It’s that time of the year when the NFL teams are competing to see who gets the chance to compete in the Super Bowl. Not too long ago, I was watching the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans AFC Championship Game. In this game, the emerging superstar quarterback for Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes, threw his 3 rd touchdown reception to his wide receiver, and then the commentators stated, “He is in the zone.” For an avid sports fan like myself, I know that being in the “zone” is a popular sports term referring to when an athlete has reached a place of supreme focus and has optimized his or her skill set within the sporting activity. This is what I would also call peak performance. As I watched, I was prompted to contemplate this question: how can we help more employees get into the “zone”?
Positive Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined a term similar to “in the zone” called flow. He believes that flow happens when someone is feeling an intense absorption, sense of
enjoyment, and energized focus while participating in an activity. He goes on to say that flow is “a state of one with the music.” In his highly researched book FLOW, he argues that flow can happen in any activity; it can occur in writing, playing an instrument, surfing, golfing, playing chess, painting, speaking, etc. What’s more is that we know that flow or being in the zone can also happen for employees in the workplace. I want to give you three ways you can help your employees get into the “zone.”
1. Employees need a clear goal and challenge.
Having a clear goal gives you something to focus on as an employee. When an employee knows that there is a deadline to be met or a project to be completed, their focus becomes heightened. In addition, getting into the zone is not only dependent on having a goal but also contingent upon how challenging the goal is. An employee can have a goal that is not challenging, and then the employee knows they can get it done quickly or will be bored doing it. When it’s a challenging goal, employees get a sense of enjoyment from the activity.
2. Employees must utilize strengths.
When you see someone in the zone, they are maximizing what they are good at. It’s critical
that an employee identify their strengths and utilize them to their greatest capacity. Most
people like to use the Gallup StrengthsFinder when uncovering their talent. In positive
psychology, Character Strengths are vital to understanding what you value and what gives
you energy. When a person applies their unique strength to a task, they feel like they are
capable of doing their best work and are able to overcome any challenging goal that lies
ahead of them.
3. Employees need autonomy.
Employees want the freedom to do their job and task how they best see fit. When you have
an organizational culture that celebrates self-sufficiency for employees in terms of letting
them have control of how they get work done, this allows the employees to be more
creative and focus on the task at hand. You could see this in the AFC Championship Game
with quarterback Patrick Mahomes; he used his creativity and independence in plays to get
the best results for his team while putting himself into the zone.
Essentially, getting into the zone achieves great results and improves the bottom line for any
organization. Not only does the organization experience the positive outcomes, it gives the
employee a sense of job satisfaction in their work. When employees feel they have a
challenging goal, are utilizing their strengths, and are given autonomy, we see them become
focused and “one with the music.”
Michael Dickerson is a work/life expert, Positive Psychology Practitioner, and host of The Spillover Effect Podcast. He utilizes positive psychology science and research to contribute to individuals, teams and organizations factors that can help employees achieve work/life integration. Michael believes is dealing with individuals as a whole person and enhancing the employee experience within organizations.