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Creating a State of Flow at Work


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 be doing 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, happiness and joy.

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.

“Flow at Work”

In the past few years, many leading companies, including Microsoft, Ericsson, Patagonia, and Toyota have realized that being able to cultivate work environments that nourish “flow” helps create more productive and satisfying work experiences.

These companies are now using Csikszentmihalyi's ideas to learn how they can  best engage their workers and  create more compelling connections with their customers. Without flow, there's no creativity or innovation, says Csikszentmihalyi. "To stay competitive, we have to lead the world in per-person creativity," says Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization.

Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” focuses on the positive states, the moments when human beings are at their absolute best. In the flow state, Csikszentmihalyi found, people engage so completely in what they are doing that they lose track of time. People emerge from each flow experience more self-confident, capable, and sensitive.

Csikszentmihalyi believes that flow has several necessary preconditions. These include having clear goals and a reasonable expectation of completing the task at hand. People must also have the ability to concentrate, receive regular feedback on their progress, and actually possess the skills needed for that type of work.

Enlightened leaders have been energized and inspired by the concept of flow and have applied the research-based principles to their workplace.

Stefan Falk, while vice president of strategic business innovation at Ericsson, was assigned the task of integrating the merger of two huge business units worth $16 billion. Layoffs were inevitable, and Ericsson hoped Falk could find a way to make the remaining workers more engaged and productive.

Falk hypothesized that the best way to create a state of flow was to have Ericsson managers spend a nearly unheard-of amount of quality time with each one of their employees. Managers were asked to work with employees to draw up separate "performance contracts" that included an assessment of each worker's strengths and areas for development, and set out a very specific action plan to help improve their skills. To monitor progress, managers would meet with each employee six times a year for intensive one-on-one sessions lasting as long as an hour and a half each.

At first, the managers balked at the extra work. However, the program was ultimately such at success that Ericsson exported the new management system to all of its offices around the world.

Falk subsequently worked at Green Cargo, one of Scandinavia's largest transport and logistics companies, in mid-2003, and instituted an even more comprehensive flow-based management overhaul. Every single month, he required meetings between employees and managers, 150 of whom were sent “Flow” to read as part of a six-day training process. Performance-review contracts were drawn up to cover three-month periods, and then renegotiated. Before each meeting, workers were asked to spend at least an hour reflecting on what had transpired since the previous one and determining the content of the upcoming one. The meetings are one-on-one intensives much like an executive coaching session.

What would happen if some of the best moments of your life happened at work? What needs to change for that to be possible?

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.

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Advisor to Executive Leadership Teams
Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Workplace Expert

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?

Did you know that research has demonstrated, that the most effective leaders model high emotional intelligence, and that EQ can be learned? It takes self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to become a more emotionally intelligent leader. 

Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company.  Mindful leadership starts from within.

I am a consulting psychologist and executive coach. I believe coaching is a collaborative process of providing people with the resources and opportunities they need to self manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective. Utilizing instrumented assessments - clients set clear goals, make optimal use of their strengths, and take action to create desired changes aligned with personal values.

I have been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, MSNBC, CBS Health Watch and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time and Fast Company.

Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness.

After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity, more stress resiliency, and helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results.

You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible. 

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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I am currently accepting new executive coaching, career coaching, and leadership consulting clients. I work with both individuals and organizations. Call 415-546-1252 or send an inquiry e-mail to                                 


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