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Creating a State of Flow –Ten Essential Flow Factors

Creating a State of Flow –Ten Essential Flow Factors


One of my CEO executive coaching clients is working with his executive leadership team to create an organizational culture that unleashes employees’ intrinsic motivation and state of flow. I am coaching him to become more effective at appealing to employees’ intrinsic motivation and core values, and helping leaders at all levels of  the organization become more fully engaged in creating a culture that supports flow.

The CEO knows that for the organization to thrive depends on creating an organizational culture and climate that nourishes constant innovation. Human Resources is partnering with me in supporting senior leaders to motivate people by building authentic relationships.  Our current executive coaching and leadership consulting work is also focused on helping leaders throughout the organization increase their ability to motivate team members by tapping into their purpose and values.

The CEO and his senior leadership team members are each heading up two strategic initiatives to energize growth and increase revenues. The goals are clear and tap into each leader’s purpose and desire to pursue meaningful work. In our executive coaching meetings, company leaders are reporting a significant increase in their energy, happiness and business results.

Each senior leader has autonomy over what they’re doing and how they do it, including choosing their time, tasks, team and techniques. They have the opportunity to master their work and make progress through deliberate practice. The executives have a sense of purpose in their work — to something higher and beyond their job, salary and company. They are empowering their direct reports and all company employees with the same opportunities and creative mindset.

Creating Flow

People are most productive and satisfied when their work puts them in a state of “flow” — more commonly recognized as being “in the zone.” In the flow state, one experiences a heightened sense of focus and a generally higher sense of satisfaction.

What we know about flow is primarily based on the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose seminal book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes it as the moment in which “a person’s body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

You can’t give people the opportunity to create “flow” experiences without providing autonomy, time to practice and improve mastery, and a sense of higher purpose.

Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following ten factors as accompanying an experience of flow:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
  2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge(the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
  10. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.

Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.

Are you working in a company or law firm where leaders are energizing growth by creating a flow-state work environment? Does your company or law firm provide leadership coaching to help leaders to be more effective at unleashing employees’ intrinsic motivation and drive? During volatile economic times, leaders at all levels need to inspire others to work in a state of flow where they are fully engaged.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I helping to create a work culture and climate that nourishes a state of flow?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching and leadership development for leaders to be more innovative at motivating others.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you create an organizational culture where the ability to motivate people based on purpose autonomy and mastery is a critical competency for leaders. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

                                       © Copyright 2010 Dr. Maynard Brusman, Working Resources


Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Box 471525 San Francisco, California 94147-1525
Tel: 415-546-1252
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