Shawn Murphy on the Beliefs at the Heart of Workplace Optimism

Murphy,ShawnIs your company suffering from chronic, pervasive negativity? Don’t lose hope! “However demotivating your climate, the good news is you can positively shift what your employees experience at work,” assures Shawn Murphy, business consultant and author of THE OPTIMISTIC WORKPLACE: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone (AMACOM October 2015). “You can position employees to believe that work is a bright spot in their life.” As he shares, creating a positive work climate takes embracing these essential beliefs:

  • The team is more important than any individual. It’s a fact of neuroscience: our brains are wired to think about the thoughts, feelings, and goals of other people. Working as a team to achieve desired outcomes makes people feel good about work. “For optimism to be strong, a cohesive team is vital,” Murphy declares. He urges business leaders to avoid relying on the usual suspects, the same few superstars, to handle high-profile projects.
  • There’s value to experiencing joy at work. Joy can open brains to better see connections and various options to solve work problems. In a joyful workplace, people are more likely to contribute their best. Known for its joy-making philosophy, Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has made Inc. magazine’s fastest growing U.S. companies list multiple times. “Expressing joy is simple,” Murphy states. “Give a proud smile when a team member does great work. Celebrate reaching key project milestones or momentous occasions in an employee’s life—buying a new house or having a baby, for example.”
  • Doing good is good for business. It’s not just about philanthropy. When leaders adopt business practices that contribute to improving employees’ lives, business prospers. For example, BambooHR, a software development company based in Utah, has an antiworkaholic policy. The small start-up has found that when its team members have time to pursue personal interests, they are more productive and satisfied at work. “Implement a policy banning team members from emailing other about business on weekends,” Murphy suggests.
  • Relationships with employees need to be richer. Relationships are central to cooperation, collaboration, and successful outcomes. Take, for instance, the remarkable 2014 events at Market Basket, a 73-store grocery chain based in Massachusetts. When the board of directors ousted the company’s CEO and steward, Arthur T. Demoulas, in favor of his bottom-line driven cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, employees responded by orchestrating a massive boycott. Strong relationships between employees, suppliers, and customers resulted in a collaborative effort that restored a beloved CEO and saved a company.
  • Work should align with purpose and meaning. Why does work matter to your team members? For workplace optimism to thrive, organizational leaders must strive to find the answer to that question and then continually invest in making sure that work remains meaningful. “A focus on financial motivators blinds leaders from helping employees do work that matters,” Murphy stresses.
  • Leaders need to actualize human potential. Luck Companies, an aggregate business headquartered just outside of Richmond, Virginia, believes, to quote CEO Charlie Luck, that “all human beings have extraordinary potential to make a positive difference in the world.” For Luck, this belief shapes how its leaders treat one another, develop their associates, and spread the message globally. “Actualizing human potential puts the spirit into workplace optimism,” Murphy asserts, inspiring business leaders to put this belief into action.

OptimisticWorkplaceAdapted from THE OPTIMISTIC WORKPLACE: Creating an Environment That Energizes Everyone by Shawn Murphy (AMACOM October 2015).

SHAWN MURPHY is a thought leader, inspirational speaker, and independent consultant recognized by Inc. magazine and The Huffington Post for his contributions to creating optimistic work climates and the type of leadership needed for them. He is the CEO and co-founder of Switch & Shift, an organization dedicated to developing and advancing human-centered organizational practices.

Shawn has 20 years’ of experience working to cultivate optimism in workplace climates, as both a Fortune 100 company insider and an advisor to forward-thinking government agencies. When not consulting, he can often be found in the classroom teaching, speaking to audiences, or interviewing top thought leaders on his Work That Matters podcast.

Random Quotes from New Books This October

Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston

Jacket cover of Talking to Crazy by Mark Goulston

“If you think of the people around you as impatient and selfish, envision them as patient and generous—and remember the kind things they’ve done for you. If you perceive the people around you as unreliable, think of them as reliable. If you perceive the people around you as unloving, picture them as loving.
“What will happen when you do this? The people who truly are negative may come around, at least a little. And the people who aren’t truly negative—the ones you’ve been misperceiving—will respond to your new behavior with relief, gratitude, and warmth. And occasionally, you may discover that the irrational person in the relationship was actually you”
(page 55).

