No, this is not the U.S. postal zip code for Beverly Hills, California, 90210, it’s the price of gold, 2.9013.
Memorize that number.
2.9013 is statistically significant and scientifically grounded.
“Based on Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful,” writes Shawn Anchor in his 2010 book, The Happiness Advantage (Crown Business).
Dip blow this ratio, fall below the Losada Line, and you risk (read guarantee) diminished performance–personally, within teams, and across organizations.
2.9013 is a measure of health and more: living and working above the line predicts increased happiness, and increased happiness, says Anchor, yields improved success. (Success follows happiness, asserts Anchor, in a self-described Copernican reorientation of the common belief that happiness follows success.)
Positive messages from work-group leaders to members must trend above the nearly 3-to-1 ratio if the work group is to have any chance of success.
Many companies and work groups suffer below, and some, far below, 2.9013.
Now, the 2.9013:1 ratio does not mean that one negative communication or interaction is necessary to counter-balance every third positive communication, it simply sets the point below which one dare not fall.
It seems remarkably low to me and, thus, highly attainable.
Feedback–immediate, certain, and positive–is a powerful force in modifying behavior, inducing feelings of happiness and well-being, and affecting success. Unfortunately, of nearly equal potency is feedback of the opposite sort: immediate, certain, and negative.
Negative feedback gets results. This is why negativity is so widely, wildly, and recklessly wielded by managers, co-workers, customers, and even partners in a vain attempt to get results.
If we understood the Losada Line and the power of recognition, reward, and positive reinforcement, we would never consciously use negative management methods (which is not to be construed as avoiding necessary and sometimes difficult conversations).
Consider the two well-established behavioral and performance paths shown in Figures 1 and 2, below.
The trend lines tell the story, and, frankly, go a long way toward explaining why managers use, continue to use, or intensify negative intervention with work-group members and others.
The answer to the adoption, use, and persistence of management techniques that are bound to fail lies in the short-lived improvement response shown in figure 1. For many managers, this is good news. Things get better, even if goal performance is not achieved. Just look at the trend line (and, please, ignore for now where the trend line ends up). It goes up after the application of negative intervention, and often goes up quickly. (“Get this done now or you’re fired!” delivered with enough threat of force usually gets a prompt response.) This fact *positively* reinforces the manager’s *negative* methods, and such reinforcement–immediate, certain, and positive–is enough to dupe the unaware and unskilled manager.
Why does this negative management style persist, when a predictable performance decline is certain? Because, at just the moment of a decline in performance, the adroit-but-misguided manager delivers yet another dose of negative stimulus, perhaps with practiced aplomb, which once again gets a predictable, though perhaps diminished, positive uptick in performance.
This manager is blind and deluded, but without alternatives, negative intervention may be the only management practice that gets results. Worse yet, such behavior may also receive praise from the boss because, again, things get better. Any positive reinforcement of negative management techniques–including neglect–reinforces them, and strong, overt reinforcement quickly entrenches the behavior.
Things may get better, but only in the short term. Now take a look at the end of the trend line where performance has eroded to a point below the original, unacceptable starting point.
Success is now impossible, time is lost, good-will, eroded; trust, broken; money, wasted; staff, lost; and business, if it remains, is in decline.
Compare this scenario to the familiar and desirable S-curve of continuous improvement that ultimately exceeds goal and elicits extra, discretionary behaviors: How can I grow? What else do you need? How can I help? I have an idea!
And the price of gold these days?
But when engagement, encouragement, and positive interactions are frequent, focused, and genuine, they are priceless.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, there is an upper boundary to the Losada Zone.
See how close you can get.
Learn. Do. Teach. Lead.
What is your experience with the Losada Line (whether you knew it by that name or not)?