What Leaders can do to Develop a Positive, Productive Culture

Postivity Label on a Jar

Culture is the sum of daily actions. If leaders are able to make small daily interactions into positive moments, a positive culture can emerge where people perform better and the organization generates more impact than anyone thought possible.

Today’s post is by Marcella Bremer, author of Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

“A positive culture? This is a workplace, not a happy hour.”

For some leaders, working with culture can be a stretch, let alone developing a positive culture! Maybe you’re too busy raising the bottom line to have time for culture. Understandable, but what if you were a lumberjack harvesting wood? Wouldn’t you stop at intervals to sharpen your saw and, eventually, achieve a bigger pile?

Culture is just like that saw. It’s your cutting edge, and if it gets blunt, you’ll sweat more but cut less wood. In the nineties, Kotter and Heskett proved that an effective culture could add 20-30% to corporate performance. Today, the latest research on positive organizations shows that a positive culture makes both people and performance thrive.

Positive Deviance

A positive culture aims to achieve positive deviance (high performance). It has a focus on what is working well and what people could do even better. A positive culture creates an upward spiral. When people feel positive, they are resourceful, productive, and open to new ideas and collaboration. Thus, they achieve amazing results, and that reinforces further positivity. Instead of solving a problem and going back to normal, positive cultures move their “normal” to extraordinary. For that to happen, positivity is a must.

Positivity means seeing what is working well and amplifying that. It draws inspiration from a shared organizational purpose. It includes developing the positive potential in situations and people. It requires being authentic, building trust and positive relationships at work to strengthen collaboration. Leaders might have to “let go” so employees may develop their learning and autonomy. Giving your people more choices, even simple ones, might give them space and energy to deliver more results.

In my first job, I worked in a positive culture bubble within the Army! We found meaning and drive in the purpose of contributing to peacekeeping operations. We “worked hard and played hard.” Our leaders were too busy to micro-manage, so they trusted us to get the job done. That freedom also triggered our responsibility. What made our team rock was our mutual support. We were in this together, and we always delivered, no matter what.

Can you feel that energy? How’s that for your team or organization?

Common Myths

Does that sound too good to be true? It isn’t, really, but we might have to clear some myths.

A positive culture does not mean fake smiles. It means it is open and accepting of being human. People do have off days but, overall, they aim to deliver their best and engage at work.

Neither does positive mean slacking off in a blissful happy hour. High performance requires giving it your all and anyone who doesn’t is not contributing to the team. This person can expect candid feedback, support with overcoming their issues or finding another position.

Positive cannot be equated to dreaming either. As we are wired to see what is negative (because it helped us survive physical dangers), we might see more threats than there are. The ability to see positive potential helps to seize new opportunities or bounce back gracefully from a pitfall and move on.

Positive Interactions

So, what could you do right now? Though culture runs deep and is “about everything” in your organization, on the surface, it shows in the daily interactions. What people say and do sustains the culture: what is valued, what is not important, what is good enough, who is more important, what is normal…

Both research and my practice with clients confirm: your first step is to notice what goes well and to mention that! Catch your people doing something right, or appreciate them for being authentic, or helpful. That’s a simple “Interaction Intervention” that could be a start to developing a more positive and productive culture. If you find that intriguing, check out the online Positive Culture Academy or my book Developing a Positive Culture where People and Performance Thrive. If you influence one person, one interaction at a time, you contribute to a more positive organization.

Culture might be complex, but it does not have to be complicated. It’s not as elusive as you might think when you start with concrete Interaction Interventions. I look forward to hearing your experiences. What goes well in your organization?

Developing a Positive CultureMarcella Bremer MScBA is an author and culture consultant. She is the co-founder of the online Positive Culture Academy at and the culture survey website Her blog offers weekly inspiration at Grab your copy of her book today.

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Photo: Positivity by MartaZ*

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