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Increasing FLOW!

Never in my life have I paid $150.00 for a book… until last week.

My gut tells me that my curiosity is one of the prime reasons Jenn and I own a training/speaking business. I am always trying to understand why some people consistently perform at a high level, and others don’t, why some teams consistently win and others don’t, and why some people have a high quality of life and others don’t. Then, I love passing my discoveries and ideas on to help people and increase our clients’ businesses. Curiosity pushed me to earn a Master’s Degree in Leadership Business at age 45.

I love learning, and, presently, I am immersed in learning about flow.

This expensive book I'm reading (Advances in Flow Research) is providing an academic examination of the foundation and discovery of flow. Back in 1975, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was curious. He wondered why people love doing certain things in their day, and why doing these things made them happy, focused, and fulfilled.

Csikszentmihalyi went on to uncover a state (or a mindset) that he termed Flow.

Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as the state where people are so intensely involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great personal cost.

Because of my professional sport background, I instantly understood this concept. As players, we were experiencing flow before it was called flow. In the sports context, we more commonly refer to it as playing in the zone.

Using our company’s new Thinking Tendencies Model©, we help leaders and teams understand the five mindsets that people drift into or shift into. One of the five mindsets we explore is the genesis of high performance… and we call this state of mind the FLOW/ZONE.

People have their best chance to play their best game when their mind is in this Flow/Zone. This is where thinking turns into reacting, and conscious thinking is engulfed by unconscious action. In 2017, I believe that successful leaders intuitively focus on two key areas to help increase personal & cultural performance: preparing our people to enter the flow-state more quickly, and protecting their flow. Coaches in the world of sport have worked to increase this state of mind in their athletes for many years. We are now challenging people to understand and increase flow within their business, relationship, and whole-life arenas. What does flow feel like?

According to Csikszentmihalyi, this is what flow’s high-performance state looks like:

1- Reduced reflective self-consciousness 2- A modified experience of time (timelessness) 3- Total involvement and enjoyment 4- Increased & focused concentration 5- A strong sense of control (high autonomy) 6- The activity is perceived to be rewarding in and of itself (an autotelic state – intrinsic motivation)

How do we get into flow?

Csikszentmihalyi et al. found that the following three factors must be in place to usher us into what we call the flow/zone:

1- Clear goals 2- Immediate feedback 3- A perceived balance between skill and task-demand

Whether you want to increase your personal performance, have amazing relationships, or lead your team to play their very best game, getting into a flow state is critical. To help you do this, I will continue to explore the concept and consequence of many of these elements and antecedents of flow in future e-newsletters.

For now, I would like to dive a little deeper into the 6th element of flow, the autotelic state. Csikszentmihalyi created this term to describe the state that people sense when they are fully in the flow/zone. Auto in Greek means “self,” and telic comes from the Greek word Telos, meaning, “goal, end, or purpose.”

The autotelic state is pure intrinsic motivation. This state is reward enough for generating excellence in your activity (you are not doing it for others). The autotelic state is enjoyable, totally involved, and always originates from what we call inner game motivation. This mindset directs intrinsic motivation towards what you want to accomplish. During my 15 seasons as an NHL player, I personally played while in the flow/zone many nights. I now recognize that even though many of us as players were trying to engage this state-of-being, few of us identified this ideal state as the best way to prepare to play our best.

Pat Quinn, my coach in Vancouver who passed too early, and whom I miss, said in our book Simply the Best (interviews with 12 NHL coaches about how to increase team performance), “Coaches always want the players to TAKE the ROOM!

Taking the room is also what every high-performance leader wants their people to increase.

Taking the room means that players hold each other accountable for their team performance, but also help each other get their best game on the ice. In other words, the players (along with their coaches/bosses) try to create an atmosphere where people can enter this autotelic state and thereby increase their intrinsic motivation to accomplish goals.

Am I sounding a little complex, maybe a little academic? I don't mean to. The key to making this concept practical is awareness!

If we, as leaders and players, are not aware of the autotelic state, or of how to help people increase their Flow/Zone, we will remain frustrated by the lack of consistent high performance from ourselves and our teams. Where this does become complex is when we start to think of all the factors in our workplace and life that can take us out of flow. That’s for another e-newsletter/blog.

The FLOW/ZONE is just one of five mindsets that we explore in our Thinking Tendencies Model©. Perhaps you are now sensing why our clients are so excited about gaining a deeper understanding of what their teams are thinking, and consequently, what they are consistently focused on. When leaders and cultures understand the importance of mindset and awareness, they have a huge opportunity to influence higher-performance and accelerated results. The stakes are high! Now you know why I spent so much money on the book! Click here to reach us or comment on this information, including your answers to…

This week’s key questions:

1- Indicate from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, to what extent did you experience flow in your last week? How can you increase your time in the flow/zone?

2- How will you activate personal & cultural focus around the 3 factors that are the antecedents of your people’s flow?

  • clear goals

  • immediate feedback

  • perceived balance between skill and task-demand


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