How to unlock your team’s flow state

We live in a world full of distractions – our working lives are full of meetings, phone calls, email and open plan offices; at home, media, notifications and the internet make achieving our goals tricky unless we can fully focus on them.

According to one study, it takes people 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to refocus after a distraction – that’s a lot of potential lost time that is costing businesses a significant amount of productivity.

And while you may be able to eliminate some distractions in the short term, like having a silent phone policy in the office, what will truly allow your team to focus is to help them achieve a flow state.

What’s a flow state and how do you achieve it?

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the concept of ‘flow’ to describe the experience of energetic focus, where time flies without your noticing and your surroundings melt away. He theorizes that in order to attain flow, you need at least a few of the following ten circumstances: 

  1. Clear goals that are challenging but still attainable.
  2. Focused attention and concentration.
  3. The task itself is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. A loss of feelings of self-consciousness; feelings of serenity.
  5. Feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
  6. Immediate feedback.
  7. The knowledge that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
  9. Lack of awareness of physical needs.
  10. Complete focus on the activity itself.

“Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges,” Csíkszentmihályi explains in his book.

It’s a leader’s responsibility to make sure that their employees are in the flow state for optimum engagement and performance. The majority of leaders don’t know how to do this and set their people up for failure due to over- or under-challenging them. The greater the challenge compared to their capability the more stress until they are hitting burnout. The more underchallenged they are the greater the stress until they hit boreout.

modified-flow-model1. Uncover their motivations

If you know what motivates your team, you can help design tasks that are intrinsically rewarding, or that have clear, attainable yet still challenging goals. You can uncover those motivations by joining the Fingerprint for Success platform– it assesses people’s preferred working styles and illuminates their hidden motivators.

2. Ensure mindfulness is high on the agenda

Being present and in the moment is fundamental to achieving flow state, and one of the tools we have in the modern era of high distraction is a habit of meditation and mindfulness that allows us to stay in the present moment.

A practice of mindfulness has deep repercussions for business productivity – check out my eBook about the benefits of mindfulness to find out more.

3. Give your team autonomy

After setting clear and attainable goals for a project or task, ensuring that members of your team have a sense of personal autonomy over how they achieve those goals will be crucial to helping them feel ownership and achieving a state of flow.

This style the opposite of micro-managing, which can have all kinds of negative impacts on your team, including lower employee morale, higher turnover and lower productivity.

Helping your team unlock their flow state will help with morale, their individual sense of purpose and autonomy, and in turn engagement and productivity. Flow state can be elusive, but you can take steps to make this powerful tool accessible and, with practice, learn to access it at will.

For more about accessing flow state, check out my book, the Evolutionary Leader, which deep dives into flow state and how you can access it at will.