From the Experts: Unlocking the Power of Positive Psychology

unlocking the power of positive psychology

Positive psychology, a branch of psychology focused on character strengths and behaviors that allow individuals to build a life of meaning and purpose, goes beyond fleeting happiness – it helps us go from surviving to flourishing. Positive Psychology is a powerful practice that can be used to help individuals, teams, and even entire organizations achieve deeper meaning and purpose that leads to fulfillment. Read this article to hear from a few of our experts on why positive psychology is vital in the workplace and insights on how the practice has achieved higher levels of happiness.


Answers From the Experts:

Lyn Turknett,
Co-founder and Co-chair, TLG

Do you think positive psychology is important in the workplace? And why?

I remember reading, perhaps thirty years ago, an observation by a consultant that had a profound effect on me. I am not sure of the writer – it could have been Marvin Weisbord – but I remember the story vividly. He said that he was helping facilitate a planning meeting with an organization, and the energy was high as the group came together. They began the meeting, as many do, by doing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities) analysis. They then spent most of the time discussing problems the organization was facing. Within a few hours, all optimism had drained from the group. He realized that starting with a positive and inspiring vision of the future – and the strengths already existing to get there – was essential to maintaining the energy for change.

We now use an “appreciative” approach to organization change in work with clients. It’s grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry Theory of David Cooperrider, and it’s a strengths-based, vision-based model that builds hope and optimism. We begin with four big questions:

  • For individuals, in dyads: When have you been most excited about your work here? Think of a time – a specific situation – when you were very engaged and proud of the organization and your work.
  • What is your vision for the future? If a major network came to do a story on the organization in five years, what would they see? How would you be functioning?
  • What are the strengths of the organization for getting there? Be as specific as you can.
  • To get to that vision – what will you need to do more of, better, or differently?

To read Lyn’s full article on why positive psychology works, click here.


What examples of positive psychology have you seen be especially effective for creating happiness in an organization?

  1. We know that cultures based on alignment around a vision, alignment around goals, and psychological safety for everyone are more financially successful and effective in promoting well-being. Alan Mullaly’s turnaround at Ford is a great case study to learn from.
  2. Setting the stage in meetings. Ask, at the beginning (and end) of the meeting, questions like – what are you most proud of about this organization? What’s happened recently that made you happy? What do you appreciate about the person to your left?
  3. Creating cultures where appreciation and gratitude are regular occurrences. I am a fan of the book Multipliers – just remembering the idea that we can either multiply the strengths of others or diminish them is powerful.
  4. Using tools like the Clifton Strengths Finder to emphasize strengths.
  5. Using methods that create social connections between employees – allowing them to form interest groups like book clubs, hiking clubs, and even discussions of new trends in their industry. Platforms like Cooleaf may help.

Cindy Cheatham, MBA
Sr. Consultant, TLG,

Do you think positive psychology is important in the workplace? And why?

Turknett Leadership Group is uniquely founded by Lyn & Bob Turknett whose Leadership Character Model ™ (LCM) is founded on the principles of positive leadership before the field of Positive Psychology was established.

Many attributes of the LCM and the 360 assessment that TLG uses have aspects of important leadership attributes that could be also considered key fundamentals of positive psychology. These include emotional mastery and resilience and how these leadership attributes affect positive relationships, influence, first impressions, and more.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. and Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside has conducted a lot of research on happiness. Positive psychology has been more grounded in evidence-based practice in the past few decades and has been increasingly incorporated into corporate wellness, leadership development, and coaching. For example, there is evidence that happiness, according to Lyubomirsky’s research, is affected 50% by genetics and 10% by circumstances, but 40% can be positively affected by intentionally focusing on strategies to foster optimism and resilience.

As humans, we are naturally wired with a fight-or-flight or fear instinct when a variety of danger lurks our way, including when we meet people who are unfamiliar to us in background, race/ethnicity, or experience. I learned through the IDEA Certification Program which TLG administered through master coach and instructor, Dr. Cherry Collier that fight-or-flight is something we need to intentionally acknowledge. We can foster strategies to break down barriers and develop a greater sense of belonging and connection to improve outcomes with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.

