Coaching for Flow in the Workplace

Lion flowWhen leaders and coaches are in Flow they inspire people to be their best. A great coach reflects back to people their worth and value. They point out a person’s best qualities and build rapport with individuals first. Once rapport is established they can be forthright and confront a person on what is not congruent in their behavior towards others. Great coaches lead by example. They put themselves in Flow first.

What is Flow?

Flow is that creative state that all people experience from time to time. When people are in Flow they are totally immersed in what they are doing. Time flies and they are targeting their attention to do something challenging and worthwhile. Athletes call this state the zone. Poets call it bliss.

Philosophers tell us that people seek happiness more than anything else. It has been my personal experience that being able to sustain flow is determined by how you create meaning in your life. When a person takes their talents and skills and makes a difference in their life and the lives of others they are going beyond their personal satisfaction. Seeking meaning is one of the most important components of “flow“. Coach Marta Karolyi gave time, energy and shared her insights with her Olympic champions. She provided an environment that encouraged her champions to be in flow or the zone of high performance.

When you are of service to others and what you do benefits and matters to others, in addition to yourself, you begin to gain personal mastery. Being of service to others, brings happiness and personal satisfaction. People will follow you and take your lead if you are ethical, have integrity, and are trustworthy. You show that your care about other people through your actions. Dr. Viktor Frankl said, it is not about your personal happiness alone, it is about making the difference in the lives of others. It is being connected to something larger than yourself.

For example, if you like to lead, you get to lead as part of what you do every day, or if you like teaching you get to teach as part of what you do every day. The best leaders and the best teachers are the ones who give of themselves to others.

What Are the Key Elements of Flow?

Ten Indicators of Superior Performance (Flow):

1) Control – People have a strong need to have make reasonable decisions regarding life and work. Effective managers provide their employees with the right balance of direction and freedom. People need interaction with their colleagues, proper tools, and a comfortable work pace to reach optimum performance. This is the most critical component of all the indicators because it impacts productivity and health.

2) Learning – Optimal learning occurs when people have clear goals and timely feedback to course correct. Enhanced learning occurs when people are allowed to create solutions for themselves and their organization.

3) Variety – People need to avoid boredom, stress, and fatigue by working at a comfortable rhythm. People are enthusiastic about their work when they have the opportunity to master multiple aspects of their work.

4) Mutual Support and Respect –Heightened engagement occurs when people feel connected to one another. This is a powerful driver and people chose to remain in their jobs when these elements are present.

5) Meaningfulness – People have a strong innate desire to be engaged in activities that are worthwhile to them, their organization and the community as a whole. They want to be a part of something larger than themselves.

6) A Desirable Future – People want to grow. People look for careers that offer skill development and help them achieve their personal goals.

7) Preferred Life Interests – People will remain in their jobs if the work involves one or more of their profoundly ingrained interests. For example if a person loves to work with computers, they get to work with computers as part of what they do every day. If they enjoy selling they are given opportunities to develop that skill set.

8) Challenges That Match & Stretch Individual Skills –People need work experiences that are manageable, equal to their skills with opportunities to extend their abilities.

9) Concentration & Focus – When people are allowed to target their focus then the opportunity to improve that activity is enhanced.

10) Fun – Work can be fun and enjoyable! People have an innate need to experience fun in all its forms.

Flow in the workplace” is possible when the Ten Indicators of Superior Performance are optimized and are in-sync.

Why is it important to be in Flow?

Because it positively impacts the bottom line!

Why be in the zone or in flow during work? When people experience flow at work they are happier, committed, creative, more productive and healthier. People want to excel and be the best that they can be. The key is designing an environment where people are willingly do things for their own reasons not because they are coerced. Excellence never happens by force. People will comply, but they won’t excel unless it comes from within. In other words, it has to be their idea.

An example, when people have applied the ten indicators of flow, sales and work performance has dramatically improved.
Where has Flow been implemented effectively?


Olympic champions put themselves in a Flow state before and duringFlow state of yoga their competitions. They visualize making the gold over and over again in their mind. They take on the mindset and physiology of a champion. They believe they are going to win and they tell themselves they are going to win. They see themselves having won. They experience this in all their senses. For example, Coach Jimmy Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys used the Flow model to win the super bowl! He trained his players in how to get into a Flow state.

Another example are martial arts champions use their breath to get into Flow. They breathe from below their belly button or their center of gravity. This gets the athlete into their body and out of their head so they eliminate fear. If you are in your head or worrying, you get knocked off balance. I remember taking skiing lessons and my instructor told me to be one with the snow! He said feel the snow and get into a Zen state. He was helping me get into Flow, where I was totally immersed in what I was doing. My ski instructor designed challenges that stretched my abilities just the right amount. It was not too easy for me or too difficult.


Flow in the workplace was first field tested and implemented by Evangeline Caridas at Allstate Insurance Company in Chicago, Illinois in 1992. An equally powerful business method is Participative Management, a powerful business model that engages employees at the level where the work is done and not at levels above. People actually identify issues and design solutions incorporating the 10 Steps to Superior Performance. These are the internal motivators of effective work. It demonstrates how people excel at work. We have designed a simple and effective business model that has moved out of the laboratory and into the field of practical application that produces extraordinary business results. Ms. Caridas has been working with companies and assisting them in improving their business performance ever since.

The business interventions that contribute to flow are Participative Management, Participative Work Re-Design, Participative Strategic Planning, Flow Metrics and Healthy Work Methods. These are leading edge methods that will create the ideal environment for a top performing organization.

Some examples are:

AXS Bolivia Telecom Company – Increased topline from 18M-26M in 6 months, then 40M in 12 months

QuieFlex Manufacturing Company – Productivity was increased by 50% within 6 months, scrap was reduced to near zero and there were no accidents reported during that time frame.

Prudential Allied Realtors – Company grew from 750K to 1.5M within 12 months to achieve owners exit strategy.

Palos District 118 – This top Chicago School District went from good to great by going from the top 10% to the top 5% of Illinois Elementary and Middle Schools.

Large Teaching Hospital in Texas – Patient and Employee satisfaction scores increased by 10% within 6 months. Employee turnover dropped by 36% within the first quarter after CCI implemented Flow and Participative Design.

Flow is the desired state you want to create as a manager and a coach. You achieve Flow by allowing people you manage or coach to actually identify problems, come up with solutions and incorporating the 10 Steps to Superior Performance or the secret sauce to excellence. You are creating a champion mindset of top Olympic coaches. People at the top of their respective field use these strategies to excel.

Evangeline Caridas is passionate about creating a workplace where people want to come. Her work influences the mindset of leaders to revitalize the way they think about their work and their people. She has worked with top for profit and, non-profit businesses, and all levels of education shifting their performance upward, defining their purpose and positively impacting their communities.

Evangeline Caridas
Caridas Consulting Intl.