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Tag: collective efficacy

Does it only take giving credit where it is due?

Unfamiliarity or lack of collective efficacy

I’m fascinated by the panic induced by the ‘hung parliament’ in the UK.

Turning our urban soullessness into a village square

Earlier today, I went shopping in the TESCO superstore.  Those superstores are soulless and too big to shop in comfortably but in theory, everything is thereHat tip by deepglamour via Flickr.  My logic in darkening their doorway is that they have a fresh fish counter and I can find the rarer items, like popcorn and sea salt, that I can’t get in my local Co-0p.

The reality though, is that the marketers have taken possession of the store and goods are not longer in categories.  I wanted little capers and following the logic that older English people might have cooked  a fish pie in a forgotten world, I picked on elderly shoppers to ask if they had seen any.  The first person was looking for poppy seeds; the next was looking for butter beans.  I sent the second to speak to the first – he found his beans.  Then he helped me find vanilla extract for my porridge (next to the flour not next herbs and spices – that’s where you find vanilla pod).

What is the point of my repeating his minutiae of English living?  Well, it is this – when we work together, we both enjoy the shopping experience and complete it more successfully.  I also learned a lot about older people’s use of computers, family finances and the English diaspora.  Many English people have children and grand-children living abroad.

Do the English like being alienated?

And I learned about attitudes to politics.

As a general rule, English people don’t want to know about politics.  They change channels when politics come on.  They think I am daft for thinking the current negotiations in Westminster are very healthy.

When in doubt though, I think that when we put our minds together we can work anything out. And it is fun, too.  I would prefer to be wrong for trying to get people together than to wallow in learned helplessness.

But then maybe I don’t get. After all I was feeling depressed about the political system on election day and it is the current process that makes me feel the system work.  I could be wrong again.

The psychologically powerful factor called collective efficacy

Psychologically, trusting other people is a spiral-effect.  We trust, we act together, we succeed, we trust more.

Collective efficacy is immensely powerful.  Extending research in schools and the work of management theorists at Case Western, just emphasizing where we are competent and where we believe each other to be competent, will give us an economic boost.

Think 10%.  That’s a lot.  No amount of money thrown at a problem produces that effect.

But to get that effect, we have to take the first step.  We have to acknowledge each others competence.

We know other people are not good at everything. They don’t need to be.

We just have to hat tip what they are good at.

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To have created a window of opportunity is the British genius as producing Obama was the American genius

A very British hang over!

Today, we still have a hang over. We agonized about how to vote and we trudged off to vote with sinking hearts.  Few of us voted for someone we really wanted to represent us.  We voted to hang parliament.  And we achieved our goal.  Somewhat improbably I think.  In a surprising example of the possibilities of crowd sourcing without central control, a highly irritated British electorate set out to hang parliament and achieved its goal.

Regretting that we did it our way?

This would be story enough but I noticed today that the #ukelection #ge2010 stream on Twitter is jumpy and nervous.   The politicians are doing their thing.  They seem to be acting responsibly.  Though the press have tried to exaggerate the odd moment, no one has made a rash intemperate move.   Talks are continuing.  Leaders and party members are consulting.  Discussants on programs like Any Questions are providing good thoughtful background pieces.

Why are those of us who wanted a hung parliament panicking now that we have it?

Making sense of success and failure is hard

I once did some research with a then-student, Phil Mlambo, on student politicians who elbow their way onto committees and don’t do what they promised.  This is a fascinating psychological phenomenon.  When we have gone to such trouble and made promises publicly, we should be motivated to do what we said we would do.  Though in many ways the opposite to pursuing a hung parliament and panicking when we get one, we may have something to learn from what Phil discovered.

Phil did a fantastic piece of fieldwork.  He tracked 50 student politicians who had made a public promise to do something for their group the very next day.  And he interviewed them again the following evening.  They had all started. They had all set off confidently with no doubt that they would do what they promised.   But only 50% succeeded.  The 50% who succeeded remained confident.  The 50% who failed were disconcerted and unsure how to interpret their experience.  Disappointed, frustrated & embarrassed, they felt they were to blame.

Phil took down the full story of their day and as we untangled events,  in every case, there was no sign of laziness.  Nor was there any sign of undue external events.  There was simply daily life mixed with inexperience and unexpected conditions.  The students had assumed the person they had wanted to see would be available. They had assumed goods they wanted to buy would be available in the quantity and sizes that they imagined.  In all cases of failure, students had been thwarted by a mixture of chance and an absence of contingent  thinking.