The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone by Shawn Murphy
Jacket cover of The Optimistic Workplace by Shawn Murphy“Another outdated belief about the workplace is that autonomy is not important for rank-and-file employees. As adults, we need to feel autonomous in the way we go about living our lives and making our own decisions. In the workplace, leaders should not take for granted the importance and motivating influences of autonomy. Psychology researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have studied the effects of autonomy on performance and have found numerous benefits important to individuals, and ultimately to organizations. First, when people identify with work’s value and ‘have integrated it into their sense of self,’ they perform better when solving problems. They also experience positive psychological health” (page 33).

Sales Management. Simplified.: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team by Mike Weinberg

Jacket cover of Sales Management Simplified by Mike Weinberg

“How do your people respond when a potential client they haven’t been working with summons them to come in for a presentation or demo, or announces that he’s gathering his team together and wants their best dog and pony show? Do they get all lathered up, enthusiastically preparing for their big moment in the spotlight? Or do they raise one eyebrow, pause to think, and begin to wonder what prompted this prospect’s request? Do they run headfirst and blind into this premature presentation, or do they assert control of the situation and begin an important dialogue with the customer? Put bluntly, are they yes men (order takers) willing to do whatever a customer wants hoping to earn obedience points on the way to a sale? Or are they confident enough to push back on the request, professionally and respectfully informing the prospect that they’d love to come in and present, but only at the right time, after having had the opportunity to meet various stakeholders, better understand what prompted the request, and learn more about the situation so they can then craft a relevant presentation?” (page 94).

Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child by Sara Au and Peter Stavinoha
Jacket cover of Stress-Free Potty Training, Second Edition“Praise is not only healthier [than a candy reward], but there is an inexhaustible, free supply of it. We always have some with us. As parents, it also gives us the chance to specifically target what we really want to reinforce—our kid’s effort, willingness, and interest. Based on our feedback, our children will begin to value the same traits we are reinforcing—persistence, tolerance, overcoming frustration, patience, bravery, commitment to a goal, and so on. Reinforcing all of that can be done quickly and efficiently in a statement of admiration or even a quick burst of applause. The very best time to start working on the development of an internal achievement mindset in a child is early childhood!” (page 52).

The Emotional Intelligence Activity Kit: 50 Easy and Effective Activities for Building EQ by Adele B. Lynn and Janele R. Lynn

Jacket cover of Emotional Intelligence Activity Kit

“As a predictor of performance, Druskat found that emotional intelligence is two times more accurate as a predictor of performance than cognitive intelligence, and it predicts success beyond an employee’s skill, knowledge, or ability” (page 1).

Learning for Life: How Continuous Education Will Keep Us Competitive in the Global Knowledge Economy by Jason Wingard and Michelle LaPointe
Jacket cover of Learning for Life by Jason Wingard and Michelle LaPointe
“In countries such as the United States, the steepest decline in skill demands is no longer in the area of manual skills, but rather in routine cognitive skills. When we can access the world’s knowledge on the Internet, when routine skills are being digitized or outsourced, and when jobs are changing rapidly, accumulating knowledge matters less, and success becomes increasingly about ways of thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and judgment), about ways of working (collaboration and teamwork), and about the sociocultural tools that enable us to interact with the world” (page 12).


Want to sample other AMACOM books? Check out our Random Quotes from New Books series.

Introducing AMACOM … Janine

Next in the “Introducing AMACOM” series is Sales & Marketing Assistant Janine Barlow.

jbarlowWhat did you do before you joined AMACOM in May?

I gained experience in publishing through plenty of internships over the course of my college career (and a little bit beyond). These ranged from publicity internships with Random House Publishing Group and Monteiro & Company to literary agency internships with Dunham Literary and the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. I couldn’t possibly have developed such a strong foundation in publishing without all of those work experiences and my most recent job before joining AMACOM–working front desk at a dental office. No better job for learning how to help all manner of people than that!

What are some of your responsibilities as Sales & Marketing Assistant?

