3 questions for a winning week

“It’s time to get up. The time is 6:30.”  Who in the world does not get up to those words or some close equivalent?  And who does not turn over and wait for the reminder ten minutes later, “It’s time to get up.  The time is 6:40”.

Psychologists spend a lot of time wondering situations like these where we just cannot gather the will power to do something – or when we appear to procrastinate. Sports people have simpler explanations.

  • Are we trying to take charge of a game?
  • Do we have some energy and pace?
  • Are we paying attention to what needs to be done right now?

Or alternatively:

  • Have I thought through what it means to have a winning day (rather than just a day)?
  • What do I need to do right now (rather than what others need me to do)?
  • Am I enjoying focusing all my attention on the task of the moment?

Knowing these questions probably won’t make me better friends with my phone when I am woken before I am ready to wake up but it sure makes planning my week a lot more fun.

  • What is winning to me?
  • What needs my attention right now?
  • Am I enjoying this?

I hope these questions help you turn some tiresome weeks into weeks that are easier and more enjoyable.

CHECKOUT SIMILAR POSTS

We will not put our lives on hold because you want us too

hacia la diversion, con es fuerzo by fabbio via FlickrLiving with collapse

A long time ago, a British Professor visiting Zimbabwe goggled at our 15% inflation rate and said, “How do you cope?’

Twenty years later, 15% seemed like heaven. And coping had turned into a lifestyle. Oddly though, you can still attend an HRM conference in Harare infinitely more sophisticated than you will in London.  Lunch might be peculiar but ideas continue.

The power might go off repeatedly but a Zimbabwean firm has rolled out a 3G network.  Living in the UK, I have copper cables that were replaced twenty years ago in Harare and my mobile reception is so dodgy that I can’t use it for internet.

Running away from collapse

I left Zimbabwe and came ultimately to UK because I didn’t want to cope with those circumstances.  I had lived through Smith’s UDI and figured that “I had already done” war and sanctions.  It was time for alternative experiences.

A psychological model of collective responses to despair

Around six months before I left Zimbabwe, just after the Presidential elections, I tried to make a psychological model of what would happen.  I figured that everyone would make up their minds what they were going to do.  Then they would test their plan.  And after 6 months they would re-evaluate.

Of course, we had a definitive unambiguous event that marked a cross-roads.  Mostly we don’t have such a call for decisiveness and we procrastinate.

Then we were surrounded by people making tough decisions but amiably accepting that we differed in our needs and values and might go our separate ways.

And we knew we were jumping out into the unknown.  We might find our new lives hostile but few of us left a path to return preferring rather to “shake the dust from their feet and not look back”.

The Zimbabwean diaspora and the Zimbabwean survival

So 3-4 million people left Zimbabwe.  I got on a plane.  Others walked and with no exaggeration, dodged border guards, swam across a river infested with crocodiles, cut their way through fences and threw themselves on the streets of cities larger than anything they had ever seen before.

But 10-11 million people stayed.  They were the old, the young, the sick and the infirm.  They were those who stayed to look after the old, the  young, the sick and the infirm. They were also those who had fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe and were continuing in their quest.  They were those who lived “outside” last time around and “had done that” and now took the alternative route. And there were the energetic and entrepreneurial who make a go of anything.

Zimbabwe has suffered. There is no doubt.  It is uncomfortable being there.  But it has survived.  And it is this survival that I want to write about.

People don’t curl up and die because the economists and politicians and pundits say they should. They pursue their ends as they see them. They experiment and revise.  They keep going.

So Zimbabwe didn’t die.  The currency shattered all records for inflation and it remained the currency of choice long after economists said it would disappear.  It has gone now but probably more because  of pressure on the German government by activists made printing it more difficult.

Simply, action matters; not theory and not prediction.  People will not stop living just because we think we wouldn’t be bothered in their shoes.

African universities don’t die either

I’ll make this point  again using another story.

A decade ago, I was part of a team reviewing the staffing situation in African universities for World Bank.  Briefly, the a priori thesis was that Africa suffered a brain drain.  Coopted belatedly on to the team, when I was briefed, I burst out  laughing.  “You can’t get rid of us,” I guffawed.

So how do universities run when they have bullet holes in the walls (one in our sample did) and  havelittle money to pay academics?

Yes, universities suffer from “not on seat”, a Nigerian expression that someone came in, left his jacket and went out to do his own business.  But despite one university paying its staff the equivalent of one chicken a month, staff kept pitching up, kept teaching, kept examining.  They keep doing what they do. I know it sounds improbable, but it is your theory that is wrong; not the world!

