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Month: June 2008

Good clear article on positive psychology and coaching

Here [UPDATE:  Broken]

1.  Presenting conditions [still negative unfortunately]

2.  What we do

3.  What we might benefit

 

UPDATE:  Somewhere else I found a good heuristic on writing copy.

  • Why is the reader here?
  • Who is the author?
  • What is the service?
  • What is this a good idea now?
  • Why is the price reasonable?

It’s time for positive psychology to lay out its wares clearly?

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What psychologists can learn from social media

Still rapt

Image by bowbrick via Flickr

Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion

I was trained as a psychologist and I ultimately trained thousands more in the same tradition.

To qualify as a psychologist, in most jurisdictions, we are required to master the art of the “lab report”.  I had done A level Physics, so the format wasn’t unfamiliar to me.  Indeed, the whole rigmarole was based on 19th century physics which psychologists were copying madly.

I don’t think it is bad thing to learn to write a lab report.  I studied Latin too.  Disciplined methodical thinking is important and if you learn how to follow one method, you realize that you can learn to follow any method.  And it is much much easier for students to write up experiments and surveys than handle qualitative studies which are usually too demanding for the 20% 6 month load that most students have allotted to the task.

Holistic Thinking

That said, we have to unlearn a little too.  Psychology leaves us two unfortunate ways of thinking. We are analytical – we break people into parts.  And we are trained to believe that what we are studying is separate from us – a thing.  Most unfortunate when we are talking about people.

A few years after we qualify, we generally stumble over the insight that we have to retrain ourselves to look at a set of data, not as data, as but as a person with hopes and fears, history and future, and most of all a purpose and morality that is not a reflection of our purpose in the interaction.

Even harder to do, is to understand that we are not separate from the person we are “testing”, “counseling”, or “coaching”.  We have our own stories, yes.  But why should ours be sacrosanct or privileged and totally unaffected by the person with whom we are working?  And, can that ever be?  Can it ever be that two people in the same room, or reading a blog post written by another, don’t share some past and importantly some future?

What psychologists can learn from social media

We are affected by our clients.  In the realm of social media, marketers are struggling with the same idea.  I found this excellent quote:

“To succeed in Web 2.0, your site cannot be an optional layer added to people’s lives.  It must be inserted directly into the lives of the consumer.”

If we we are in their lives, how can it be that they are not in ours?

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Managing multiple and inter-dependent goals

For years, I’ve been looking for a way to lay out a set of goals that are inter-dependent and possibly conflicting. Yesterday, I stumbled a text to mindmap online program.

It’s great. You type in a list of topics and sub-topics and it generates a simple mind map for you. You can have a springy free-from map. Or, you can “fix” it and move the topics and sub-topics to where you want them. And you can download the map as a jpg file.

How do I use it for defining my goals?

1. I made the title and central concept “A great 2008”.

2. I added in my various projects, including planning 2009, and grouped them – in the text list. When I was done, I had it generate the mindmap (yeah, no fiddly graphics).

3. Then I fixed my map. I thought I would fix the map to show the progress of the projects bringing projects going well closer to the middle. But I decided rather to reflect their importance or priority.

4. And I can come back to the site whenever I want. It’s free. I am going to do this periodically to review how I am doing.

5. As events unfold, I can take note of what has surged ahead unexpectedly and what is lagging and needs more effort. I can also expand sections if that is what I need at the time.

Unfortunately, we can’t edit the goals except on the text list and we can’t save. So we have to retype each time.

What I really love is that there is no messing around with graphics.

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5 important features of happiness

Happy people live longer

Image by M@rg via Flickr

Critical thinking must be rigorous. Otherwise it is just negative

I set up a comprehensive Google alert for happiness and I saw two reports today saying that thinking about happiness makes us miserable.

I don’t think these reports meant to be ironical.  I think they meant to be critical, in a rigorous way.  But frankly unless you are rigorous, then being critical is just proving the point – being negative for the sake of being negative.

5 points about happiness

I think it is helpful to repeat five points about happiness.

Emotion is highly contagious

Yes, emotion is highly contagious.  It spreads from one person to another like wildfire.  We carry it with us from one situation to another.

Negative emotions are more virulent than positive emotions.  When something goes wrong, as it will from moment to moment, we do have to make a special effort not to project our dismay to the next situation, which, after all, might not have bothered us had the last five minutes been fun!

Some people are highly emotional intelligent

Some people are more ’emotionally intelligent’ than others.  Of course they are.  Why wouldn’t we vary in our capacity to read emotions?  Why wouldn’t we vary in our ability to distinguish between what we were feeling about the problem five minutes ago, from what we are feeling about the situation we are confronted with now?  Why wouldn’t we vary in our confidence and experience of emotional situations?

