Positivity in the Work Place

Posted on January 12, 2013

Research shows that when we can maintain a ratio of 3 (positive emotion) : 1 (negative emotion) in the work place we show up more able to make and maintain productive relationships, have more effective team interactions and more successful client interactions.  Maintaining this ratio is challenging given the negative bias of negative emotions on the brain: we are biologically hard wired to pay more attention to negative emotion.  Often stated: positive emotion is like “teflon” on the brain and negative emotion more like “velcro” on our brains.

So what to do?

These resources offer brilliant ways to practice increasing positive emotions and thinking to get to the tipping point each day at work of 3:1:

Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity, Three Rivers Press, 2009:  This book, now available in paperback, is written by an award winning social scientist.  Dr. Fredrickson not only explains her research but gives poignant examples from her own life of how she maintains positivity. The book also lists exercises and methods to practice daily to maintain the 3:1 ratio at work and in life. Also, check out Dr. Fredrickson’s website:  www.positivityratio.com to test your positivity ratio each day.

Lynn Johnson, Enjoy LIfe: Healing with Happiness-available on his website and on Amazon.  The subtitle of this book is: How to harness positive moods to raise your energy, effectiveness and joy.  Dr Johnson gives really practical suggestions to maintain the positivity ratio as well as clear descriptions of relevant social science research.

Barbara Fredrickson and Marcel Losada, “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing”, American Psychologist, October 2005. For those interested in reading the research data.

Martin Seligman, Flourishing  and Authentic Happiness. Dr. Seligman is considered the Father of Positive Psychology. He is a must read if you are interested in studying Positive Psychology and applying the findings to your own life. He posits that in order to flourish in life (and to increase positive emotion) we need:  Positive relationships, Engagement or flow, Relationships/social connnections, Meaning or Purpose  and Accomplishment in our lives.

The CEO as Transformational Storyteller

Posted on November 30, 2011

CEO as a Transformational Storyteller and LeaderAmid economic challenges like those at work today, companies need to transform themselves, adapting to survive and even move ahead.  But given the volume of coverage and advisory-oriented information out there, surprisingly little attention is paid to the role of one important person – the CEO.   What can this key leader do?

According to a recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, issued by management consultants McKinsey & Company, the first thing CEOs should do is something I agree with a thousand percent.  CEOs must make their organization’s transformation meaningful by making it personal, and they should do that through storytelling.

“People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the CEO’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spotlight successes as they emerge,” say the experts at McKinsey, and they’re right.

I wrote a speech for a client some time ago that proves the point.  This gentleman had been named CEO of a company he had worked for all his life, succeeding a much younger man who had been brought in from the outside but who had passed away quite unexpectedly.  While the younger CEO had done a fine job improving efficiency and shareholder returns, he lacked interpersonal skills and internal morale had suffered.

The new CEO, conversely, having been such an old hand within the company, was well-known and even more well-loved.  He believed – truly believed – that when people came first, business results would follow.  And that message served as the central theme of the speech I wrote for him, as he addressed all employees as his first act as CEO.

He told stories drawn from the people who mentored him as a young man, those who worked alongside him, those who inspired him, and those who came to look up to him over time.  He tied these wonderful, warm stories to his vision of where he wanted the company to go.  He told the people of the organization he now led that he needed them to believe in each other the way he always believed in them.

And by the time he was finished, every one of those 2,400 people – whether they were in the same building, or watching via video across the company footprint – would have ran through a brick wall for him.

He made the transformation personal through heartfelt stories.  There’s no reason that CEOs in any organization, regardless of the challenges they face, can’t achieve the necessary transformations the same way.  It can’t be faked.  It can’t be half-hearted.  But when it’s done well, it can’t be denied.  A great speech delivered with conviction can transform people and organizations.

Reference:  Hayes, Tim, Jackass in a Hailstorm—Adventures in Leadership Communication,  2010 Transverse Park Productions, LLC.  This book is available on Amazon.com.  Tim is a Leadership Communication Consultant, Trainer and an associate in the Perla Group – Coaching and Consulting.

I Like Facebook, HBU (how ‘bout you)?

Posted on November 30, 2011

Facebook Business ConnectionsBy Tim Hayes

As a newbie to Facebook, I’m in the process of learning not only how to navigate these new waters of Walls and Friending and feigning interest in people’s toenail painting appointments, but also how to communicate business opportunities to heretofore untapped markets.

The universe of Twitter beckons as well, but my limit is one culture shock at a time, thanks.