But maybe Western economies began to die

Today I came across another story in Global Guerillas that illustrates the point again.

Pick up any HRM textbook in UK, Australia or NZ, and it is all about smashing the unions.  Thatcherism was a dramatic struggle against labour power.  And Thatcherism won.  It liberated the economy from the tyranny of unions!

That  maybe so but smashing the “working classes”, or the middle classes as they are called in the USA, also concentrated economic surplus in the hands of corporates.  And we see the results now.  Oh, you might have drifted off when I put it like this.  Read on.

People don’t sit on their hands just because you told them they were worth nothing.  They carry on living their lives.  Instead of achieving their life goals by making more money by being more productive, they continued achieving their life goals and put their energies into other schemes – like second houses or just flipping their first. The goals stay.  The energy to progress is diverted.

We will not put our lives on hold because you want us to.  It simply doesn’t work like that.

A good system provides opportunities for us to achieve our own goals within a collective mutually beneficial framework.  We need a system where each of us can see a promotion on the horizon and has access to learning experiences and training that allows us to seek promotion.  As soon as the system says “nothing for you here”, we will divert our attention elsewhere but we won’t do nothing. Don’t say this is not possible; this is called HRM.  And don’t laugh.  Who hired the HR Manager you have?

Where will individuals put their energy in the UK now?

In a country as big and diverse as the UK, it can be hard to see what might happen next.  The choices are not obvious.

Certainly, at an individual level, the prize will go to those who envisage positive goals in depressing circumstances and who continue seeing opportunity while those around them become panicky and depressed.  But we will each do what makes sense to us at the moment that we do it.

At a collective level, it seems to me that we really must strengthen what Britain called the working classes.  And the best way to do that is for people who have power to limit themselves.

Instead of running around asking for 25%-30% indicative cuts, Ministers should be talking to everyone with power or unusually high incomes (and I include the unions and the local drug barons).  Ask them rather, what can you do to make the middle level guys better off. What can you do to free them up from worrying about housing and heating, food and chidren’s clothing?  What can you do to help them feel secure about their future (to aged 90) and their children’s future and prospects?

Those with power and resources must settle down those who will otherwise divert their energy where they must – looking after me and my own.  And the politicians must lead.

Instead of indicative cuts, come back to us with indicative solutions. Look us in the eye when you announce them.  If our eyes light up, you are on to something.  If we howl with laughter, deliver a sharp smack to your powerful mates.

What do psychologists and HR managers contibute to a flourishing organization?

A psychologist by any other name

I belong to an odd profession. I am a psychologist, I specialize in work & organizations and in some jurisdictions I am called an occupational psychologist or an industrial psychologist or an industrial/organizational psychologist.  Sometimes I am called a business psychologist.

I usually work for myself but we do our work at our clients.  So my office is my car, my laptop and my smartphone.  When we get to our clients we are likely to “check in” at the general managers’ suite.  As we are concerned with people, much of our work interweaves with HR management.

So what do psychologists do?

I like to phrase that differently.  What do we contribute to an organization which is flourishing?

We have three tasks

  • To reduce the cost of management
  • To raise productivity and initiative
  • To pass on the benefits to the workforce

Whether we deal with a big business or a neighborhood store, whether we work with government or an investment bank, our job is to reduce management cost, raise productivity and initiative and pass on the benefits to the workforce.

It’s also our job to tell the story.  It is our job to say out loud what is happening, to hold up a mirror so that people can see themselves reducing the waste of management, enjoying their work more, and making more money.

That’s what we do.

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?

Despair

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.

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?

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

5 speed gears for the recession

A sheepdog taking a break in some wool, Victor...
Image via Wikipedia

As energetic as a sheepdog!

On another one of my many international flights, a hyperactive attendant was running up-and-down barking orders like a sheepdog as one of my fellow passengers put it. Hyper-energetic people can be tiresome!

Initiative

For a few days now, I’ve been writing about initiative because I’ve become irritated with people sitting around complaining about the recession and ‘all the bad people’ who brought it about.  These complaints claim no responsiblity and worse, promise no contribution to getting us out of this mess.  Before I became too irritated and bossy like a diligent sheepdog, I decided to use a week to review the essence of initiaiive.  Why is it that sometimes we get on with things, and other times we do not?

3 types of initiative

Michael Frese of Giessen University divides initiative into self-starting (jumping in and making tasks our own), proactivity (mentally preparing ourselves and learning about the world) and persistence (dealing with distractions on their own terms and coming back to our own goals).  Self-starters may seem the opposite of planners and persistent people may lack flexibility.