Emotional literacy is learned

Emotional literacy can be learned.  Of course it can.   We have trained our children from time immemorial to understand and display emotion.  It is called good manners, character, backbone and all sorts of other things as well.

I was taught emotional literacy in school as well as at home.  After all from 5 to 17. we spend a good part of our time in school.  In sixth form, the time previously allowed for denominational instruction was given over exclusively to psychology classes.

Psychology is no longer about sick people only

What is new is that psychologists (a relatively new profession after all) no longer study negative events exclusively.

Positive psychology regards happiness and virtues, such as gratitude and hope, as normal,  and we study them as positive emotional and mental experiences in their own right.

This is the exact opposite of the therapeutic culture which assumes we are finding living a little overwhelming.  It is also the exact opposite of a view that we should be “hard”, “uncouth”, “non PC” or any of these varieties!  As these two views think they are opposites, let’s move on!

The models we use to study these phenomenon allow us to think differently

Psychologists are using new models to explore phenomena such as happiness, zest, justice, etc.  Psychologists are using ratios and recursive models.  For people who still remember their “Methods & Stats” classes, I bet you hardly every used a ratio and I bet you never ever used a recursive model.  That’s if you studied psychology.  It you studied economics or geography this doesn’t apply to you.   I also exclude from this bet people trained at graduate school in the States in the last five years.

We are happy when life is more positive than negative.  Ideally, we want to hit a ratio around 5:1.  At 11:1, or around there, we are delirious or “over the moon”.  At 3:1,  we are beginning to struggle.  We are going to start to find life threatening.  Life gets tough and hard and we develop tunnel vision.  We focus on our problems and loose the capacity for joy, warmth, celebration, etc.

We are happy when our behavior shows requisite diversity – when we smile at what is charming, when we laugh at what is funny, when we grieve for what is lost, when we celebrate what is won.

Good manners isn’t suppressing these emotions.  Good manners is expressing these emotions in a way that includes people around us.  I don’t cry at a funeral to make others sad.  I cry with others to share our grief.

Happiness isn’t silly optimism in the face of difficulties. Nor is it collapsing in a quivering heap.  Happiness is responding to challenge and threat meaningfully.  It is living – joyously when joy is warranted – courageously when courage is called for.

Hope this is of some use to somebody!

PS Happy people live longer – a lot longer.  And they are nice to be around!

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Eric Schmidt talking to Gary Hamel

Listen (no pun intended – 70 minutes).

 

Notes:

Eric Schmidt is the CEO of Google.  Gary Hamel is a Professor of Management at Harvard.  Schmidt’s main message is that leaders of innovative organizations like Google must listen, listen, listen.  A good listen!

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5 point comparison of Hero’s Journey, Appreciative Inquiry, and Positive Psychology

Starting with a simple framework

For the last year, I’ve been systematically reading around appreciative inquiry, positive psychology and the mytho-poetic tradition of leadership and I’m at a point where I can see commonalities in the way management, psychology and literature approach leadership.

Corporate poet, David Whyte, makes a good argument that life cannot be reduced to a 7 point plan. I don’t want this to be the end of my exploration. Positive psychology is a paradigm shift, though. And paradigm shift’s are dizzy-making. People starting out in this area might find this five point schema a useful set of “hand-holds” as they orient themselves to a new way of thinking. I would be interested in your comments.

The Five Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

I’ve organised the schema around the five principles of appreciative inquiry. Other authors have expanded this list. I’ll stick, for now, to the initial five points. To those, I’ve added five stages of the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey, too, can be expanded to much greater levels of detail. And then I have added five quotations from David Whyte’s poetry to illustrate each principle.

The result, I hope, will be to show you the parallels in the different strands of positive thinking and give you a starting point for deeper and more elaborate understanding.

1. The positive principle

The principle of positivity is simply that we want to know what we do well, and then do more of it.

The first stage of the Hero’s Journey begins with The Call – our perception of the world which underlies our personality and our sense of the contribution that we and only we make to our community, and the people around us. This is a personal view. It is not a matter of being extraverted or conscientious or whatever. It is a sense of our unique story, and who we are and how we contribute to any story unfolding around us.

David Whyte speaks eloquently to our sense of who we are, which we often notice in its absence: “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness). We are very attuned to the loss of our story and we are brought alive when we make our story salient for ourselves again.