So here we are.  Surprised  by our success and alarmed by our success.  Are we just inexperienced and startled that we moved into the next stage of negotiation quite so easily?  Are we surprised that Plan A worked and now find ourselves without Plan A2?

Reflected best self

As a relative newcomer to the UK, I must say that I am impressed.  Migrants took a battering in this election and it might surprise Brits to know what migrants think of you.  OK, I tease a little.  Positive organizational scholarship has an interesting technique called “reflected best self” – RBS – not to be confused with the bank, of course.

In reflective best self, we take the good things that people say about us, and ponder on them.

A long standing migrant, who is now a  British citizen, told me that although the English are very inefficient (you do know people say that about you?), though the English are notoriously inefficient, when it matters they come through.

We have a very short election season here of 6 weeks.  I noticed  the quality of debate did pick up markedly but it was still weak.  By the time election day came around, I felt depressed.  I dragged myself to the polling booth bribing myself with the chance to use a pencil tied to a piece of string (yes, that’s true).

But when I woke late on Friday and heard the balance in power had been achieved, my first thought was “We have given ourselves a chance.”  I felt relieved.

Most of all I was amazed that the electorate had done what it said it would do.  That was a difficult feat.  I felt proud for the British.  My estimation of their ability, character and judgment shot up.   My sense of collective efficacy, my sense that people around me can and will do what they say, shot up.

To have created a window of opportunity is the British genius as producing Obama was the American genius

I am relaxed about the political discussions going on right now.  For the first time, I feel that the British political system works.  Yes, we have a period of hard negotiation to get through.  But to have created a window of opportunity is the British genius as producing Obama was the American genius.

I feel good, not in that heady I feeeel  gooood way that presages a fall.  I feel good in that way we feel when we are rolling up our sleeves and getting down to work.

Well done, Britain.  We are proud of you!


Meeting of hopes & dreams: will that happen in this General Election?

Affect images and political campaigns

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

I badly want to hear candidates in the general election describe “we the voters”.  I so badly want to hear.

I want to feel the “throbbing resonance” of shared beliefs, shared purpose and shared hopes.  I want to feel the protection of an arm around me as we whisper our fears.

As a relative newcomer to UK, I want to hear the shared mythology that long time residents share and reassure them we are in this together. I want to see their shoulders relax and their eyes light up.

We are a different place from the US and we are on a different journey.  And maybe in my noobe status, I am not hearing what is being said.

Maybe though we are going to have big surprises when the results are announced.  Maybe too social movements like Hang_em will take off.

What do you think about the connection between the politicians and the voters?  I’d love to know.

QUOTATION FROM: Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

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Lao Tzu to Contemporary Management via Psychology

Suspicious of poetry

As a young psychologist, I bought into the notion that psychology must tell us something that is not common sense.  Many leading psychologists still think this way.  I don’t think it is right.  The profession is setting itself apart from the world, above the world, beyond the world.   It is now other worldly.

We should be more like management scientists.  You know those tough guys who schedule the plans and manage the electricity grid so an airport never has more planes and people than it can cope with and the national grid doesn’t fall over when we all make supper at the same time?

Hard core scientists don’t set themselves up against common sense.  They support common sense.  Maybe they also read poetry.

Bridging the divide between poetry and management

That being said, maybe we need some prose to help people take the first steps.  Writing coach, Joanna Young, tweeted this Lao Tzu quote today.

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.


The core of contemporary management thinking

Sounds soppy, but these words from 1500 years ago are the core of modern management thinking.

Kindness in words creates belonging and the possibility of collective efficacy.

Kindness in thinking leads to creativity and strategic clarity and hence provides the bedrock of common action.

Kindness in giving creates the common ties that allow resilience and flexibility.

Some time on Google Scholar and you will drown in academic references.

Leadership, management, human resource management

Leadership:  who are we journeying with and why are they essential to our journey?

Management: which way are we going and what can each of us do to help?

Human Resource Management: who feels secure with us and will be with us tomorrow?

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Pull people together? No? Is the problem that you don’t believe in you?

Down-to-earth expressions

I heard the expression “pull people together” today for the first time in a long time.  General Colin Powell used it ~ and he is a very down-to-earth man.

Down-to-earth actions

But how many of us have any ability to “pull people together”?  When was the last time that you “pulled a group together”?

  • What happened?
  • What needed to be done?
  • How did you focus their attention?
  • Why did they listen to you?
  • Why did they trust you?
  • How did you know they were listening and would continue to listen?
  • How did you thank them?