One of the more fascinating aspects of these and other social media is the quicksilver development of language and novel abbreviations.  With three teenagers in the house, the fact that this is happening comes as no surprise.  Yet the sheer volume of newly hatched acronyms, homonyms, and synonyms leaves me speechless.  And I’m a speechwriter, 4COL (for crying out loud).

As a parent, I want to know what the kids are talking about out there to keep mine safe.  As a professional communicator, I want to know what language usages the world is embracing to keep my clients informed and protected, as well.  A recent article in The Wall Street Journal gives a very informed and informative rundown of this constantly evolving vocabulary, and quotes a media trainer as stating, “If a CEO does not appear to be tech-savvy, people may start to wonder, ‘Is the company not plugged into today’s technologies also?’”

I’m not sure the thumbs of CEOs with whom I work are furiously flurrying over their Blackberrys and iPhones with gems like KUTGW (keep up the good work), WRUD (what are you doing), or GBTW (get back to work).  Well, maybe that last one.  But the notion of remaining tech-savvy does ring true.

The only thing that never changes is the fact that everything changes.  Social media drives presidential politics, athletes bypassing the media and going straight to their fan base, heck, even Paula Abdul resigned from “American Idol” via Twitter.  What more proof does anyone need?

For now, I plan to dive back into my Facebook account and start swimming again, looking for fresh Friends who can lead me to vast new worlds of business connections.  My message to them?  PCM (please call me).

Copyright 2009 Tim Hayes Consulting

Reference:  Hayes, Tim, Jackass in a Hailstorm—Adventures in Leadership Communication, 2010 Transverse Park Productions, LLC.  This book is available on Amazon.com.  Tim is a Leadership Communication Consultant, Trainer and an associate in the Perla Group – Coaching and Consulting.


Creative Planning Retreat for Professionals

Posted on February 8, 2011

Professional Business Retreat
Save the Date:
Friday, April 8 – Saturday, April 9, 2011
St. Emma’s Monastery
Greensburg, PA

Retreat facilitated by Rosemarie Perla,  Executive Coach and Consultant

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computers

Purpose of retreat: To give the business professional time out to consider vision and values related to their work life; to design how they want to continue contributing in their careers and in their communities.

Friday, April 8, 2011 starting at 1 PM to Saturday, April 9, 2011 ending at 5 PM.

Where: St. Emma’s Monastery, 1001 Harvey Ave., Greensburg, PA  (approximately 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, PA)

Who: Business Professionals wanting to develop strategies for integrating personal strengths with their leadership skills and presence.

$275.00 (registered by March 18, 2011) includes room, most meals and retreat materials,  $300.00 (after March 18, 2011)

Retreat held in Monastery Guest House.  First 10 registrants are guaranteed a room with private bath.  All other registrants will have private room with shared bath.

For more information, or to pre-register – Call or email Rosemarie Perla at the Perla Group – Coaching and Consulting: Rosemarie@PerlaGroup.com  or  412.621.7996.  Details to follow.  WWW.PerlaGroup.com

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Posted on January 23, 2011

“The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business”

Theresa Amabile  Professor, Harvard University

Daniel Pink challenges and inspires in this visually brilliant video as he teaches us how to reconsider what motivates ourselves and ways to breath life into motivating others. Remember these three words: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and then take a few minutes to watch this–you will go away enriched and motivated to find your highest levels of creative thought and work. Click on this link to view the short video:

The Ladder of Effective Speaking

Posted on September 11, 2010

Speaking in a manner that is concise, energetic and clearly communicates ones requests, information and desires is refreshing and important in our information-cluttered age.  As one teacher said, “So many ways of communicating and what ARE WE communicating?”

How many conversations in meetings, emails, face to face and blogs do we come upon in a day—do you feel certain that you are communicating powerfully and successfully?  Too often, we get caught using language that does not sound powerful or effective. Language like, “I should, could, have to, etc.” which communicates more of an “external locus of control.” That is, your response or thinking is based more on what you think others want you to do. This language is more reactive, less powerful and often does not result in what we intended.

Language that is far more effective and concise consists of words like, “I prefer, or plan to, or want to, or have a passion for…” which lets the listener know that you are speaking from more of an “internal locus of control.”  Meaning, you are responding in a well thought out manner that is more receptive and focused – based on your deliberate thinking and experiences.

I owe this valuable teaching to my colleague and friend, Dave Ellis, a Master Coach, workshop leader and author.  In fact, this teaching is so powerful that I use it quite a bit in my coaching practice when describing ways that leaders can develop healthier communication and encourage and teach this in their work places.

