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The psychological nutrients for thriving

Your efforts to change any of the existing habits, routines, rules, rituals or processes that exist in your environment will have a direct impact on the culture of your team. Another thing to consider in relation to your team culture and its resilience is also its emotional climate. So, as well as removing or adapting any unhelpful habits and rituals, there is also a role you can play in ensuring that your team is provided with what positive psychologist, author and leadership consultant, James Butcher, refers to as ‘psychological nutrients’; the factors that satisfy the fundamental psychological needs of humans working in teams.

Other studies into this subject include the work of Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell, summarised in their book ‘The Human Givens’. the argument here is that “on top of the physical needs for air, water, food and sleep (without which we die!), humans also have other emotional needs which are crucial for our well-being and sometimes even for our survival”. And that “Any healthy human need, if un-nurtured, can swell into destructive want”. Inevitably, the researchers vary slightly in the names and descriptions given to these factors and, for now, we’ll explore them under the titles given to them by James Butcher.

So what are the ‘psychological nutrients’ that his research indicates are essential for your team to thrive?

Autonomy – This appears time and again across the many bodies of research. Feeling that we can control what happens around and to us is a highly significant contributor to our well-being. As Griffin and Tyrell put it “exercising volition gives us a form of feedback from the universe that we exist”. Belonging – We are group animals and we need a sense of connection to the wider community by being part of social groupings beyond our immediate family. An individual’s perception of being unloved and ‘out of things’ can have a negative effect on health and well-being.

Meaning and purpose – Victor Frankl, who described his experiences in Auschwitz in his book ‘Man’s search for meaning’, indicates how meaning and purpose makes suffering tolerable. As he said, “Striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”

Challenge and achievement – The brain rewards learning or achievement by releasing dopamine, the brains pleasure chemical. Overcoming a stretching (and realistic) challenge we have been set, or becoming competent in something that requires effort to learn is a helpful antidote to low self-esteem.

Clarity – Sometimes this is linked to the need for security. So this can be about providing a safe territory: an environment that enables us to lead our lives without experiencing excessive or undue fear. And sometimes the need can be met by providing greater clarity about what is expected and about what the future holds for the organisation and our place within it.

Watch this video to hear about the important “psychological nutrients” of Autonomy, Meaning & Purpose, Challenge & Achievement and Clarity.