In truth, we need to understand how the world works so we can make an adequate set of plans.  If we do that, we can distinguish between distractions that call for our attention right now, and our own goals that we will get back to soon.  Then we find that our work rate goes up, and we feel goal oriented and on top of our to do list (and the world).

When is it time to chill?

But do we want to be hyperactive all the time – like the flight attendant who behaved like an a collie dog herding sheep?

  • Sometimes we are on a learning curve.  When we’ve had bad news – and what else is the recession than bad news? – then we also have to go through an emotional curve of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  That is our goal and our task immediately – to be patient with ourselves and to work through the curve.
  • Sometimes it is time for a rest.  We want to be like the collie in the picture who is taking a rest in the wool!  There is time for everything and recreation is important.
  • Sometimes it is time to wait.  On these long-distance flights, the worst thing we can do is look at the screen telling we how far we still have to go.  12 hours, 11 hours – it will drive you mad.  Sometimes our task is to wait.

Can we afford to wait?

That doesn’t mean we are doing nothing though!

  • The pilot is driving the plane.  Everything is in hand.
  • We are allowing a well understood process to unfold.  Should we be required to help out, in an evacuation for example, having listened to the safety instructions, we’ll act promptly and decisively.
  • We understand that people around us may be restless, disorganized, agitated or confused.  We make a comfortable social bubble where they can settle down and relax for the ‘long haul’.
  • We relax ourselves knowing that we will need energy for sorting out hassles at the other end.
  • And we enjoy the flight – the movies, our book, a bit of day dreaming, the life stories of our neighbours.

Sometimes initiative means chilling because initiative means letting a process unfold the way it should!

The right speed and the recession

Having lived through an economic melt-down before, I’ve learned we can predict ahead how people react.  These are my estimates.

  • A lot of people will ‘hold their breath’ for another year hoping that the recession will just go away.  They are ‘happy’ to be in the denial or anger stages.
  • Many people will ‘bargain‘ and try to cope individually.  They will trim expenditure and try to be extra-sweet at work to avoid redundancy.
  • Some will lapse into nostalgia and talk endlessly about better days.
  • A handful will find opportunities and be working on them regardless.

What will the first four groups do in a years’ time when the world has moved on?  I think the fifth group needs to think ahead to how to incorporate people who will not have made much preparation for 2010.

Come with me!

What is your feeling about the speed at which we will adjust to the crisis?

Enhanced by Zemanta

First step to setting my goals for the recession

manchester airport
Image by rogerbarker2 via Flickr

The recession is like a plane journey

When I lived in New Zealand, I flew a lot.  Thirty-six hour journeys in the main.  After a while, it was possible to get it down to a fine art.  Everything was just where I needed it.  I knew the oddities of the airports en route, and the vagaries of a chain of flights through countries with their own distinctive cultures.

I walked into an aircraft, put my hand-luggage overhead, and sat down with exactly what I needed – book, hard case to protect my glasses, pen and passport if I anticipated filling in forms before we touched down.

And then someone sat down next to me and started bobbing up-and-down. First, they had forgotten this. Then they had forgotten that!  My heart would sink!

What can psychologists tell us about being cool, calm and collected?

Why is that some people cannot get their act together?  Why are others cool, calm, collected, and seemingly in control of every thing going on around them?

Action theory

Yesterday I listed three types of initiative described by Michael Frese of Giessen University.

Self-starters are quick to action and equally quick to figure out what works and what doesn’t. In an aircraft, they get their junk into an overhead locker quickly, clear the aisle, help other people, hold up no one, yet are comfortable and ready to go.

Proactive people think ahead.  They have what they need in the outer pockets of their hand luggage.  They are dressed for a wide range of cabin temperatures and take off a jacket or put on one without a fuss.  They know that alcohol will worsen the cabin-induced dehydration and they claim all the water they can see.

Persistent people are amazingly flexible.  They know that they are not in control and ‘read’ what is happening around them, less to join in, and more to help everyone else get settled.  They know they can get back to enjoying a quiet and peaceful flight when every one else is settled.

Can we be self-starting, proactive and persistent all at once?

Of course, we would like to be!  We all like to be in control, calm and dignified!  But can we be prompt to act, yet planful?  Can we be flexible, yet persistent?

The three styles of initiative are brought together with three key psychological concepts: goals, plans and feedback.

Goals are amazing.  When we decide what we really want to do, we become self-starters.   We jump into tasks and nothing can stop us.  Oddly everything becomes very easy too – or as we say, ‘the universe conspires to help us’!

Plans allow us to anticipate the various ways something can pan out.  So we learn to allow for other people’s needs and we budget a little time and energy to help them out.

