Positive psychology is a discipline that has been around for the last 25 years. As a leader, you may have heard this term being used frequently in the leadership and coaching arenas.
With the emergence and understanding of positive psychology came positive psychology therapy. Feeding off this is the newer development of positive psychology coaching.
What exactly does it entail, and how can it impact your team?
A conversation with Martina Maurer, a Leadership Coach with The School of Positive Psychology with over 20 years in the industry, helped shed more light on the subject. A Master Coach, Positive Psychology practitioner and Leading Change Agent, Martina believes in empowering her clients to thrive and enabling them to lead flourishing lives.
Martina pointed out that contrary to popular belief, positive psychology doesn’t mean you must constantly overflow with positivity. Positive Psychology is the science of being and flourishing while taking into context human beings’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
Let’s delve deeper into positive psychology coaching to understand why we are advocates of it.
“There is an overlap between coaching and positive psychology, and the two fields complement each other in many ways. At the core, they both focus on change and transition and achieving positive change for the client,” explained Martina.
Positive psychology research explores wellbeing, strength, emotions and resilience. Whereas positive psychology coaching is the applied approach of positive psychology, the practical aspect of the theory, added Martina. Both domains aim to bring out the best in people accentuating the positive.
Positive psychology comes with all its research and evidence-based techniques, theories and toolkits – in this way, it uplifts coaching. Coaches often utilise therapy tools and techniques when assessing and coaching their clients.
As a practitioner, Martina commented that it is vital to clarify that the therapist is looking to see what is working well for their client, yet they also pay attention to what is wrong or not working. From experience, Martina pointed out that an excellent first step to this introspection is to start with powerful questioning. This assessment helps set the scene so you can focus on the issues. Many models exist, But PERMA is one of the most prominent positive psychology tools used at the initial stages.
This model focuses on the following:
The use of resilience tools, communication and mindset, what makes a person flourish, are all important when ascertaining the emotional state. The SPANE Model (Scale of Positive and Negative emotions/experiences) is also helpful in this context. “The great thing about positive psychology coaching is that science-backed assessments and framework models support it, so it’s just a case of picking one from the wellbeing toolbox,” added Martina.
Martina elaborated on the numerous benefits of this coaching method:
Touching on the relevance of positive psychology in the modern work environment, Martina added that modern leaders need to be more in touch with their emotions and feelings and be able to handle others’ feelings and emotions skillfully. It is no longer about command and control but rather about solving the issues together.
Martina stressed, “The new breed of leaders must take responsibility for themselves to achieve their best selves and inspire through leadership and coaching.”
Not all Positivity is Positive; Beware of Toxic Positivity
Martina pointed out that sometimes positivity may actually be toxic. “Constantly being positive, or being told to be positive, even when things are not positive, can harm your mental health.”
Therefore she suggested, “It’s important to distance positive psychology from this toxicity. Toxic positivity happens when people see everything in a positive light. But this doesn’t work as you’re pushing away the negatives. Positive psychology coaching doesn’t just focus on the positive or always being positive.” While it helps one see what is right and working, it also enables us to acknowledge what is wrong and not conducive. Ultimately, all emotions are valid and offer an opportunity for change.
Martina noted that negative emotions like fear and anxiety might help push one in the right direction and, in essence, bring about positive change. “So even if one starts down a negative spiral of thought, positive psychology coaching will assist with realising there is always a choice. They can change the narrative and help get back on track.” Ultimately, positive psychology coaching helps one work through these issues to bring out their best self.
This is another reason positive psychology coaching can help leaders and their teams flourish. It helps to give leaders valuable new insights and skills while showing them how important it is to create a psychologically safe workplace for people to thrive.
Get in touch with SMILE to learn more about how you can train your leaders in positive psychology coaching, to bring out the best in them.