I assist the sales, marketing, and publicity directors, helping to promote our books to everyone ranging from booksellers to consumers to those in the media. In publicity, I’m responsible for some of my own books, which includes writing press materials for them and creating review lists to get copies to the right editors and reviewers. In marketing I deeply enjoy titling meetings (brainstorming titles and subtitles for upcoming books) for the sheer creative insight and team spirit, and in sales I’m looking forward to helping to plan our next sales conference and to present a book or two to our sales reps there.

What are the big challenges you face in your job?

Wiring my brain for the varying timelines of publishing has been an entertaining new challenge. In an afternoon I might brainstorm titles for a book on our summer 2016 list, then work on a galley letter for something pubbing in January 2016, and then coordinate an interview with an author of a book out next week. Fortunately, I have a fairly organized mind, so I’m starting to be able to summon up a mental calendar of all our books.

What AMACOM book are you most excited about right now?

All of my friends and family know I won’t stop talking about We Are Market Basket. Even though the details of the movement somehow missed me as they occurred, reading the book has absorbed me in them so thoroughly. The story of the Demoulas family (and, of course, the extended Market Basket family) alone is captivating enough, but the authors’ insights into why Market Basket worked so well as a company have me wishing I could gather up some of my old sociology classmates to discuss the book.

What else have you been reading recently?

I’m about to finish the fourth and final book of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, The Story of the Lost Child. I love the books themselves and the way they’ve brought discussion of female friendship in literature to the fore in the literary crowd. Over the past few months my favorite read has been Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock. While in the thick of it I attended the panel discussion she produced at Housing Works about time in literature and now feel like a full-blown fan. I hadn’t previously reached real fan status about anyone other than maybe Faulkner or Salinger so this is a momentous occasion for me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a Sales & Marketing Assistant at AMACOM?

I might have gone back to school and become a dentist, but I have rather stubby fingers, so when it comes to deftness and precision…I’m better on the page.

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS Now Available on NetGalley

Cover art for Recipe for Success by Abigail SteinbergYour product may be simple–a delicious green juice, a line of flavorful pickles, the canned chili you know will be the healthiest on the market. You also know that the path to getting it onto shelves is a lot more complex. RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: An Insider’s Guide to Bringing Your Natural Food to Market by Abigail Steinberg guides readers through every step of that process with the wisdom of an expert in the field. Journalists, booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, and media professionals interested in the natural foods market are invited to request Recipe for Success for review.

Get out of the kitchen—and into the stores.

Your special spicy pickles. Your crunchy coconut granola. The cookie recipe so good that no one believes it’s gluten-free….With the ever-increasing demand for natural foods, the time may be right to turn your culinary hobby into a moneymaker. But the path to retail success is strewn with obstacles—unless you have the guidance of someone who’s been there and done it.

Who is your target market? What sets your product apart? What’s your perfect price point? Recipe for Success gives you the benefit of an expert’s in-depth experience, taking you from initial conception to cashing out—and covering everything in between. Filled with real life examples, the book helps you:

Package and launch your product • Work effectively with distributors • Win the fiercely competitive battle for store placement • Prepare for trade shows • Deal with slotting fees, “free fills”, promotions, discounts, and demos • Negotiate broker partnerships • And more

Make no mistake: the natural foods industry is not user-friendly, but with this indispensable guide you can avoid the common—and highly expensive—traps many start-ups fall into . . . and make your dream business a delicious reality.

ABIGAIL STEINBERG began her career at Zevia, helping it become the fastest-growing natural product in the country. She has worked as a successful consultant and senior manager in the natural food industry for almost a decade.

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NetGalley is a service for people who read and recommend books, such as book reviewers, journalists, librarians, professors, booksellers, and bloggers.

There are a number of different reading options for this e-galley:

Find all of AMACOM’s e-galleys on NetGalley.

You can review how to get AMACOM’s digital galley request approval on NetGalley HERE.

AMACOM Welcomes Pope Francis!


In honor of Pope Francis’ historic visit to New York City, AMACOM celebrates “with the Pope” our book LEAD WITH HUMILITY: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis, by Jeffrey A. Krames.

We’re also hosting a giveaway on our @AMACOMBooks Twitter account! Retweet any of our #PopeFrancis tweets and be sure to enter on the Google form linked in the tweets. Official rules on the form.