My short bio: Hello everyone - my name is Robert Quinn. In addition to being a professor at the Michigan Ross School of Business, I’m also a researcher who has spent the majority of my career investigating leadership, organizational change, and effectiveness.

My research and work in these subjects has led me to believe strongly in the power of positive organizations because the evidence is clear: When employees are happy and thriving, businesses are happy and thriving.

I’ll be here until 12:30 p.m. ET today, and I’m happy to answer whatever questions you have about positive organizations, work culture, leadership, managing happy and thriving employees, or whatever else might be on your mind. Ask me anything!

EDIT: Thanks for joining and asking questions today - it was a pleasure. If you’re just joining or want to hear more about this subject, I’ll be speaking more about this tomorrow (Oct 13) at 4 p.m. ET.

It is the 100th session of the Center for Positive Organizations ongoing Positive Links Speaker Series. Join me live on Oct 13 at


Comments: 24 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

DANNYonPC7 karma

Hi Robert Quinn, do you think your name sounds like a supervillain?

requinn8 karma


orangejulius4 karma

What do you think of reddit's reliance on volunteer moderators to achieve the bulk of their community policing?

Are business models that rely on altruism from the community they cater to sustainable?

requinn11 karma

In all organizations performance is based on altruism, trust and pursuit of the common good. Yet many actors are unaware of this fact. Trust and altruism are very fragile. People do things that destroy trust and people withdraw. They become unengaged and the organization suffers. With Reddit or any kind of organization leaders need to be constantly monitoring and building purpose and commitment. This is such a difficult task that most leaders avoid it and the organization decays. Reddit needs to look carefully at their relationships with their volunteers and continually renew the sense of commitment.

xMeta4x3 karma

Given your research and beliefs, why is it then that many successful businesses (for their shareholders) primarily have a miserable, demoralized workforce?

requinn7 karma

I love your question. I recently talked to a CEO who shared the history of his company. In the first phase they were a financial company that did not care about employees or customers. Their business model was allowing them to make money with a single focus. After a few years, they began losing customers. It was a crisis. The employees treated customers like they were treated. Changing the culture took years and eventually brought increased success. A company with just the right model, at just the right time, can make money no matter how they treat people. But the narrow focus is not sustainable over time.
The truth is that many organizations are miserable places to work. In fact, this is so common, that we accept miserable work settings. It is a norm. One of my students said, “I had an abusive boss, I thought that is the way business was supposed to be.” 70% of the global workforce is disengaged. 52% of the management workforce is disengaged. We can even find a CEO now and then, as shocking as it may sound, who has actually checked out. What these facts suggest is that we do not know how to design and lead positive organizations. People who are trained in management are often not leaders. Leaders are people who turn bad or good organizations into great ones. Holding a position at the top of some hierarchy makes you an authority figure, not a leader. The same student went on to say, “After taking this class, I will never again have an abusive leader.” She has a different set of expectations for herself and for others. She is now an empowered person who can empower others. She is a person who can lead with or without a position. She can bring people to purpose and engagement.

reflexgraphix3 karma

How much of a positive organization relies on hiring positive people?

requinn3 karma

If an organization turns positive it means that most of the people are turning positive. That is, the culture is evolving and the individuals are seeing new possibilities. They are acquiring hope and behaving in new ways. A leader brings such change. As such change happens, organizations often discover the importance of hiring positive people of high capability. Note how the standard has climbed. Now the person must be both capable and positive.

ichirponjwics3 karma

Are you familiar with employee engagement to disengagement ratios? Are factors that increase employee engagement unique to each specific organization or can common factors influence employee engagement at diverse organizations writ large?

requinn4 karma

The answer is “yes.” There are both common factors and unique factors. Positive organizations cater to the higher order needs of people. The higher order needs are common across the planet.
On the other hand, there are lists to techniques and practices available. In the Positive Organization book I recently published, I include the positive organization generator. It contains 100 positive practices used by real companies. I put a big emphasis on the fact that those practices are not there to be copied. They are there to stimulate. You take the practice you are most interested in and your reinvent it so you believe in it and have the courage to implement it. Much of the literature is based on imitation. “Here is what Jack Welch or Steve Jobs did, now you can copy and be Jack Welch or Steve Jobs.” Leadership is not about imitation. It is about creation and learning in real time.

ajsteiner3 karma

What is the place of conflict within a positive organizations? How do positive organizations manage conflict or foster 'positive conflict'?

requinn5 karma

An organization is a living system. It is a system of dynamic tensions in which conflicts continually arise. Most people, including managers, tend to avoid conflict. The conflicts become elephants under the table. Since people know the conversations in such contexts are not authentic, they engage in political posturing. This means they are not fully engaged. One of the prime purposes of a leader is to scan for, recognize, surface and transform conflict into creative collaboration. Creative collaboration is positive confrontation or positive conflict. In a positive organization conflict is continually converted into collaboration.

The-MockingJay2 karma

What are some basic things your standard corporate organizations can do to become a 'positive organization'?

In your experience and research to date, what do you believe is the main reason a lot of businesses fail to create a happy and thriving work environment?

requinn4 karma

A positive organization is a system in which people flourish and exceed expectations. Flourish means they are engaged and growing. Exceed expectations means they are doing very well in accomplishing goals. The organization is productive and it is a place of human well-being. Creating a positive organization is difficult because conventional thinking tends to be one dimensional. Some people focus on profits others focus on other things such as people. To create a positive organization a leader must see and nurture the whole.
To create a positive organization a leader has to clarify the highest, collective purpose, articulate it, and continually reclarify it. Most importantly they must live by the purpose even when it is politically difficult. When the message is authentic and lasting it matters. Constancy of purpose gives rise to a unified culture. It is also key that every aspect of the culture, leadership, physical symbols, strategies, and so on must be aligned with the purpose and values. When the purpose is authentic, and often it is not, a new culture will emerge.

SoNowWhat2 karma

Hello Dr. Quinn. I work for a self-managed company without a hierarchy. As one of the people looked upon to provide leadership due to my deep experience, what advice do you have for me to grow into this role as effectively as possible?

requinn2 karma

First, you are lucky to have such a developmental opportunity. Second, you have a challenging task. You have to lead amid continual uncertainty. This means you have to continually empower yourself. You have to continually clarify your own purpose, increase your own integrity. You have to then invite others to purpose, authenticity, empathy and the co-creation of the emerging future. In the book, Lift: The Fundamental State of Leadership (Second edition just published) we lay out how you can do this, using a simple, four question framework and then teach it to your people (What result do I want to create? Am I internally directed? Am I other focused? Am I externally open?). I think it would be an important read for you.