The Science of Being Happy and Successful

I have just returned from a three day conference with 350 business psychologists, where we discussed the latest research on enhancing performance and well-being at work. One session was on positive psychology, defined as the science of well-being and which studies the conditions under which people flourish. The latest model to emerge from this field, and which I will share in this Tip, is called PERMA. It stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement.

Positive emotions

Those who have heard me or my team speak in workshops or conferences, will know we emphasise the importance of franchisors and franchisees maintaining an optimistic outlook. It’s also something we measure in our franchisee surveys and recruitment tools because we know from our research it drives performance, a better customer experience and a healthier culture. Optimistic people are also healthier, less stressed and better at solving complex problems.

There have been over 100 ideas tested to see what works and what doesn’t in building a more optimistic outlook. Two of the most powerful, and which we teach in our workshops, are reflecting at the end of the day on what has gone well, and telling someone something you are grateful for.


In the movie, Chariots of Fire, the English champion, Eric Liddell, says “God made me fast. When I run I feel his pleasure”. The best way to increase a person’s sense of engagement is to help them identify and use their strengths. When we do work that draws on our strengths, for instance what we are naturally interested in or do well, we get energised and our performance effortlessly goes to a new level.

While money can motivate people, the intrinsic motivation that is generated when people use their strengths is far more powerful. Never get in the way of a person who is using their strengths. When people become more engaged they will go way beyond what is expected of them. Just look at the amazing Wikipedia and how this has been created and sustained by people who are engaged in their areas of interest.


A well known large study by the Gallop organisation found one of the most powerful predictors of profitability in business units was the extent to which staff agreed with the statement “I have a best friend at work”. I have for years taken this onboard in my own business, encouraging friendships between team members, and it has certainly worked for us. It is also why I am always encouraging franchisees to form collegial relationships with each other.

Positive relationships in the workplace are a huge driver of performance. If you lead a business unit, remember people’s relationship with their boss is the biggest determinant of their satisfaction and whether they leave or stay. They say good people don’t leave organisations, they leave managers.


People with a stronger sense of meaning and purpose live longer. Meaning and purpose also drives longevity in the tenure of franchisees and their staff. There is now a large body of research which shows that helping people to understand how their work benefits others makes a huge difference to their motivation and performance.

This is why at FRI we place such a big emphasis in our Franchising Wheels of Excellence on engaging people with the brand. Engaging with the brand means everyone understands what the brand stands for and how you are all trying to make a positive difference to the lives of customers. Doing this well at the franchisee and franchisor levels will definitely give your business a competitive edge.


Traditional goal setting teaches people to make their goals achievable. But positive psychology encourages people to go beyond this and set stretch goals. Most people underestimate what they are capable of. The most important element of a goal is that it must be meaningful.

A proven and effective way to help people set meaningful goals that will stretch them is to get them to think about achievements they have been truly proud of. And then have them consider the top strengths that helped them to achieve this outcome. This is the core principle behind the solution-focused coaching techniques we teach in our Field Manager Bootcamps.

So there you have PERMA — the science of being happy and successful. As an exercise, try reflecting on one or two positive things your franchise does to ensure franchisees (and head office staff) flourish. Stuck for ideas? Now might be a good time to start a conversation around PERMA in your network.

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