Ladder of Effective Speaking/EllisThis graphic that Dave developed shows that when we get stuck in “obligation” we speak with “victim language” (an external locus of control), e.g., “they made me, I should, I must, etc.”  However, if you can think of  climbing the ladder, or as we use more “assertive language” (an internal locus of control) we use language using words like: “Is it possible, I prefer, We have a passion for…, We plan to…, I promise…”

The next time you find yourself speaking and using  “must, should, ought to, need to” question whether your thinking is “stuck in victim mud.”  Ask yourself how you might climb the “ladder of effective speaking” by questioning what you want, prefer or what is even possible that might move you to a sense of personal empowerment regarding your wishes, desires, dreams and plans. And, cause your communication to be more effective, meaningful and powerful.


Ellis, Dave.  Falling Awake.

Ellis, Dave & Lankowitz, Stan. Human Being.

Five Secrets of Effective Communication

Posted on March 10, 2010

Five Secrets of Effective CommunicationDavid Burns, MD has contributed many books to our understanding of how our thoughts and feelings can be managed to change our moods.  His method for effectively communicating is excellent especially in situations that are difficult, “heated” or in conflictual conversations in the work place – or at home.  The key here is to use a method below which you can genuinely express. If it seems inauthentic to the listener, it is not effective.  Practice!



1. The Disarming Technique – You find some truth in what the other person is saying, even if it seems totally unreasonable or unfair.

2. Empathy- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see the world through their eyes.

  • Thought empathy: You paraphrase the other person’s words
  • Feeling empathy: You acknowledge how he or she is probably feeling.

3. Inquiry: You ask gentle, probing questions to learn more about what the other person is thinking and feeling.


4. I “feel” statements: Shift to “I feel”, e.g. “I feel confused by this…”  rather than “you” statements. i.e. “you’re wrong” or “You make me furious!”

5. Stroking: You find something genuinely positive to say to the other person even in the heat of battle. You convey an attitude of respect, even though you may feel very angry with the other person.

*Copyright © 1991 by David D. Burns, MD. Revised, 1992.

Personal Boundaries

Posted on February 8, 2010

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

We all can understand the concept of personal space, e.g., someone moving too close to us and then we feel the need to back up to “get our space back.”  We also have “psychological boundaries” that need to be respected.  Sometimes, with some people, those boundaries are violated.

Personal BoundariesBoundaries are imaginary lines that keep other people’s actions and behaviors out.  Anything that causes you to get annoyed or upset is a crossed boundary.

Example:  If you have a swimming pool in your backyard without a fence around it, you might have all kinds of unwelcome guests splashing around in it.  When a sturdy fence is in place, what happens? People have to ask permission to jump in; they have to be invited.  You are the pool, the fence is your boundary.  In simple form a boundary is the word, “No.”

Boundaries need to be put in place to keep any damaging influences out of your way.  Those influences may be circumstances you created or that someone else, through their actions, has created for you.  These negative influences, can seem small at first, but, over time, can build up to cause difficulties in everyday interactions.

Interpersonal boundaries are invisible.  You have to communicate them to be known. If other people can’t comply, you may have to make an effort to avoid them altogether.  For example, co-workers making remarks about your weight or getting personal phone calls from a family member at work…a response, clearly and respectfully setting a boundary may be:  “It’s not O.K. that you comment on my weight.  I’d like you to stop.”  Or, “I have decided to take all personal calls in the evening in order to get my work done.  I will call you later.”

Take away: Put your boundaries in place:

  1. Stop people just as they are doing something that violates your boundary.
  2. Tell them what they are doing.
  3. Request that they stop.
  4. Instruct them about the change that you need to see.
  5. Thank them for making the change.

If they are not cooperative, add 6 or 7:

6. Demand that they stop.

7. Walk away without a fight.

The bottom line is that “they” are not doing anything to you that you are not allowing them to do.


Take Yourself to the Top, Laura Berman Fortgang, 1998, Warner Books.

Getting happier at work

Posted on January 23, 2010

“Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do”

Jahad-ad-din Rumi (Persian poet 1207-1273)

Getting happier at work
Getting Happier at Work

Remember when you were a little kid and you would dream about who you wanted to BE when you grew up?   Just the thought of independently communicating your power at a job where you expressed your talents, strengths and interest…felt, well it felt grown up.

Then you grew up.  Keeping the enthusiasm, interest and passion alive for your work can be a challenge. Think about how much time we spend at work.  Today, with lean teaming and downsizing, people often spend more than 8 hours a day in the workplace.  Why not reconnect with that early enthusiasm that drove you to consider expressing your gifts, your sense of contributing to the world and making a difference?

