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Happiness in Business and Executive Coaching – A Guide to Using Positive Psychology in Coaching, with 2 Session Tools

Happiness in Business and Executive Coaching – A Guide to Using Positive Psychology in Coaching, with 2 Session Tools

In recent years, positive psychology has emerged as a popular approach to enhancing performance, increasing happiness, and improving overall well-being. Amongst the many theories of positive psychology, the PERMA model stands out as an excellent tool for business and executive coaching. PERMA theory focuses on five key elements that are essential for a fulfilled, productive, and meaningful life: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. In this blog post, we’ll explore the PERMA model in-depth and see how it can be applied in the context of business and executive coaching to achieve greater success, satisfaction, and overall well-being.

Introduction to Positive Psychology and PERMA Theory

Hapinnes through a lightbox written in black text

Positive psychology is a scientific approach that aims to help individuals and organisations improve their well-being and overall happiness. The PERMA model, developed by Martin Seligman, is a well-known theory of well-being in positive psychology that comprises five key elements: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. These elements work together to promote flourishing and predict the well-being of individuals, groups, organisations, and even nations. PERMA is a better predictor of psychological distress than previous models, meaning that working on its components can decrease distress and increase well-being. With its practical and evidence-based approach, PERMA has become a valuable tool for business and executive coaching. [1][2]

Applying PERMA Model for Achieving Fulfillment and Wellbeing

The PERMA model of positive psychology has been widely recognised as a theory of wellbeing, and it aims to help individuals achieve a fulfilling and happy life. According to the PERMA model, five fundamental elements contribute significantly to wellbeing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Positive emotions are the prime indicators of wellbeing and can be cultivated through spending time with loved ones, indulging in hobbies or creative activities, listening to uplifting music, and reflecting on positive aspects of life. Meanwhile, engagement refers to finding a state of flow in which an individual is fully absorbed in an activity that plays to their strengths. [3][4]

Enhancing Positive Emotions and Engagement in the Workplace

Enhancing Positive Emotions and Engagement in the Workplace is crucial for ensuring employee satisfaction and overall productivity. In the context of Positive Psychology, positive emotions refer to the promotion of well-being, and engagement is the state of flow where an individual is fully immersed in their work. By fostering positive emotions and engagement, managers can create an environment conducive to creativity, collaboration, and motivation. This can be achieved by encouraging employees to pursue activities that bring them joy, allowing them to use their strengths, and providing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Additionally, promoting mindfulness and finding ways to reduce stress can help individuals feel more engaged and connected to their work. By prioritising the well-being of employees, businesses can reap the benefits of positive psychology in the workplace. [5][6]

Building Authentic Relationships and Support Networks

Building authentic relationships and support networks is a crucial component of the PERMA+ model. Positive relationships can lead to a greater sense of purpose, meaning, and engagement in life. Individuals who have strong connections with others tend to be happier, healthier, and more resilient in the face of challenges. One practical way to build authentic relationships is to focus on active listening.

This means giving your full attention to the person you are speaking with and responding empathetically to their concerns. Additionally, joining clubs or groups with shared interests can provide opportunities to meet new people and build closer relationships. By investing time and effort into cultivating authentic connections with others, individuals can increase their overall wellbeing and resilience in both personal and professional settings. [7][8]

Finding Purpose and Meaning in Work and Life

Finding purpose and meaning in work and life is a crucial component of the PERMA Model and positive psychology. It involves belonging to or serving something bigger than oneself and being able to focus on what is important in difficult situations. This sense of meaning can help individuals stay motivated and resilient, even in the face of challenges. Accomplishment is another element of the PERMA Model, involving achieving goals and increasing confidence. Executive coaches can help individuals find purpose and meaning in their career and personal lives, by identifying their unique strengths and finding ways to integrate them into their work. By doing so, individuals can experience a sense of fulfilment and purpose in their lives. [9][10]

Encouraging Personal and Professional Growth and Development

executive coaching can include happiness

Encouraging personal and professional growth and development is an important aspect of using the positive psychology PERMA theory in business and executive coaching. The PERMA model focuses on enhancing an individual’s well-being and flourishing. To achieve this, people are encouraged to pursue five components: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. By incorporating these elements into coaching practices, individuals can grow and develop in a multitude of ways. For example, they may increase their self-awareness, improve their communication skills, learn to manage their emotions and set and achieve goals. Overall, using the PERMA theory can help individuals unleash their potential and become the best version of themselves. [11][12]

