Home All Simple Leadership Tip You Can Use Today

Marie-Josée (MJ) Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, CPT, has studied, tested, coached, and taught smart health habits for over 13 years. Combining positive psychology with fitness and nutrition, she created a coaching method that builds better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits, as described in her book, Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Performance, which includes 50 practical health-building activities. Today MJ gives keynotes for corporate wellness programs and offers continuing education for wellness professionals, who can license her Smarts and Stamina Online program. Full bio. MJ's articles are here.

Reluctant to get to work703 words – Reading time: about 2 minutes.

Are your employees eager to work for you each and every day? Few leaders can answer this question with a confident yes. Here’s a tip to help you be one of them.

Many of us envision the ideal leader as someone who is physically and mentally strong. Someone who gets things done.  Someone who is invigorated and invigorating, and often who succeeds equally well in their personal and professional lives.

We may not think of it at first, but that is the portrait of someone who knows how to capitalize on their strengths and who has developed the mindset of a winner. It implies a person who has enough self-respect to cultivate sensible food, exercise, and sleep habits and enough respect for others to give them the opportunity to do the same.

When we imagine this ideal leader, we envision the opposite of the overstretched, impatient and nothing-but-work mentality that is so common. Yet, a lot of business people still think of the overstretched attitude as reflective of good business acumen. Revisiting this whole concept is long overdue.

A Leader’s Job Is to Make People the Best They Can Be

It is how employees perform that determines to a large extent whether companies succeed. To maintain first-class performance levels, employees need to be in good mental and physical health. For that reason, positively encouraging staff members to adopt healthy lifestyles deserves a seat amongst leadership strategies.

And it works. In an address to the International Positive Psychology Association, Barbara Fredrickson shared the results of a loving-kindness meditation research she led in 2005 in a corporate setting. Commenting on her results, she mentioned that compliance rates amongst participants were higher than ever anticipated by anyone involved in the project. Curious, I asked what she thought was the main reason accounting for such high compliance rates. Her answer? Even though participation in the research project was optional, employees felt more inclined to stick with the program because it was available at work.

What this means to leaders is not only does a healthy workforce render better results, but due to the contractual nature of their relationship with employees, leaders are in a particularly good position to encourage their teams to achieve successful lifestyle changes.

Concrete Application You Can Use Today

Happy at workHere’s a very simple yet effective leadership tip to start integrating healthy behaviors with business strategy.  Start a new spreadsheet. On the vertical axis (all the rows), write down the names of your employees. On the horizontal axis (all the columns), write behaviors you want to encourage consistently in interactions with your staff. For example, you might want to give recognition more often (readers of this online publication know that gratitude matters!) or remind your team of a timely priority (current promotion, specific deadline, customer satisfaction, etc).  Other ideas may include expressing trust, providing a challenge, or encouraging the use of one’s strengths.  Also as column headers, write health behaviors you want to encourage in your employees (sleeping enough hours, turning blackberries off during meetings, making time for a nutritious lunch, etc.).

Then each time you encourage an activity in a column for a specific employee, put a check mark in the corresponding box of your spreadsheet. Samantha seems more energetic than usual today? Give her kudos, then keep track for yourself with a check mark.

At the end of the week, you may notice that you failed to reinforce certain key behaviors.  Or you may be really good at giving recognition to a few employees, but not to others.  Assuming everyone is deserving of appreciation to some extent, this reality check will help direct your attention towards your praise-deprived team members and make it up to them.

This technique enables you to adjust your practices so they support the leader you want to be, and helps you reinforce the behaviors you want to see. Equally important, it keeps you accountable for the behaviors you are encouraging in others.  Overall, it puts you in a great position to improve and enhance your relationships with your employees.

“The leader who exercises power with honor will work from the inside out, starting with himself.” – Blaine Lee

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi



Fredrickson, B. (2009). Address at the International Positive Psychology Association World Congress.

Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.

Lee, B. (1998). The Power Principle: Influence with Honor. New York: Fireside.

Loehr, J. & Schwartz, T. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York: Free Press.

Clock courtesy of Inno’vison
Happy employee courtesy of Edwin Dalorzo

Not seeing the pictures for the book links? Disable Adblocking for this site to view them.

You may also like


Sable Watson 24 October 2009 - 12:54 pm


Great article! I completely agree that an ideal leader is one who embodies healthy living habits, encouraging the same lifestyle for his/her employees. Also, I think positive reinforcement is key in a workplace environment. On the occasions that I do receive praise for my work, I feel invigorated and I actually want to work even harder.

I work at a place where it is not uncommon for people to be stressed out; and since I am sort of at the bottom of the work totem pole, I always feel like there is nothing I can do. Oftentimes, I just do my work and try to stay out of the way.

I know this article was written primarily for leaders, but what can the employees do to make things better at the workplace? Is there any sort of encouragement I can give or anything I can do beyond simply doing a good job? I don’t want to come off as a brownnoser, but I do want to feel like I am reinforcing positive attitudes as well.



Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar 26 October 2009 - 11:03 am

Hi Sable!

I think there is a lot you can do, no matter what your position is within your organization. You are a team member, people interact with you, count on you, rely on you and so your contribution makes a difference. And by contribution, I mean the work you produce, but also the support, encouragement, loyalty, creativity and overall value you bring to the table.

You may not be in a formal leadership role, but you can still be a positive emotional leader (ex: the colleague people go to when they need an injection of positivity), a team builder (ex: someone who makes sure everyone gets heard) and/or an energy creator (ex: someone who sees when a peer needs support and offers it freely).

So if you like the technique above, why not try it for yourself? Use the y-axis to write the names of the people you interact with most frequently, and the x-axis for behaviors you’d like to try out and be consistent with. Some examples may include offer encouragement, give gratitude for their contribution, make laugh, etc.

Lastly, about your brownnoser concern: there is nothing wrong with trying to make your work environment more positive. In fact, I believe it is everyone’s responsibility. Taking that responsibility seriously doesn’t make you a brownnoser; it makes you a caring and dependable contributor.

Don’t hesitate to let me know how it goes!
My best to you,


Senia 10 November 2009 - 3:49 am

Denise C
(those are the rows for the editors)

great content… sharp writing… super storytelling… compelling images…
(those are the columns. 🙂 )

Marie-Jo, nice sharp writing! Seriously.
I follow you through each word and each paragraph. And agree that observing and encouraging is a powerful technique. (What if one day you want to compliment someone on everything? That’s probably not as effective, I’d guess – what would you think?)

BTW, what’s your opinion of the technique in Kathryn’s article – Random Episodic Silent Thought? I know you’re big on sleep – do you also like quiet time throughout the day?


Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar 10 November 2009 - 4:43 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Senia!

Yes, I do like the REST technique Kathryn talks about, and for me curiously this form of creativity usually happens when I do a cardio workout. It seems to be the best way to quiet my mind and listen to its best ideas. I guess it’s the feel-good hormones rush that work their magic!

That’s not to say that I don’t need some quiet time hopefully each day, I do. But the quiet mind and the quiet body just don’t necessarily happen together for me (unless I just woke up, which isn’t my most creative time)!

About your question on complimenting someone on everything one day, I don’t see what’s wrong with it. As long as the praise is sincere, you are not the victim of a strong halo effect (where you can only see the good and neglect being critical), and as long as you keep the praise focused on process, I see nothing wrong with that. I’d only warn that some of it should be done in private to avoid other people’s resentment. Other than that, I think we have to stop being afraid of saying what’s right. As Christine Duvivier’s most recent article points out, success breeds success!




Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com