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Using Positive Leadership Strategies to Promote Staff Wellbeing

We know that leaders can positively (and negatively) impact the mental health and wellbeing of their staff. Based on the principles of Positive Psychology, below are strategies for how leaders can promote the six pillars of wellbeing in staff: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and health.

PERMAH Acronym. P = Positive emotions, E = Engagement, R = Relationships, M = Meaning, A = Accomplishment, H = Health


When was the last time you had FUN at work? Positive emotions – including feelings of joy, gratitude, awe, serenity, interest, amusement, inspiration, and hope – not only feel good, but can have many positive benefits for employees. Injecting a boost of positivity into the day can help employees de-stress, think more broadly and creatively, as well as problem solve and cope better with workday challenges. It can also lead to higher customer satisfaction. 


  • Workplace Fun! Take the time to celebrate success and have some fun in the workplace. Put on fun music; celebrate birthdays. Create a positive work environment where people enjoy coming to work. 
  • Ask Generative Questions: To boost positive emotions in employees try to reframe everyday questions like “How was your day?” to focus on the positive. Instead try: “What went well today?”; “What is something you are proudest of doing at work lately?”; “What are you looking forward to this week?”; “What was the highlight of the weekend?”
  • Express Gratitude: Gratitude makes employees feel valued and appreciated, and is one of the easiest, quickest and least expensive way to boost employee wellbeing. When you are expressing gratitude, try to be specific regarding what you are grateful for. For example, “We have been so busy lately and I realised I haven’t taken the time to express my appreciation for all of your great work.” “You really go out of your way to…” or “You’re really good at…” or “It shows how responsible you are that…”. Give it a try and see what reaction you get!


Research shows that employees who use their strengths each day at work are more engaged on the job. They are also more likely to feel happier; less stressed; more satisfied at work; perform better; and be less likely to leave the organisation. 


  • Understand, Explore and Leverage Employee’s Strengths. To better understand your employees’ strengths, they can take this free strengths test:
  • Give Strengths-based Feedback:
    1) Identify the employees’ strengths in terms of job performance, knowledge, skills and talent;
    2) Provide positive feedback on what employees are doing to succeed based on such strengths;
    3) Encourage employees to continue using their strengths. 


For many employees, workplace relationships – and especially relationships with managers and leaders – are a significant motivating factor in how they feel about the work they do, and the organisations where they do that work. 


Engage in Team building using Icebreakers. Get to know your employees by starting meetings with an icebreaker. For example:

  • “What is something other people may not know about you?”
  • “If you could be anyone else in the world for the day – who would you be?” 
  • “What is your most used emoji?” 
  • “What is your dream job?” 
  • “What sport would you complete if you were in the Olympics?” 
  • “What’s your favourite dessert?”

Use Active Constructive Responding when Receiving Positive News: Another way to promote positive relationships with employees – and all relationships in fact – is active constructive responding. Active constructive responding is based on the idea that, when people share positive news with us the way we respond can either build relationships or undermine relationships. In fact, research shows that how you celebrate positive news is more predictive of strong relationships than how you fight. 

Active constructive responding breaks down the way we respond into four categories based on whether the responding is active vs passive and constructive vs destructive:

Matrix showing active and passive listed across the top, and constructive and destructive listed on the left.

For example, you might say to your manager: “The presentation I did went really well today!”

  • Active and constructive response: “That’s awesome! How are you feeling? What parts do you think went well? Did you receive positive feedback? Let’s go get a coffee to celebrate and you can tell me about it!” Nonverbal: maintaining good eye contact, displays positive emotions such as genuine smiling, laughing.
  • Passive and constructive response: “That’s good”. Nonverbal: Little to no active emotional expression.
  • Active and destructive response: “I bet people are going to get in touch and give you lots of work now. You’ll be so busy doing presentations all the time.” Nonverbal: displays of negative emotions, such as furrowed brow, frowning.
  • Passive and destructive response: “I just had a horrible customer”. Nonverbal: little or no eye contact; turning away; leaving the room.

When you take the time to engage in active constructive responding, it can prolong the positive emotions that the other person is feeling and build a healthy, supportive, relationship.


Finding meaning at work has a variety of benefits both professionally and personally. Those who find meaning at work are often more engaged and committed to their work, and experience higher levels of wellbeing. 


  • Emphasise the Importance of their Role: Aquatics and recreation centers are important community spaces that contribute to the health and wellbeing of our community and our economy. Reminding your staff as to how their role contributes to the overall purpose and direction of the organisation can be an important way to increase their wellbeing at work. 

In their study, Stanway and colleagues (2022) summarised all wellbeing, social, and economic benefits of aquatics and recreation centres. See the summary below: 

Summarised wellbeing, social, and economic benefits of aquatics and recreation centres. Wellbeing: Reduced risk of chronic disease, mental illness and drowning, increased productivity. Economic: gross value add, employment. Social: Educational uplift, volunteering, Social Connectedness (in particular for marginalized members), community pride, safety and security.

Reframe the Mundane: If employees are struggling to stay motivated to complete mundane tasks, try to “reframe the mundane”. To do this, choose one task from your to-do-list that you are not looking forward to doing today, and ask yourself these two questions: 1) What is its purpose? 2) Who does it help?

Connecting tasks back to “why” we are doing them can help increase meaning and motivation. 


A sense of accomplishment is a fundamental need of all people. It gives people a sense of pride and contributes to wellbeing. 


  • Ensure Roles are Clear: Employees will not feel a sense of accomplishment if they are not clear on what is expected of them. Find regular opportunities to discuss tasks and what is expected. Role clarity is a key component of reducing workplace stress.
  • Set SMART Goals: Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (and Resourced) and Time-bound. Learn more about setting SMART goals below:


  • Acknowledge Good Work and Practice. Praise is the cheapest, easiest, way to reinforce employees and give them a sense of accomplishment. It is particularly important when employees are struggling. A positive approach does not mean ignoring negative elements or poor performance; instead positive leaders deal with these issues in a compassionate and transparent way. If you have to provide negative feedback, keep it constructive by focusing on specific learning or training actions that will help achieve improved outcomes.


Our mental health is strongly related to our physical health. Therefore, to promote wellbeing amongst your staff, also focus on promoting healthy activities and lifestyles.


  • Promote Physical Activity: Try different meeting formats – e.g., walking or stand-up meetings; encourage restorative breaks where staff can get up and stretch; consider setting movement based challenges. 
  • Promote Work-life Balance: Provide a work environment where there is an acceptance of the need for a balance between the demands of work, family and life. Limit out of work hours, encourage regular breaks and taking annual leave. 
  • Promote Nutrition: Consider healthy food options when catering is provided; review vending machine choices. 
  • Promote Mental Health Support: Make mental health and wellbeing resources available to employees (e.g., ensure they are clear regarding how to access services such as EAP). 


“The companies that spend more time thinking about their staff will keep staff longer. At the end of the day, success or failure of any business is its people. They want to know that it is a healthy workplace, that they’re respected, that they’re listened to, and it suits their lifestyles.”
Janine Allis, Founder of Boost Juice Bars


SUMMARY: Tips to Promote Staff Wellbeing


Workplace FUN!; Turn everyday questions into generative questions; Celebrate success; Express gratitude.

Play to employee’s strengths; Give strengths-based feedback.


Engage in teambuilding; Use active constructive responding.

Align the workers role with the importance of Aquatics & Recreation centres for our community; Reframe the mundane.


Clarify roles; Use SMART goals; Acknowledge good work and practice.

Promote physical activity, work-life balance, nutrition and access to mental health support.

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