The secret to a more creative, productive workplace may be the one emotion that business leaders rarely encourage at the office: love.
Forget the kind of love you see in greeting cards and Valentines. According to emotion researcher Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (Hudson Street, 2013), love is much more ordinary.
"Love is any positive emotion that we share with another person in real time," Fredrickson says. "It could be shared serenity, pride, or compassion, but the minute that it becomes shared, it is converted to an experience of love."
Love changes the way your brain works. "It allows us to see the big picture and connect the dots," Fredrickson says, adding that positive emotions help people become more creative, productive, and resilient. "These micromoments of connection are the key to unlocking more generative capacity."
We often experience these moments at work, even if we don't recognize them. The more we do, the more we start to care about the company as a whole. "You start to think about how the communal web around you might be functioning," Fredrickson says, suggesting that connected employees are more inclined to work for communal good.
As a leader, you can best foster this sense of connection at your company through your own example. "If you express a more open state that is authentic and sincere, that vibe will reverberate," Fredrickson says.
Here are four tips to help you lead a more connected company:
1. Notice your daily connections. Most moments of connection go unrecognized because we're not used to thinking about them. You can increase their frequency and impact by reflecting on them for one minute at the end of each day. Ask yourself, who did I really connect with today? What were we doing? What did I feel? Just notice that it happened.
Make this reflection a daily habit by choosing a time and place when you'll do it. "It really helps to link it to a physical place, like every day when I'm walking from work to the car, I’ll think about this," Fredrickson says. One minute is all it takes to reinforce the habit.
2. Spend more time face to face. We use physical and verbal cues to establish a connection with someone else, so we need to talk in person. "Spend less time looking at a tiny screen and more time looking at a face," Fredrickson says.
Make an effort to have meaningful conversations every day. Encourage people to eat lunch together, create opportunities to collaborate, and organize casual social events. Just laughing at a funny video together is a moment of connection. If you work remotely, then video chats and phone calls can also spark these moments.
Related: How to Motivate Creative Employees
3. Practice meditation. "Meditation is one of the more potent ways to increase people's positive emotions and connection," Fredrickson says. A daily meditation practice trains you to be more open to moments of connection, which causes a ripple effect in your company or social circle. To start, try the guided meditations on Fredrickson’s website.
A daily meditation practice will help you across the board. It's shown to increase positive emotions, lower stress, improve health, and even slow the aging process. "Emotions are a mind-body event," Fredrickson says. "They come with their own physiology – you're literally changing the composition of your body in a lasting way."
Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.