The first stage of any intervention, whether it is searching for what we do well and will do more of, whether it is finding vocabulary for strengths and virtues, whether it is our sense of our own narrative: the first stage is to bring back that sense of a personally unique story and to feel the flush of well being which observers see immediately as the light being restored to our eyes.

2. The social constructionist principle

The social constructionist principle is this simple. We all have a slightly different perspective of events. We want to hear the diverse versions of reality from as many people as possible in their own words, or voices, to be technical.

In the Hero’s Journey, the first stage of The Call is often followed, or accompanied by, The Refusal of the Call. We are usually clear about what needs to be done, and our part in the story – indeed I have never met anyone who is not – but we also persuade ourselves that we believe is not needed, not possible, and not wanted.

What we are really doing is bargaining with the world. David Whyte might say we are living contingently. We are saying, I will listen to my voice if you do. We don’t trust our own voice.

Group interventions are very often concerned with recognizing multiple voices. Interventions in workplaces are often to do with listening to employees. Interventions in the family are to do with listening to everyone.

Individual interventions are usually to do with trusting ourselves. We express the starting point as other people not trusting us or being unsure of our place in the world. To move beyond this point is something we all need to learn, though we find it much easier when someone somewhere trusts us first.

I like David Whyte’s line: “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited . . .” (What To Remember When Wakening). Having a sense that no matter how bad our uncertainty or predicament, that we are in the right place, and that our very journey brought us to this place, that we belong: this sense helps us have the courage to engage in the conversation and add our voice to others.

3. The anticipatory principle

The anticipatory principle is well known by anyone who uses goal setting effectively. A fuller envisioning, involving a very comprehensive vision of what we will be in the future, is far more motivating. NLP uses this principle to imagine even what other people around us will be thinking and feeling. Certainly, visions compete, and a fuller positive vision will engage our attention and draw us towards it.

In the Hero’s Journey, the corresponding phase is probably meeting the Goddess.  In this stage we are inspired by a story that is larger than ourselves.  We sense an emerging story, or the field around us, and are able to articulate the frontier between ourselves and circumstances in ways that our compelling to us all.  Ben Zander, conductor and teacher, uses this technique brilliantly in “Everyone gets an A”.

 

David Whyte also stresses how much our own vision converges with our sense of the world and how we are what we can envision.   “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you” (Sweet Darkness).

At this stage of any intervention we encourage imagination, the fuller and the more comprehensive the better.

4. The simultaneity principle

The simultaneity principle is illustrated with this catchy phrase: we move in the direction of the questions we ask.  The future is now.

In the Hero’s Journey, the corresponding phase is atonement with the father.  At this stage, we stop waiting for the world to recognize our inspiration.  We “cross the Rubicon” and take full responsibility for driving our plans forward.

“Crossing the Rubicon” is difficult though.  And it begins with attempting to formulate the question.  It begins with small actions in our immediate surroundings.  In times of severe stress, it begins by looking at the horizons, by looking at what is close up, and becoming more aware and more present.

David Whyte captures our emotional paralysis:  “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take” (Start Close In)

So many interventions begin with “the beginning”: doing something small that is un-threatening.

5. The hopeful principle

The hopeful principle is is concerned with language.  It is concerned with narrative and rhythm.  David Cooperrider, who has led much of the work on Appreciative Inquiry, uses the principle often: “the good and the better”.  Martin Luther King’s well known speech “I have a dream” illustrates it too.  As does, the oratory of Presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

In the Hero’s Journey, I see the corresponding stage as the Return.  It is the time when you bring your dream and the transformation of yourself home.  It is a testing time, as anyone knows who has lived abroad and returned home.  It is time of integration and communicating as a leader with people around us.

 

David Whyte reminds us that our journeys are undertaken together: “Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

The final stage of any intervention is working through relationships with people around us.

Taking it to the people

I am going to post this now.  It needs some more links but WordPress is driving me mad with its arbitary editing while I am typing.  So up it goes and I will add some links tomorrow.

I would love your comments!  I see positive psychology as ready now to pass on coherent frameworks that could be applied by people in various walks of life. I have outlined some basic courses for people who are interested in approaching the filed systematically.  I would be grateful if you would have a look and let me know what you think.

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The essence of leadership is follow me

Even if it is only out of curiosity

Now who said that? Colin Powell, I believe, speaking to HR managers in the UK.

Culture, attitudes, behavior

My friend Steve Roesler at AllThingsWorkplace posted today on workplace culture, and how hard it is to change behavior. This is a central topic in social and organizational psychology. Can we change an attitude without changing behavior? Can we change behavior without changing culture? What sustains culture?

Earlier today I read a similar article in TimesOnLine on whether politicians can change British drinking culture by decree.