Fostering Resilience and Coping Skills for Stressful Situations

Fostering resilience and coping skills can help individuals navigate and manage stressful situations. The PERMA model of positive psychology can be a useful tool for executive coaches to support their clients in building resilience. Positive emotions, engagement, good relationships, meaning, and accomplishment can all contribute to resilience and wellbeing. By cultivating positive emotions and engaging in activities that bring joy, individuals can build psychological and physical resources to withstand stress. Developing strong relationships and finding meaning in life can provide a sense of purpose and support during difficult times. Accomplishments and mastery can increase confidence and help individuals feel more capable of handling challenges. Executive coaches can work with their clients to identify areas of strength and potential areas for improvement in each of these components. [13][14]

Improving Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills


Improving communication and conflict resolution skills is crucial in any aspect of life, including business and executive coaching. With the PERMA model, individuals can focus on positive emotions and relationships, leading to effective communication. Active listening, reflecting back on what was said, and asking follow-up questions can also improve communication and avoid misunderstandings. Conflict resolution can be achieved through a positive approach, such as finding common ground and identifying shared goals. Encouraging team members to express their opinions and concerns can lead to constructive discussions and effective solutions. By incorporating PERMA in coaching sessions, individuals can learn how to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts positively, resulting in a more productive and harmonious workplace. [15][16]

Addressing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) in Coaching Practice

When it comes to coaching, addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEIB) is crucial. Coaches need to be aware of their own biases and assumptions to create a safe and inclusive environment for clients. They also need to understand the unique challenges faced by individuals from diverse backgrounds and tailor their coaching approach accordingly. It is important to acknowledge the impact of systemic oppression and work towards creating a more equitable and just world. Coaches can also work with clients to help them navigate and overcome barriers related to diversity and inclusion while promoting a growth mindset and positive psychology principles. By incorporating DEIB into a coaching practice, coaches can help clients thrive in all aspects of their lives. [17][18]

Applying Emotional Intelligence and Positive Assessments of EI in Coaching.

Coaches who practice positive psychology often combine it with other popular coaching strategies, such as emotional intelligence (EI). EI refers to an individual’s ability to identify and manage their own emotions while also recognising and empathising with the emotions of others (Goleman, 1998). Coaches can use positive assessments of EI to help clients improve their communication skills, build stronger relationships, and develop better leadership qualities. Additionally, coaches who focus on EI can help clients identify and manage their own emotions, which can lead to improved decision-making and greater personal and professional success.

However, some critics have argued that assessments of EI can be subjective and that there are limitations to their effectiveness. Coaches must be careful not to assume that high scores on an EI assessment automatically lead to success, as there are many other factors that contribute to achievement in both personal and professional settings. Overall, EI assessments can be a valuable tool in coaching, but coaches must use them in conjunction with other coaching strategies and be aware of their limitations. [19][20]

The Happiness Equation

By understanding the happiness equation and the different factors that contribute to our happiness, we can begin to take steps to improve our sense of well-being and lead more fulfilling lives. While we may not be able to change our set point happiness or control all of our external circumstances, we can always choose how we respond to life’s challenges and make choices that bring us joy and contentment. 

The Happiness Equation, as defined by Martin Seligman, is a framework that explains the different factors that contribute to an individual’s happiness. This equation asserts that happiness is a function of multiple variables, including set-point happiness, circumstances, and voluntary control.

Set point happiness, or genetic predisposition, refers to an individual’s baseline level of happiness that they are born with. Some people have a higher set point happiness, meaning they naturally tend to feel happier more frequently, while others have a lower set point happiness and struggle to feel happy even in positive circumstances.

Circumstances refer to the external factors that can either positively or negatively impact a person’s happiness, such as their job, income, relationships, health, and overall life situation. While circumstances can contribute significantly to happiness in the short term, they can also be unstable and subject to change, making them an unreliable source of long-term happiness.

Finally, voluntary control refers to an individual’s ability to actively engage in activities that promote happiness, such as practising gratitude, mindfulness, and kindness. This involves developing positive behaviours and habits that can enhance one’s well-being and overall level of happiness.

By understanding and utilising the Happiness Equation, individuals can take proactive steps towards improving their well-being and achieving a more sustainable level of happiness. It emphasises the importance of nurturing positive habits and attitudes, despite external factors that may be beyond our control. Ultimately, the Happiness Equation highlights the notion that happiness is within our grasp and can be cultivated through intentional efforts towards well-being.

Tools from Ky

A few years ago, I developed a couple of tools to assist in utilising PERMA. Whilst business and executive coaching isn’t the natural home of happiness (such as it would live within life coaching for example) it isn’t completely devolved either. That said, I wanted a way to actively approach happiness and apply a process to address it with the client and firmly move on, to prevent our sessions becoming life coaching – or even crossing boundaries into therapy. As well as this, I wanted the client to leave with something they could keep using going forward.

Download the PDF Worksheet

Download the Zoom Whiteboard Image

May 16, 2023


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