Feedback tells us if we are on track.  If we have a realistic mental model of what will unfold, we can say to ourselves – my long term goal is to have a restful flight and my short term goal is to help my neighours get settled.  Then we can follow both plans simultaneously.

German and American psychology

The big difference between German and American psychology is the recognition of these three concepts.  American psychologists talk a lot about goals and to a lesser degree about feedback.  Germans place a lot more emphasis on plans.

We are able to make plans when we understand how the world works.  Hence, education is important.   So too is experience.  So is a good attitude to errors.  An error simply alerts us to the possibility that something needs to be understood.

For example, on several occasions as I stood exhausted and bleary-eyed in Australian passport queues, something went wrong with their computers and it took over an hour and a manager to sort it out.  The third time it happened, I stepped round the counter and watched how they resolved the problem.  To cut a long story short, it seemed that the clerk had entered the country code for my passport incorrectly.  I could see that this would happen again.  Thereafter, my passport proudly carried yellow stickies with the message “The code for xxxxx is yy!”  Understanding the objective world and the priorities of others is so important to maintaining our own bearings.

When I understand the “noise and whip of the whirlwind”, I find it so much easier to deal with the “noise and whip”, or to use another metaphor, to give unto Ceasar.  Dealing with distractions, interruptions and errors may take a little time, but I don’t muddle them up with a commentary on what I am doing.  I deal with the distractions on their own terms, and register as feedback solely whether or not I am free to pursue my own goals!

When I am aware of what is going on around me and I have dealt with the odd things that come up, then at last I can act more like a self-starter – pursuing goals, doing what needs to be done immediately, being more mindful, and finding flow.

All three – goals, plans and feedback – work together.  Sometimes I am on a learning curve.  And I need to get through up that curve to arrive at a point where I am self-starting, proactive and persistent – or to anyone else – cool, calm and collected!

So what should I do about my disorganized neighbours?

Well, neigbours on long-distance flights, as in life, can be interesting or dull.  They can genuinely require help, or just be the most feckless, disorganized wretches that it is possible to imagine.

It doesn’t matter which they are. They are. They simply ‘are’.  We take them as we find them.  I’ve found myself reading for hours to an 8 year old travelling alone and on another flight, moving seats to allow an engineer travelling from Melbourne to Rwanda to use my seat to sleep.  I’ve shared a beer with a fireman from 9/11 and translated for seamen determined to drink the bar dry as they flew from Cape Town to Beijing.

They each had their goals, their plans based on their understanding of their world, and their judgement of the situation.  They’ll settle soonest if they can explore the situation they find themselves in, learn what works, and balance up alternative plans.  The sooner they can do that without distraction from me, the sooner they will settle.

And talking about the recession?

Like most people, I am exasperated by the mess made by the banks.  I am not even sure why we continue to pay people who are manifestly not competent in the business they have chosen.

I am also looking forward to the point where more people around me are ‘up to speed’ on what is happening in the world of international finance.  I’ll even be happy when more people around me are actively trying to find out what is happening.

I would like to see people setting positive goals.   Too many goals seem to be persistent in the wrong way  – hanging on to what we thought would happen – and no longer relevant to what is happening.  As we learn about this new world, we must find goals that are attractive in spite or even because of the mess. We will still have to deal with the mess, but it won’t bother us half as much if we have our own goals on the horizon.

And then we will find ourselves more active – less inclined to groan when the alarm clock goes off.

The truth is achieving goals is simple – the universe really seems to help us.  Deciding on our goals is the hard part.


Come with me!

So I’ve begun.  Today, I flicked open my SEO notebook at the back and started jotting down key figures on the British economy as I found them in various articles.

How are you learning more about the financial system and the economy?

Enhanced by Zemanta

3 channels of initiative for the recession

A financial earthquake

For five years, I lived in New Zealand – earthquake country.  Every household was asked to keep sufficient food and basic supplies for a week.  I religiously rotated tinned food and bottled water (yep that too!).   And next to the food and water store was a medical aid kit, matches and candles.

The so-called ‘recession’ is not unlike living in earthquake country.  We don’t quite know what will happen.  But we know the worst could happen at any time.   And it makes sense to be prepared.

Some people are so spooked, though, they are doing the equivalent of retreating indoors and not coming out!  My colleague in the next office at work had taken some elementary surgery lessons.  When I lectured on intiative, I used to quip that a sensible person should buy a house next door to him!

So what is initiative?

What is an adequate response to the unpredictable and unknown?  What is a sufficient response to prepare us for whatever might happen?

Michael Frese of Giessen University breaks initiative into three parts.