Positive leadership helps to prepare the way for handling adverse scenarios and trying times. Organizations and leaders are constantly faced with uncertainty and good and bad news in their workplace and individuals and leaders face these at home as well. They cannot let circumstances of the day, week, or year overtake the positive opportunities presented – rather they must lead their teams and organizations to a better future.

The positive leadership style encourages building the strengths of employees and team members, being resilient and optimistic in difficult times, and recognizing each person’s contributions.


What examples of positive psychology have you seen be especially effective for creating happiness in an organization?

In my coaching, I particularly see those who are self-aware of personal and emotional challenges that they may bring to their work and who are intentional in managing to have great success in improving their positive leadership.

Our genetics and home life experience can shape some of us to have a less optimistic view or to bring a fragile self-confidence to our workplace. A healthy strengths-based optimistic orientation and strong self-confidence affect leaders’ ability to take on challenges without fear and to pursue innovation and risk-taking. This self-confidence helps a leader to exude a strong executive presence that helps them to win influence and respect. And our positive leaders can influence others to be more optimistic and enthusiastic about the workplace and hopeful for the future.

Positive psychology focuses not so much on fixing our deficits as acknowledging some of our natural tendencies toward fear, doubt, and negativity, and gives us tools to move to more optimism and greater resilience. As coaches, we are trained to not try to “change our clients” but instead help them to gain awareness, motivation, energy, and a sense of self-efficacy to be their best selves at home and in the workplace.

The behaviors learned through good wholistic coaching and leadership development that acknowledges the human being and not just the human-doers all are very helpful to coaching toward higher performing and more effective leaders. As a coach, I pursue a wholistic approach to my coaching and to further my skills, certification, and to enhance my approach to helping leaders be grounded in their purpose, strengths, and to have the motivation to work on skills, behaviors, and approaches to leadership that will help them to “Flourish.”

And who does not want to have a happier, more joy-filled life and workplace? We have not even talked about employee engagement, which of course will be positively affected by strong, positive leadership. Good leadership involves strategy, business and organizational behavior skills and knowledge, and technical competencies, and it also involves a solid understanding of human psychology and positive psychology.

Looking forward to more happiness together in 2024!

Christine RobertsChristine M. Roberts, MBA,
Success Coach, Author, Speaker, and TLG Strategic Partner
Founder & CEO of Create Your Best Life

Do you think positive psychology is important in the workplace? And why?

Yes, absolutely, positive psychology is important in the workplace because it focuses on fostering well-being, resilience, and positive emotions, which can improve employee satisfaction, engagement, and overall productivity. Positive psychology has been a transformative force in my coaching practice, bringing about profound benefits for my clients.

Within the framework of my signature Create Your Best Life (CYBL) coaching program, positive psychology is leveraged in various ways. One significant application involves the analysis of different life categories, where clients identify both the areas that are thriving and those they wish to enhance.

Additionally, we engage in exercises that prompt a shift in perspective – transitioning from viewing tasks as obligations to appreciating them as opportunities. These exercises often lead to “aha” moments for my clients, fostering a profound sense of empowerment.

Through the lens of positive psychology, the CYBL program becomes a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment, guiding individuals not just toward improvement but toward a life that is truly exceptional both personally and professionally.


What examples of positive psychology have you seen be especially effective for creating happiness in an organization?

Disney’s overarching purpose is to “Create Happiness for everyone of all ages.” In pursuit of this goal, their culture framework incorporates service standards and behaviors articulated through “I” statements, offering clear guidelines for cast members to comprehend and embody. This framework facilitates leadership in recognizing and coaching observable behaviors. The cultural emphasis on “catching” individuals in the act of doing things right, coupled with the practice of acknowledging and appreciating cast members, establishes an environment that fosters joy and satisfaction. Consequently, this positive atmosphere encourages cast members to consistently exceed expectations.


Explore the rest of our team!