First, identify your strengths and then find ways to use them and develop them at your job.  A previous blog I wrote (October, 2009) directs you to a website: www.authentichappiness.com where you can take a short test (the VIA Strengths Survey) that identifies your top 5 strengths.   Consider exploring ways to express those strengths at your job. For example, if “Love of Learning” is a strength of yours, then you might organize a “lunch and learn” for co-workers in the workplace.

A second way that can move you toward happier times in the workplace is to notice how often you give into negative thinking at work. Many times this is  fueled by unhappy co-workers.  Walking away is one answer to this type scenario… as my colleague Dave Ellis says, “That’s why we have feet.” However, it is harder to walk away when those thoughts stay in your own mind.    When you notice those “grumpy” thoughts, instead of entertaining them,  consider the alternative of letting them go.  The more energy you put into these thoughts, the more you’re apt to go down the negative spiral, which brings your energy down, and your thoughts following.  Or, to ask yourself, “What do I want to change about this situation?”  Then move into productive action and become a part of the answer instead of continuing the complaint.  We know we work best when we are in a good mood, which means shifting those thought towards being grateful, appreciative and glad to be working and contributing.

The next time you find yourself feeling unhappy at work—try asking yourself  what is right and good about your work?  In my work as a professional coach and psychologist, I have the opportunity to talk to people who are successful by societal standards- having prestige and great paying jobs; as well as people who are working in low-income jobs.  Both types of people tell me they are sometimes happy at work and sometimes not – what makes a difference is how they practice being happy where they are. They begin to learn more, grow more and then often find more opportunities coming their way as well.  Researchers are learning that, regardless of your work, when you practice positive emotion in the workplace, you increase your problem solving capacities, bring more meaning to your workday and build resiliency- all important factors in developing happiness.

Take away: If you want to be happier at work, start with how you are being at work:  exercise your strengths and express more positive emotion in your present job.  Perhaps you might find that uplifting and empowering feeling you had once when you dreamed of what you would be when you grew up.  Wasn’t happiness a part of that dream?


Fredrickson, B.L. & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.

Colan, L.J. (2004). Passionate Performance. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.

Lynn D. Johnson. Happiness:  Create the Perfect Job.  2008 – 801.261.1412.

Gratitude: Taking Time to Express Thanks

Posted on December 3, 2009

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”

-Eric Hoffer

The holiday card that the Perla Group sent out this year states:

During this season of gratitude and celebration,

we acknowledge those who have made our

success possible.  In this spirit, we say thank you.

May peace be with you and yours

in this coming year, as well as a prayer for our world.

Gratitude Expressing Thanks
Gratitude: Expressing Thanks

Yes, indeed it is the season of celebration:  Celebrating the past year, our successes and accomplishments, what we cherish and hold dear—what gives meaning to our lives.  Not only acknowledging these successes is key, however, taking time to express thanks is most crucial.

Who has not seen the movie, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and (my favorite) Danny Kaye?  It is one elaborate production of song and dance and GRATITUDE.  The two army buddies take time from their holiday gigs to remember a general who lead them during their wartime experiences and who inspired them to move through life with courage and grace.  You may not go through the bother of renting a Vermont Inn to express thanks and gratitude to someone this season, however, think about taking time to formally express thanks to someone who you appreciate.

Research in positive psychology is demonstrating that the habitually grateful among us are happier than those who are not.  Now there is a reason to express gratitude each day:  you might wind up feeling and being a happier person.

What workplace would not be lighter and happier if colleagues formally expressed thanks for a job well done or for a gesture of kindness?  I can still remember a memo that a colleague of mine wrote back in 1984 to my superior commenting on how my service to the hospital unit was a valuable asset to his staff.  Completely unsolicited, and yet, it added incredible support and encouragement to my sense of professional esteem.  A gesture I treasure and still remember to this day.

Take away: One of the most powerful positive psychology exercises is the Gratitude Letter. This exercise asks you to think of someone, parents, teachers, employers, teammates, etc., who have been kind to you but who never heard you express your gratitude.  Write a letter of gratitude, describing in concrete terms why you are grateful.  Delivering the letter in person and having the person read the letter in your presence delivers the most powerful experience. Mailing or faxing the letter and following it up with a phone call can be an alternative and as moving.  Expressing your gratitude in words and actions not only boosts your own positive emotion but those of the recipient as well.  In this process, we not only reinforce their kindness but also positively strengthen the bond of the relationship.


McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., Emmons, R.A. & Larson, D.B. “Gratitude as moral affect.”  Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.

Peterson, Christopher.  A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Selgman, Martin.  Authentic Happiness. Free Press, 2002.