizations develop a (more) positive culture where they can thrive. We all benefit from positive organizations, and we can all develop our potential to live fulfilled lives.

Carrie: What made you decide to write Developing a Positive Culture?

Marcella: That’s because I see too many people, regardless of their position, suffer or merely survive at work. I discovered it’s not just employees: Managers might also go through the motions to pay the bills, without real purpose and passion at work.

I once worked with some bright middle managers that kept repeating that higher management would torpedo their ideas, so their hands were tied. They told me that working with them was a waste of time and they wanted me to either change their bosses or let their employees work harder. But they claimed that they, as middle managers, couldn’t change anything about their teams, let alone the whole organization.

I then worked with their top executives who were worn out because their organization wouldn’t move. They couldn’t change anything and made the best of their long days. They were holding each other hostage; just going through the daily grind and blaming the others.

This case was one of several in a row, and it was the tipping point for me. I developed Interaction Interventions: easy to apply even when you are too busy to start a whole-organization culture project, regardless of your position, whether you are a middle manager, supervisor, co-worker or top executive.

Mind you: it’s not just about feeling happy. Positive organizations are proven to be more engaged, innovative, competitive, agile, collaborative and productive. So, it’s a win-win for all.

Carrie: What do you expect people to take away from the book?

Marcella: I expect people to take action if they hate Mondays! You make a difference to the organizational system. Organizations are non-linear networks that you can influence.
My Positive Culture book shares many tools to develop a more positive culture, with Interaction Interventions and/or Change Circles.

Culture happens when people get together because they copy, coach, and correct each other all the time. Culture is sustained in every interaction so if you start changing interaction patterns, you start to influence the system.
Interaction Interventions are small interactions that you can do on a daily basis to influence your meetings, co-workers, and eventually the organizational network. They are small but not insignificant, especially if you team up with like-minded co-workers.
Interactions in meetings matter to the culture, so I share ways to make meetings more interactive and positive. I also share tools for leaders to work with their teams on values, purpose, positive challenges, and trust.

Next, there are Change Circles if you want to enroll the whole organization in culture change. This is a larger-scale approach that works if there’s attention for personal interactions in small groups that influence the culture.

Carrie: What drove you to start the Positive Culture Academy?

Marcella: The book offers an overview and is very practical, but it’s great to have more personal support and to customize the tools to your situation.

The Positive Culture Academy focuses on you and how you can be the change you wish to see on your team. The Academy helps you apply positive leadership in your situation. We offer interactive training with video lectures, individual assignments, partner work, a dialogue group, and conference calls.

Carrie: Who would benefit from attending the Positive Culture Academy?

Marcella: Those middle managers that felt powerless and even a bit defeated, inspired me to create the book and the Academy. Wouldn’t it be great to have access to a positive resource, no matter where you are located, even if you have little time?

The Academy wants to support leaders of all levels, middle managers, supervisors, but also other working professionals. If you are a team member, you can enroll as well. Everyone can do interaction interventions, regardless of their position!
Not only can you strengthen yourself with a positive mindset, you can also engage others in a positive way and work towards positive results.

Carrie: If you could offer one piece of advice that people could apply TODAY, what would it be?

Marcella: First, accept that big change can start small. If you influence one person, one interaction at a time, you contribute to a more positive culture. Just like one candle can light a room!

Next, ask more questions. Asking is engaging the other person and learning about what matters to them. Ask genuine questions that you’re interested to hear the answer to. If we would all ask more questions and listen to the answers we would learn more, collaborate better, get innovative and build trust. Our workplaces would become more positive.

Now what?

Join the Positive Culture Academy! Send me an email so I can let you know when registration will be open. We’ll start again in September. Let’s go positive this Autumn!

© Marcella Bremer. All rights reserved.

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