Why don’t you take the lead more often?

Is it because you don’t feel the group is together?

And if so, why don’t you pull them together?

Don’t you believe in them?

And if you don’t, why are you still part of this group?

Or is the problem, you don’t believe in you?


When you no longer believe in you, that is called despair.  You want to do something about that.  Really.  Start doing small things.  Little things.  Start listing what you love to do.  Start listing all the things in the day you would like to repeat.  Run some little, little, experiments.

Despair is amenable to repair, but you have to begin, and you have to begin small.

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If you care enough, you can build it, and they will come

I am amazed by what I wrote months and months ago.  You really should keep a blog and write and write.  At the time, your posts may be rough, but they will clarify and when you reread them months late, you will be surprised by your insights.

It seems that some months ago, I jotted down some of my thoughts on using Twitter in classrooms.  In the course of the post, I jotted down three critical features of developing flourishing communities like thriving classrooms.

#1 Conversations

Talk to someone.  Work with someone.  If there is no one else, feel the ground under your feet.  Listen to the birds.  Pay attention!  As we pay attention to the world, we ourselves come alive and the world pays attention to us.

Managers & designers:  Start the conversation. Provide tools and opportunities for people to talk to each other. Watch the range of conversations and help people join in.  Also watch the content of conversations and help people extend their conversations – to more people in and outside the organization.

#2 Community

Be positive. I don’t mean gushy and airy-fairy.  I mean talk to the facts, including your own negative emotions, but don’t exclude other stories.  We should own our negative experience but not think they are the whole story.  Keep a gratitude diary because if you don’t, with the best will in the world, when shit-happens, and it does, you might find you cannot see the good with the bad.

Managers & designers: Set up “positive” procedures – which are procedures that allow us to recognize negative events, which ensure that we never disrespect anyone by ignoring how events impact on them, yet which acknowledge what is good and true and that we want to do more of.  Abandoning the negative art of “gap management” takes thought and disciplined work.  Falling out of love with our own tempers takes practice and like-minded friends.  But unless and until we can achieve positivity : negativity ratios of 5:1 when things are going badly, we will not predictably sustain communities where we will flourish.  The key to flourishing communities begins with us and our loyalty to our members.

#3  Meta-cognition (talking about)

As people settle in, watch out for discussion of the “rules of engagement” and the purpose of our existence.  Everyone will have an idea and they need to be heard. We need to listen to others to allow them to hear themselves and to help them relax sufficiently to hear others.  We need to be patient because this takes time and some people aren’t good at it.  Once advocacy is balanced with curiosity, the group might begin to thrive as a group.  Blogging, of course, as a form of talking-about – of putting our experiences into words and making sense of them.

Managers & designers: Help the group move through the five stages of group formation (forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning) and move as fast or as slow as they do extending the conversations appropriately but listening to the relevant concerns that people have at each stage though, quite rightly, these concerns are very different from yours.  People move on faster when they are allowed to complete each stage to their satisfaction.

Leading takes work. No doubt about that!  It is not as glamorous as it looks.

If you have read this far, you’ll have noticed that I am making little distinction between classrooms, businesses and for that matter, my own life.  I don’t.  I think the three points

  • talk to others
  • keep faith with others (even when it taxes your patience)
  • and put into words what we are thinking and experience

these three simple points are guides to building any community that you care enough to build.


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Positive psychology and an adult response to the financial crisis

The day I crossed the Rubicon to adulthood

It was a hot, in October. The rainy season was approaching but had not yet arrived. A fan was going full tilt in my office. Behind me, my windows were shut. Below my window, our lorries belched diesel fumes as they queued to exit the factory gate and take flour and maize meal for hundreds of miles around.

My phone rang and in the brisk and formal business culture of Zimbabwe, I answered it promptly: “Jo Jordan. Good afternoon.”

My caller came from outside the company. We had been at university together. And she had a lot to say about the local psychological association. I agreed. And said so.

Then I drew myself to a halt. I was the Secretary of the Association and had been for 3 months. If there was anything that needed to be done, it was my job to get it done.

And hence, I crossed an important Rubicon. I was no longer teenager/student/young adult . I was a citizen fully responsible for the way we ran our affairs.

When did you make the transition from adolescent to adulthood?

Some people never make that transition. Forever, everything is someone else’s responsibility.

Today, something in my feed caught my eye and jolted my memory of when I grew up on a stifling hot and dusty day when we were waiting for the rain and for the new agricultural season to begin.   The story was about the general loss of respect for employers in the wake of the banking crisis.

