Skip to content →

Month: September 2009

5 Little Understood Ways to be Resilient in Hard Times

I am 99% persuaded by positive psychology, largely because I thought like a positive psychologist long before it was invented.  I never took to clinical psychology so I had nothing to discard, so to speak.

But it is the darker side of life where I think positive psychology has its limits.  Maybe the typical positive psychologist does not feel that because they have the skills to deal with people who are deeply unhappy.

My reservations come at many levels.   As a practitioner, though, I want to know what to do when we are in a dark place.

What does it mean to be resilient when times are terrible?  What are the critical processes that we are trying to leverage?

If I succeed at exercising leadership when times are miserable, if I show resilience and help others to be resilient, what might these processes be?

Here are 5 processes underlying resilience

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Active listening

The key to listening to angry people, among which I include people who are deeply insulted, humiliated, frightened, defeated and generally gibbering wrecks, is to acknowledge their emotion.  We don’t have to agree with their emotion.  We don’t have to copy their emotion.  We don’t have to make any comment about the circumstances.

We simply have to acknowledge the emotion, and show, through our acknowledgement, that we still respect the person, in spite their emotional display, and in spite the circumstances that led to these humiliating circumstances.

Generally, that leads to slight embarrassment on their part but that is a much more comfortable emotion than the anger and hurt.

Developing a group

We are often angry and humiliated when we have lost status and losing status usually means losing status in a group or being ejected from a group. Referring to a group to which we are both a part helps restore status.

Additionally, when people have been humiliated in front of their nearest and dearest, particularly the partners, children and parents, we should restore their status in their eyes too.

Identify small actions

Anger comes from loss of status and be implication, loss of control. When we look for small things we can do now, and we do them, we feel better.

Be grateful ourselves for having the opportunity to help

While we are doing all three above, we are active. We take the initiative. We are in control. We belong.

Be grateful, and allow our gratitude to show to the other person.  They will be grateful in turn.

Gratitude is a great mood-lifter.

Enjoy the results

As the other person lifts from utter dejection to a willingness to try, enjoy.  And be grateful again.  That way we share the ‘positive feedback’ with the other.   Let them share the way our mood has improved.

And watch the entire group become more buoyant

If we have done our job well, collective efficacy and trust should have risen.  And we all know that collective efficacy – our belief that our colleagues are competent – is the most powerful factor in raising school quality.  It is bound to have the same impact in other circumstances.

Trust also creates upward positive feedback spirals.  Though, we may need a lot when we start from a dark place.

What do you think?

  • Are these the effective mechanisms for regaining resilience in desperate places?
  • Are these effective mechanisms for encouraging people who really have few ways forward and little to push off from?
  • Would these questions even help you in the day-to-day dispiriting trials of the western world – like getting stranded in an overcrowded airport?
  • Are you able to try them out in the less-than-terrible conditions so that one day you can use them when life is truly terrible?

To recap:

L – Listen

G – Group

A – Act

G – Gratitude

E – Enjoy

2 Comments

Who agrees we shouldn’t put youngsters in badly designed jobs?

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.

Friedrich Nietzsche
German philosopher (1844 – 1900)

I’m interested in anyone else working on job design and happiness.  Do let me know if you are!

CHECK OUT SIMILAR POSTS

Leave a Comment

Succession Planning: Goodbye Baby Boomers, Hello Gen Y

Weak succession planning has led to weakness in the management chain

I was sitting in the office of a thirties-something – a young, dynamic and intelligent man.

We noted that in many firms there is a horrible gap between the Baby Boomers and the next level. Sometimes there is a gap of 20 to 30 years.  Do you see that gap in your company? Grey hair – a long gap – slightly inexperienced manager?

If there is any succession planning, it is certainly not evident.

Generational demographics

The breaks in the chain are largely a function of demographics – the number of babies who were born.

Baby Boomers, as the name suggests, are many. They are also used to dominating politics with their votes, and dictating taste with their purchasing power.

Gen X are few. Generally, while Boomers had 3 siblings, they had none. They are outnumbered by Boomers at least 2:1. Known as the latch-key kids, they are used to cleaning up the world after the Boomers have swanned-through. They are the unseen generation.

Gen Y are more numerous and are having more children than themselves.

Can we mend the breaks in the chain?

The gap between those in charge now, and those in charge tomorrow, is horrible. It even became an issue in the American Presidential election. “Obama is too young (47!) and has too little experience”, people cried. The gulf is much bigger in business.

How will the mantle of leadership be handed on from Boomers to Gen X or Gen Y?

I wanted to know how my young friend thought change would come about.

He smiled and said: “One day, one of them will go out to play golf. And his friends will follow.”

All over in day?

How will the mantle of leadership be passed from one generation to another in your industry? And what will be the consequences?

Chaos from lack of skill and exposure? A breath of fresh air?

What are the elements of succession planning with these unusual demographics before us?

How will the generation shift affect you?  Good or bad?  And if it is sudden, will it be in your favor, or not?

UPDATE:  Perhaps we can begin by not slagging off Gen Y, be reopening management training schools and having explicit policies to pass on the mantle of leadership?

4 Comments

3 must-knows of leadership that I learned from Gerald Durrell

Durrell in his final years, with Cottontop Tamarin
Image via Wikipedia

In My Friends and Other Animals, 10 year old Gerald Durrell taught me the most important trick of leadership.