Self-starting

Self-starters get going quickly.  When they are given a task, they dive in, explore, and make it their own.  Gen Y are self-starters, and they confuse Gen X and Baby Boomers who don’t expect young people to step up and own their work.

Self-starters also like feedback.  They continuously monitor what is working and adjust quickly.  Gen Y, too, are notorious, of course, for asking for feedback!  They are results-oriented.

Self-starters aren’t likely to be phased by a recession.  They’ve tightened up their finances already, and they are keeping an eagle-eye on their cash flow and credit lines.

They’ve already started exploring what their customers want in cash-distressed times.  And they are experimenting with new lines.

Above all, self-starters are asking their customers for feedback about their tweaked services.  Self-starters are quick to action and they are continuously monitoring whether their activities are taking them towards their goal.

Proactivity

Proactive people are not just quick to action, they think ahead.  They are the planners of the world.  Because they are so good at thinking ahead and planning for various alternatives, sometimes they seem lazy.  They are those quiet people who don’t have to run around.  They’ve played through so many scenarios in their heads, they are ready for whatever comes up!

The proactives among us have already talked to everyone who remembers past recessions and they are able to run foward-cashflows for several scenarios.   They are on the look out for opportunities and they are busy working out how to arrive at the end of the recession in style & ready for the upturn.  They may even be organizing people and resources to exploit new opportunities!

Persistence

Persistent people are not stubborn.  They are quite flexible!  When distractions come up, they give them full attention, and then return to their work.  German psychologists have shown, for example, that expert computer programmers don’t make fewer errors than novices.  They just solve errors faster.  Getting back to our goals is important.

Persistent people know how to ‘conduct their blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind‘.  They know their strengths and their purpose in life.  For them the recession is not a distraction.  It is another context in which to make their special contribution to the world.

What’s your pattern?

I was always a bit of a self-starter – I always started an exercise before the teacher finished explaining!  I certainly feel alive when I am out-and-about the town talking to traders and the people I am inviting to my community site, Olney100.

With age, I’ve become less proactive.  I’ve come to believe the world is less predictable than I thought in my younger years.  And I would like to have better economic and financial knowledge!  Until I do, I’m working on two principles. We will find salvation by looking after each other and developing new industries which have the potential to sustain our standard of living.

Though I am a completer-finisher, with all the turmoil I’ve seen in the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that positive psychology is key.  It’s important to focus on what really matters in life.  If something makes me unhappy, I consider getting rid of it!  If a mortgage is keeps me awake at night, maybe I should lose it or radically restructure.  I am a work psychologist and I live in a town of 8000 souls.  A company of 8000 employees is small for me – so this is not the best place to live!  Nonetheless, I like it, and the best thing I ever did was to write down on a piece of paper 6 months ago this question: how can I bring my work to Olney?

Positive theorists estimate we can radically change our lives in one to two years by focusing on those things that are deeply important to us and simultaneously important to the well-being of others.

If you are being pulled in several directions at once, maybe you need the courage to write your direction down on a piece of paper and trust to your persistent instincts to work out an answer?

Come with me!

I don’t want to be over prepared for the recession.  Nor do I want to be frozen in fear.  If I were to sum up the work on initiative in three words, they would be : mindfulness, solidarity and self-compassion!

  • Have you done what needs to be done and have you made your work-routines your own?
  • Are you working with other people and sharing know-how about how to do business in a recession?
  • Are you being kind to yourself (and others)?  Do you recognize what you want out of life and what you uniquely contribute?  Are you allowing your special contribution to this world to work its way to the top-of-the-pile?

[MSC : Mice Seek Cheese]

Initiative – are you interested in taking charge of our destiny?

What are we waiting for?

As the financial crisis gathers like a tempest around us, I am struck by what people are doing, and not doing.

When we receive bad news, we go through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And we go through the stages at different speeds.  We do need to be patient.  I need to be patient.

What distinguishes

  • people who might get moving if someone bellowed “all hands on deck” in their ear
  • those people who are already on deck and who got there immediately it was obvious we were in trouble
  • and the people still sitting below in the mess room clutching a cup-of-tea?

This seems to be the question of our time.

Are you waiting for someone to tell you what to do?  Or have you got to work already?

My task this week: initiative

I don’t want to feel impatient, or worse express impatience, with people I work with.

So I’ve set my task this week to review the work of German psychologist, Mike Frese, who writes on initiative.

What readies us to take action and to remain effective even when the world is swirling and crashing around us?

Come with me!

I am going to read over Mike’s work and explain it during the week.   I’d be interested to know of instances of action and inaction that puzzle you.  And whether Mike’s work, or my my explanation of Mike’s work, helps you solve the puzzle!