Leadership in Action – Are your staff in FLOW?

Leadership in Action – Are your staff in FLOW?


Your 7-point checklist


Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychologist, coined the phrase “FLOW” that describes a healthy mental state in which a person is so immersed in the task at hand that it creates a focus and engagement that increases effectiveness. In sports, it is described as being “in the zone.”  Use this checklist to Energize Action by having your team operate in a state of FLOW.

  1. “My effort makes a difference.” – This is the core belief that drives employee engagement. When individuals believe their work makes a difference, they willingly put in the effort and the time. At the core of self-confidence is a belief that what one does matters. As a leader, be sure to connect your team’s efforts to the achievement of department and organizational goals.
  2. The balance between ability and challenge – If the task is too easy or too hard, it does not engage the individual. When leading others, it is important to find aspects of their work that challenges them to be better, as well as strive to improve their performance in preparation for the next challenge.
  3. Cause-and-effect – Reinforcing how effort connects to outcomes, as opposed to a belief in fate, luck, or magic, makes it easier to see root causes and patterns in performance, because nothing just happens by itself. As a leader, connect their actions to movement toward goal accomplishment.
  4. The need to have clear goals – Goals create energy. So, no goal, no energy. The clearer you are in articulating the goals, as well as building co-ownership in those goals, creates accountability and resilience in your team.
  5. Excellence and continuous improvement – This is about believing that things can be better today than they were yesterday, and that tomorrow they can be better than today. Within that context of constantly striving for excellence, individuals are able to celebrate today’s successes. They don’t get caught up in the notion that their work wasn’t good enough.
  6. Intrinsically motivating – This internal drive to accomplish a task helps to make the task seem effortless, or at least energizing as opposed to creating fatigue. As a leader, be sure to create want to goals, not have to goals.
  7. The need for feedback – Feedback creates conscious awareness of being on track or off track. Feedback is essential to know if your effort is making a difference. As a leader, help provide systems so that there is a continuous stream of feedback. This allows your team members to make the adjustments on the way to achieving the goal. This is not a need for external praise. Instead, feedback is a way to measure: “How well did I do today?” “What will my goal be tomorrow?”

“Flow” tends to cause endorphins to be released. So, when you Energize Action in your team, by following the above seven points, not only is your team extremely productive but their personal satisfaction and mental health improves.