He wrote a list of everything he wanted for his birthday, divided it up, and sent everyone to their favorite shops – his sister to buy cotton wool and pins for his butterfly collection, his author brother to a book shop, and his outdoorsy brother for supplies like formalin.

In all the years that I have spent teaching and consulting, I don’t think I have come across a better description of leadership.

There are three questions to remember about leadership.  That’s all, three questions

1 What brings us alive?

What lifts my soul? And what lifts the spirits of my companions?

What do they like to do, and what brings the light to their eyes?

2 What excites me about my companions?

What do I find fantastically good about the people I am with?

What do they do with ease and grace?  What do I love to watch?  What do I think they do magnificently well?

What brings out my smile and an impulse to applaud?

Even when they have been irritating me horribly, I must bring myself back to their story and their attributes that bring so much pleasure and opportunity to my life.

What makes me want to clap my hands in pleasure?  What can I say about this person to someone else?

What am I so confident that they will do so well because they always have.

3 Is this collective project sufficiently important for me to give it my full attention?

Will I be watching as events unfold?  Do I care enough – or was I just ranting?

And what will be watching? Can I play it through in detail in my mind and will it hold my attention as events unfold?

What information can I pass on to each person that will help them do better what they do so well?  How can I keep the light in our eyes?

Is this the most important project for me right now?

“. . . this is all, this is perfect, this is it . . .”

Does my project raise my compassion and my ease with the world?

Enhanced by Zemanta
Leave a Comment

The deep challenge for an ethical positive psychologist

.  .  .  this is all, this is perfect, this is it .  .  .

Words from my friend Anand Raj .  .  .

I had a great sense of relief when I read those words.  But in other times and other places these words would have driven me to suicide.  They would have heightened my panic.  I found the place unacceptable and any conversation I had with anyone needed to begin from that sentiment.

Positive psychology and despair

Because I’ve had these soul-destroying moments in past lives, I have deep doubts about some aspects of positive psychology.

I suspect the best that a positive psychologist can do when someone is deeply miserable is to AVOID theorizing.

I suspect our theory is little more than our distaste for someone else’s misery.  So our garrulous ways add to the alienation and horror felt by our companion.  And thus, is unethical if not immoral.

We need to walk-the-talk and keep the conversation on every aspect of the situation that is positive.   Gradually, we might be able to help a person out of their dark place.

Leading when life is dark

And when life is dark for us too, maybe the best we can do is to exercise leadership.

It is not helpful, IMHO, to deny that we are in a dark place.  We need to walk-the-talk, pay active attention to real threats, and take active steps to protect ourselves.  We need to focus on positive aspects – not to cheer people up but because of the genuine merits of those things – and highlight whatever is under our control.

From that appreciation, we may be able to move forward.

But leadership must be active and sincere – even from a psychologist working for money.  It’s not enough to talk about the people we lead.  We must share the journey.

The post I had planned for this morning is more cheerful.  I’ll post that this evening!

Leave a Comment

The difference between social media strategy and social media as business strategy

View of Wall Street, Manhattan.
Image via Wikipedia

Social Media Strategy

Social media strategy is like our marketing strategy, our HR strategy, our IT strategy, or indeed, strategy for any part of our business.

Our social media strategy is part of our overall business strategy and it looks specifically at the events, opportunities and difficulties that we expect to encounter in the next five years.  Our strategy plan and document describes what we intend to do about the challenges and events as they occur.

Because social media strategy is so new, our social media strategy is likely to begin with “we don’t know what will happen in social media but we do know that we will use it more”. “We also know that younger people will expect us to use it and older people may have difficulty understanding it”.  We know that we are going to need resources to monitor developments, develop policies, and deliver training.

A loose structure is probably the best to use.  In a large corporation, I would pull people who are interested in working in social media into one place.  I would survey our skill levels across the corporation, and I would organize unconferences to suggest ways to use social media in part of the business.

Far from banning Facebook at work, I would encourage it – but in a thoughtful way.  I would ask associates how they would feel if our business encroached their personal space.  I would ask them which of their friends are interested in our business.  I would bring together their ideas about how we would use social media, and their thoughts on the opportunities and risks that social media brings, and about the policies and training that we need.

Social media as business strategy

The wider question about social media in our business strategy is a lot more interesting.  When we jump up two levels of management to the Board and ask “What business are we in?”, we find that businesses are changing dramatically because of social media.

At this level, the specifics of social media are less important. At this level, the general principles help us think about the way whole businesses will change.

Now if we are in a business like deep water oil extraction it may be quite difficult to imagine how social media will change our business.  If we are in a knowledge and service business like universities, it may be hard to take in that our industry may just get trashed by this emerging art form.

It is very likely that our Directors, being older, have little ‘feel’ for changes on the horizon. It is also very likely that the Gen Y in the business have neither a ‘feel’ for our business nor indeed, the conceptual understanding of social media to be able to brief the Board on the possibilities.

Herein, therefore is another task for the ‘social media function’ – to gather ideas – wild and woolly or concrete and specific – any ideas about the impact on our business.

The purpose of a social media unit

The purpose of that unit is not to define the answer.  That is the work of the Directors.

The purpose of the unit is to structure the conversation so that Directors can start to ask better questions.

We are winning once the Directors are asking good questions for the social media strategy group to answer.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do this work?

And for your business and mine?

  • What are the questions that you ask about your business and social media?
  • What questions are you asking?
  • What puzzles you?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • What do you dismiss with a wave of your hand – and so really should put back on the table?
  • Where will social media put your business significantly ahead of your competitors?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
6 Comments