The Losada Line: 3:1 Positive to Negative = Successful Teams
Maybe you’re thinking focusing on positivity and happiness in a serious business setting is unnatural, or a waste of time and effort, or maybe you believe that gratitude and praise should be used as rewards for high performance, not as tools for driving it. Or maybe it just doesn’t come naturally for you, it’s not the way you do things. Whether it is something you’re already doing, something you don’t feel comfortable doing, or something you’re considering looking into, I would ask you to keep this number in mind: 2.9013. The number 2.9013, is known as the Losada Line and is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a business team successful. Have I caught your attention?
Marcial Losada, psychologist and business consultant, observed and studied 60 business teams to gather behavioral data to create a mathematical model of the ratio of positive to negative expressions of high, medium and low performing teams. Losada observed 60 teams in meetings of about an hour long.
- High Performance (n=15)
- Medium Performance (n=26)
- Low Performance (n=19)
He focused on 3 objective indicators 1) customer satisfaction 2) 360° reviews and 3) financial success. He coded all speech acts, for example, on a scale of positive – negative, were they words of encouragement and excitement or criticisms, and on a scale of inquiry – advocacy, was the team leader asking questions or making his/her own point, focused on him/herself or others. The high performing teams had the highest ratio of positive to negative and when presented with the negative, they were more able to bounce back, they showed resilience. For the low performing teams, they had the highest negative comments and faced the most criticism with no questioning or weren’t asked for their voice or opinion. Losada found that the tipping point of necessary positive to negative expressions and emotions was 2.9013 or 3:1. Dipping below that, the teams’ performance suffered. Losada observed countless examples of this in action as his work didn’t stop with these 60 teams. He observed this all around the world. And even high performing teams, when coached to give more positive feedback and encourage more positive interactions improved their performance by more than 40%.
Before you think this is just fluffy, note that there is value in negativity. The ratio wasn’t 3:0. It had an element of negativity but there is appropriate vs. gratuitous negativity. Appropriate negative expressions are connected to the nuances of the situation, whereas gratuitous negativity is unconnected to the situation or overblown.
Good luck and I’ll be eager to hear how it goes!