Canadian Conference on Positive PsychologyWork is a four-letter cuss word for too many people. Monday morning is often the toughest time of their week. Too many people are mumbling, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go” as they trudge off to check into their “day prison.”

In other workplaces people are leaping out of bed in the morning excited to get to work. They are feeling highly fulfilled and energized by their co-workers and their workplace. Many people in these organizations feel that their co-workers and leaders enhance their well-being with a healthy and productive workplace.

Building healthier workplaces is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to attending and speaking to the 4th Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology: “Bridging Canadian Wellbeing” at the University of Toronto on May 23 to 25. More than 500 researchers, organizational leaders, educators, clinical practitioners, coaches, and development professionals will explore how to help individuals, organizations, and communities flourish.

For the past few decades I’ve followed the ground-breaking work of Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Based on his extensive research, articles and books, and his 1998 term as elected president of the American Psychological Association he’s now considered the founder of the burgeoning new field of positive psychology — defined as “the science of happiness, well-being, and what makes life worth living.”

A central approach in positive psychology is building on strengths. That’s much more effective than focusing on weaknesses, gaps, and what’s wrong. See “Positive Psychology, Strengths, and Leadership” and “Strengths, Positivity, and Halo Effects” for more background on Seligman’s work, this new field of study, and my deep and abiding interest in these approaches. Our Positive Psychology resource section also has over two dozen blogs, book reviews, and articles on this powerful new discipline.

Team or organizational culture is a core factor in creating energizing or enervating workplaces. And that culture ripples out from the team or organization’s managers. Numerous studies show that the single biggest factor in employee satisfaction and well-being is the immediate manager or supervisor. The daily work environment — how team members treat each other, respect, trust, communication, relationships, shared ownership for group goals, understanding and buying-in to the why of changes, autonomy, having a say in daily work, job design — are paramount to engagement.

My conference presentation on “Leveraging Leadership Strengths with a 360 Assessment and Development Process” will draw from Zenger Folkman’s extensive and continuing research in The Extraordinary Leader development system. Over the past six years, The CLEMMER Group has helped over a thousand leaders leverage their strengths using this powerful feedback and development process (I am facilitating public workshops on The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach in Mississauga on June 21 and 22).

Studies continue to show that workplace stress and low engagement levels are a big and growing problem. Helping leaders leverage his or her strengths to increase leadership effectiveness has a major impact on the workplace environment and everyone’s health and wellbeing.