Employment is not a private activity

A feature of employment law is that the manager, representing the owner, knows best. It is an absurd assumption but some people insist upon it. When we do, we take on a mantle of responsibility, not just to the owners, but to people on whom we imposed our judgement. And to deliver, we have to manage events not just inside the company but outside too.

We cannot manage the rains, perhaps. But we are responsible for responding adequately to the weather, whatever it brings.

Our outrage at the bank failures and MP expenses

The reason why the bank failures and the MP scandals have shocked us so is not the professional errors themselves. Few people understand exactly what happened in the banks or the mysterious absence of accountants and auditors in the Houses of Parliament.

But we do understand that both groups claimed status that put their judgement above ours. And they weren’t able to deliver on their promises they made when they arrogated status about ours.

We are hearing arguments from bankers and MPs that the privileges of office must be sufficiently high to warrant the responsibility they carry.  So they do understand what they promised!  But their arguments are back to front, of course. First, they need to show they can carry out even the basic responsibilities of public office before we worry about awarding privileges!

All public office, being a prefect at school, being secretary of the sport club, and for that matter, being a director of a private company carries the same basic responsibilities.

Implicitly, we promise to

  • Speak up when something is blatantly wrong
  • Live up to the procedures of contract and documentation that our culture has worked out over the centuries
  • Understand where the world is going and make adequate provision for the range of events that might occur
  • Show uncompromising loyalty to the people we represent and presume to order about
  • Represent the whole team without whining and making excuses

There is a big difference between nitpicking and exercising our office responsibly

You may feel my argument is completely wrong

It may be that you see no connection between the behaviours I listed and things going right or wrong. If you don’t, I’d be happy to see a rebuttal but experience tells me that you will not advance a logical argument. You may argue that no one will notice any way. You will probably just dismiss me with contempt.

You may dislike nitpicking implied by rules

You may also have an inherent distrust of nitpicking. Exercising judgement and compassion, I would argue, is different. People who exercise judgement and compassion don’t hide behind rules. They judge the situation and manage it so that we achieve the outcome we want and help the person we assisted grow into a leader themselves – responsible, thoughtful, effective, loyal and with good moral & practical judgment.

You may feel you have no responsibility to anyone but yourself

It is also possible you see your job about looking after you and your own rather than every one around you and beyond. You are likely to have made up your mind on this point quite early in roles that you held at school, college and university. Early on, you will have decided how you would execute collective responsibilities.  Is the group there for you, or you for it? Did you speak up when things were plain wrong.  Or did you allow rubbish to accumulate thinking you would be out of the picture before the results became evident.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

You will know your own opinion, of that I am sure, and you might tell me here.

But it is likely that I have divided opinion. One group will dismiss me with contempt and pity.

They other would like to know more about acting responsibly and would like to work in environments where responsibility is more highly valued.

Is it too much to agree with Edmund Burke that we all allowed the system to drift into such disarray?

Where are doing exactly the same thing – keeping our heads-down because we believe so little in the people around us that we don’t believe they will listen or care?  Where are we speaking up contentiously and carping and whining rather than engaging on matters that we are responsible for?

Should we begin by ticking off parts of the system that work well and doing more of them?

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Gloom-and-doom is catchy! Ask 3 questions to find a positive spot in the recession

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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Why do we abandon our hopes? A visceral demo.

Find a quiet place where you have a moment to enter your imagination and notice your own reactions.  Then read this slowly.

What happens when we connect, strength with strength, and hope with hope?

Close your eyes, or if that is not possible where you are, look upwards to the ceiling and concentrate.  What happens when we connect strength with strength and hope with hope?

We know what happens.  We’ve always known.  But in a flash, our minds push aside what brought a fleeting smile. To bring it back, we must reread the question, and holding the happiness bursting from our chests, ask why: why can’t we keep it?

It is not a secret.  We do know why.  We fear our imagination cannot take wing in the maelstrom of the strengths and hopes. Impossible, we say, and we abandon our fleeting happiness with not even a good-bye.

Read the question again. What happens when we connect strength with strength and hope with hope?

Enough you say. No. Not enough. Read the question again, and this time connect strength with strength and hope with hope. Connect with strengths and hopes in the maelstrom.

Watch the confusion simplify. And connect again. And again.

And know that it is possible to do what we know happens when we connect strengths with strength and hope with hope.

In the maelstrom, there are many hopes and strengths yearning for you to invite them in.

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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