Home All The Achoo! Effect: An Interview with Executive Coach Margaret H. Greenberg

The Achoo! Effect: An Interview with Executive Coach Margaret H. Greenberg

written by Kathryn Britton 1 March 2017
Senia and Margaret

Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, is a former software engineer and executive coach. She is now a writing coach and editor with a focus on helping people write books, blogs, and articles that contribute to the greater good (Theano Coaching LLC). She has been facilitating writing workshops since 2013. Her own books include Sit Write Share on how to get writing done well, Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.

Margaret Greenberg is a frequent contributor to Positive Psychology News, an executive coach, a co-author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business (McGraw-Hill), and co-instructor of the Profit from the Positive Certificate Program. Margaret graduated from the MAPP program at Penn in 2016. She is also a 2015 Happiness Hall of Fame Inductee.

Positive Psychology News: You have been contributing to Positive Psychology News since we first launched the site 10 years ago. Here’s a link to your solo articles and another link to the articles you wrote with Senia Maymin. Since then you and Senia Maymin have published a bestselling book, Profit from the Positive. You are also the positive work columnists for Live Happy magazine, and have been speaking to businesses, organizations, and universities around the world about how they can create more positive work environments. What have you learned over the last decade?

Senia and Margaret

Instructors in the Profit from the Positive online course:
Margaret Greenberg (right) with her co-author, Senia Maymin

Margaret: Wow, the last decade. Where do I begin? First, I want to acknowledge that your site, Positive Psychology News, gave me my start as an author. Those early articles that were published here built my confidence as a writer and practitioner of positive psychology. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s inaugural Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, you gave me a forum to share how I was experimenting and applying positive psychology to the workplace. I will be forever grateful for that, and I encourage other aspiring authors to practice their craft here.

Second, what I have learned over the last ten years, from employees and managers alike, is that even a decade later few have ever heard of positive psychology, and strengths is still a new concept for many. I have also learned to drop our positive psychology lingo and speak their language. For example, few business leaders care about Fredrickson’s broaden and build theory. However, if you explain how getting a meeting off to a positive start will encourage more participation and better thinking and then cite her research, leaders tend to perk up. You can draw on the research without getting mired in it.

Positive Psychology News: How do businesses typically respond when you introduce them to positive psychology?

Margaret: Most people are eager to learn how they can take a more positive approach to running their business, solving problems, and engaging employees. While fixing problems and shoring up weaknesses are important to the success of any business, if that’s all you focus on it can be energy draining. Focusing on what’s right and leveraging people’s strengths is a big shift for most people and organizations, but once you introduce them to the concepts and some practical tools, such as FRE, people generally get curious and want to learn more.

Positive Psychology News: What is FRE?

Margaret: FRE is just one of the 31 tools in our book, Profit from the Positive. It stands for Frequent Recognition and Encouragement. It’s based on the research study I conducted with another Positive Psychology News author, Dana Arakawa, when we were studying together at Penn. In this research study, we found that managers who gave more frequent recognition and encouragement had teams that were more than 40% more productive compared to teams with managers that gave little or no feedback. There’s interest out there for this subject: our capstone has been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

If you want to know more about FRE, Senia and I wrote an article about it for Positive Psychology News in 2008. It’s only one of the 31 tools in the book.

Positive Psychology News: What’s another entry point into talking about positive psychology to business people?


Margaret: There have been many articles written here about positive and negative emotions and the role they play in broadening or limiting our thinking. So what’s the connection to business? Most of us have worked on a team or for a boss whose negativity really dragged us down. Dr. Sigal Barsade from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business has found that it only takes one person out of five to “infect” a group with a positive or negative mood.

We need to be mindful of the mood we are projecting when we walk into work or return home at the end of the day. Psychologists call this contagion theory. We drop the academic lingo and call it the Achoo! Effect. I’d like to share with your readers a free e-chapter called The Contagious Leader from our book where we explain this research, along with 4 practical ways to tame your Oscar the Grouch.

Positive Psychology News: What are you working on now?

Margaret: We have turned our book into a 10-week, live, web-based Certificate Program which was recently included in a list of the Top 10 Positive Psychology Courses You Can Take Online. The Profit from the Positive Certificate Program teaches coaches, consultants, and learning and development professionals how to apply the 31 tools in our book to their clients or organizations. It has been great fun to coach other talented professionals on how they can bring positive psychology to businesses around the world. Today we have certified practitioners from four continents and we were recently accredited and approved by the International Coach Federation for ten continuing coach education credits.

Positive Psychology News: How can people learn more about your online course?

Margaret: Just visit the Profit from the Positive website or email us at book@ProfitFromThePositive.com. We are offering Positive Psychology News readers a 50% registration discount for the next cohort that starts on April 18, 2017. On the registration page, just enter the promotional code PPN50. The discount ends April 12. We are eager to meet the next cohort.



Greenberg, M. & Maymin, S. (2013). Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business. McGraw Hill.

Barsade. S. (no date). What is group affect and why does it matter in organizations? Youtube video.

Barsade, S. & Knight, A. P. (2015). Group Affect. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2, pp. 21-46.

Greenberg, M. & Maymin, S. (2008). Increase Your Team’s Productivity – It’s FRE(E). Positive Psychology News.

Greenberg, M. & Arakawa, D. (2006). Optimistic managers & their influence on productivity & employee engagement in a technology organization. MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.

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David J. Pollay 12 March 2017 - 11:26 pm

Terrific interview, Kathryn! Bravo!

Congrats Margaret on all your success. I love this interview and I still recommend Profit from the Positive to business people around the world.

All the best,

Margaret Greenberg 20 March 2017 - 8:49 am

Thank you David! I find it so hard to believe that it has been 11 years since you, Kathryn, and I graduated from the inaugural MAPP program at UPenn. You both are positive deviants!


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