The Pursuit of Happiness – evidence mounts

Here at the ECA, we have been hugely influenced by the Positive Psychology movement started by Martin Seligman, amongst others. We have always believed that a positive mental attitude has numerous benefits, and that being ‘happy’ can have positive spin-offs to other people. Without being ‘happy-clappy’ and going about with huge smiles on our faces all the time, being the best you can be and encouraging that ‘best’ in others is central to the work we do in coaching.

I’m happy to say that there is growing evidence to back this up. A study by the ILM (Institute of Management and Leadership) found a strong link between being ‘happy’ at work and peoples’ perceptions of their performance. Managers who scored themselves as ‘high performers’ ranked their personal happiness at the higher end of the scale, and those who scored themselves as ‘low performers’ scored their personal happiness much lower. The ILM study established that there is a self-reinforcing circle: the better you feel you are doing at work, the happier you feel. We know that lots of the managers we meet for coaching come to us because something is ‘wrong’ at work and I personally have often found that making them feel more confident and better about themselves can also have a really positive effect on how they see and approach their jobs, and their perceived effectiveness at work.

This has further been reinforced by a survey from the Office of National Statistics on the Nation’s happiness. The ONS concluded that being happy at work is a vital component in raising productivity and so a generally positive workforce should lead to higher levels of productivity.

Fascinating stuff isn’t it? But mounting evidence that happiness leads to better productivity can only support the need for coaching interventions at key points in a manager’s career – when they are feeling vulnerable, challenged and lacking in confidence. And boosting personal contentment can go a long way towards helping everyone to feel better and be more productive.



ILM: The pursuit of Happiness: Positivity and Performance among UK managers

Office of National Statistics: Measuring National Well-being in the UK