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Joy drives high achieving teams

Jul 25, 2022


Does this surprise you?

In the recently released Team Vitality Report 2022 by Six Seconds, high performing teams had four trends that add to their success. One of the most surprising was that joyful teams are 10 times more likely to be high achieving and satisfied. But is that a surprise?

The last few years have seen massive changes in our world and in our workplace. Here are just a few of those changes:

  • Businesses and schools closed due to the pandemic
  • More than 25 million people leaving their jobs
  • Currently in the U.S., over 11.5 million open jobs that organizations are struggling to fill
  • Hybrid and virtual teams with massive numbers of people working remotely
  • Sales processes turned upside down
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Weakening economies

Now does it make more sense that teams that experience joy have a competitive advantage and are more likely to be high achieving? It does to me. I do not know this to be a fact, but I surmise that the biggest driver behind the "great resignation" was unhappiness, low satisfaction, little joy in the workplace. But don't just take my word for this, here is a direct quote from the Team Vitality Report:

As neurobiologist Candace Pert discovered: We’re wired to feel good. If people don’t have fun doing what they do, unfortunately they will use only a part of their potential and of their brain. The newest neuroscientific research reveals that anxiety, frustration and boredom drive our brains to produce chemicals that reduce key capabilities to reflect and create meaning. This reduces our thinking potential.

These chemicals are signals of risk and danger, and push the human brain to short-term, protective, pattern-driven thinking, and narrow our attention to attend to problems. This is a recipe for disaster in a market driven by collaboration and innovation.”

Teams that prioritize joy and excitement have a distinct competitive advantage, especially in difficult times.

 So what does joy look like in the workplace? Simply the ability to have fun at work. But that does not mean what many people think it does.

When we look at high performing teams, their ability to enjoy their collaboration, effort, and work is a key factor in their success.


I hear the term engagement so much in organizations. I have been in meetings where employee engagement was discussed at length, where climate surveys were poured over, where leaders struggled to find ways to enhance employee engagement. What was missing? Actionable data and a true understanding of what employee engagement is.

"Engagement is the emotional commitment the individual has to the team and the effort." Steve Goodner

Yes, this is me quoting me. But this is an important insight. If engagement is an emotional commitment, then enhancing engagement can only come through fostering the right emotional environment in the team. Let's look at how our brains work for a minute.

  • We have a thought
  • Our brain attaches meaning to that thought (this is automatic, part of the way our brains are wired)
  • That thought and its attached meaning generate emotions
  • Emotions drive decisions, actions, and behavior

So, the emotions generated in the team environment have a huge impact on individual and team performance. That joyful teams are 10 times more likely to be high achieving and satisfied is making a lot more sense. Emotions can be an energy drain, or they can be an energy boost.

Another interesting fact, emotions are contagious. We have mirror neurons in our brain that pick up the emotions of others. Have you ever experienced someone having a strong emotion, like sadness, and you started to feel sad? That is your mirror neurons at work. People are designed to be in community, to be social. Teams are exactly that, a group of people brought together to achieve a specific purpose. The reason that they are a team is because that purpose could not be accomplished by a single individual. Team members need each other to be successful, and joy makes that much more likely.

JOY: The ability to have fun at work.

RESULTS: The team’s ability to focus on key priorities and get things done together.

SATISFACTION: How connected people feel with the
team and its mission.

Cultivating Joy

If I asked you how to cultivate more joy in your team, what would you say? That may not be something easy to answer.

Notice that we speak of joy in the workplace, it is not happiness. The difference? Joy goes deep. Joy is an outcome of a specific set of drivers, primarily results and satisfaction. Example: think of a time when your team experienced joy. It was probably an outcome of getting a satisfying result that you worked hard to achieve.

Back to our question, how do we enhance joy in our teams? By ensuring that the following elements are practiced in your team:

  • Clear and understandable expectations
  • Psychological safety - the ability to discuss anything in an open and transparent manner without fear of reprisal
  • People know how to do what they need to do (training, equipping, coaching)
  • A culture of accountability - each team member owns their role, holds themself accountable, and supports other team members
  • The team celebrates success

Joy does not have to be an elusive thing you chase after. There are clear steps you and your team can take to increase joy.

Joy is also not some "soft" emotion that organizations should shun. Any leader who expresses this opinion is not much of a leader. Leadership done well includes high levels of emotional intelligence. Here is the proof: Amadori Case Study

Do you want to measure the JOY in your team? Reach out to us for more on team development.

Copyright © 2022 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: [email protected]

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