David Aaronvitch used a neat phrase:

“Fashion, popular culture, whatever you call it, found a way round authority, because it didn’t depend upon authority, or even upon establishment approval.”

This is the same phenomenon that Steve is talking about: informal culture and power. Should we despair as the TimesOnLine suggests? Brits are drunks – live with it and laugh at politicians nannying us again? Can cultures be modified?

How do we change patterns?

My social media friends will phrase this differently: can we organize viral campaigns?

I think we often put the cart before the horse.

Change effects tend to be spiral, or recursive. In other words, the change creates the change. And a forward change can cause a backward effect, necessary for the forward change.

So why the cart before the horse? We want the cart to be moving along with the horse following.

To get change, we have to join in. We have to be there in other words. We have put ourselves out there and be changed in the process. We have to believe that cart is worth pulling. We have to notice when it starts to roll back and judge whether to roll with it or dig our heels in.  We have to believe in it enough to feel the harness rubbing . . .

It is the linkage that is critical.

Being a player

In organizations, it is the willingness to be a player: to really put our money on the table. Willingness to win and to lose with everyone else.

  • Are we willing to sit at the table and make tough choices? And be accountable for the consequences?
  • Do we believe in our people enough to be accountable on the bad days?
  • Can we have the courageous conversations about what is truly rotten?
  • Can we accept the challenge about how we have treated people?
  • Can we do all of this will only one end in mind – keeping the group there for its members?

We don’t want to be talked at.  We want to talk with people who are also vulnerable in that their pride, future, pleasure, is also at stake.  We want to talk seriously with people about why we are doing this, whatever this is, and authentically discuss what is at stake for everyone.

Can we link our our futures to that cart?

Leading from within

This is the competency that HR Managers struggle with.

This is the competency that I hope social media managers will learn early ~ to be a player.

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ROI for Social Media

After the Bucks08 Social Media Camp, I found some figures on the effectiveness of Barack Obama’s on-line campaigns and came up with a rule-of-thumb magnitude figure of 65.

Here are some more numbers on how much Obama and Clinton spent on social media. I am not sure I understand them fully. Someone else might like to comment.

  • $1m to Google? For ads?
  • Nothing for consultants? Mmm . . . does this mean Clinton’s spend on social media consultants . . . mmm . . .

Social Media Mafia is probably more interested in what was done, when, where, by whom, etc.

  • The pundits believe that the Obama campaign has ushered in the internet age just as Kennedy ushered TV when he defeated Nixon.
  • I still believe the effect works in the opposite direction.
  • A new generation came of age with a new technology and a new candidate was in tune with the new generation and new technology.
  • After all, all the candidates have access to the same media. Clinton seems to have spent masses on social media experts (correct me please if I have the wrong end of the stick here).
  • McCain has been spending but not getting the same results either.

If I am right in my thinking, we have a spiral effect.

  • A new era arrives with new issues.
  • Sometimes, new times are marked by new communication technologies (e.g., TV, internet).
  • Sometimes, through the accumulation of demographic facts and figures (births and death rates), a generation is particularly large (baby boomers and Gen Y) and they have the numbers to influence politics and purchasing,
  • Sometimes, a politician arrives who understands the issues of the time, the new technology and the concerns of the young largish population.
  • Sometimes, the politician has done his (her?) homework and positioned himself ready to move into a party’s mainstream. And, sometimes, he has prepared himself by acquiring the management experience to direct a massive campaign

And then with this platform, the spiral can kick in, but it is not automatic.

  • The new technologies tend to be more democratic. Candidates are more visible and more accountable.
  • More democracy means more feedback and information to the candidates, who can interpret it and adjust as they see fit.
  • The stance they take is visible to their constituents
  • And thus the ‘dance of leadership’ begins

The spiral can go up, or down, depending on how our response (and non-response) is received.

And remembering that other candidates are doing the same thing and that the future is not known, the side that wins is the side that keeps it up, has reserves for the bad times and survives ‘events, dear boy, events’. In a competition, we have no guarantee of winning. Competition, yeah?

And what is our role as social media consultants?

  • Many of us concentrate on creating the platform: I’ll put that aside for the moment.
  • When I was training psychologists, I would tell them if you are a police psychologist, first be a police officer – live and breath policing. If you are in wet food industries, get to know the industry backwards, etc. We need to begin with experts on the industry we are serving and experts on the social side of that industry – who is in it, who communicates to whom, about what, using what, where are the coalitions, how do they form, what are the issues, what is the current groundswell? Let’s layout the social ecology as well as we can at the outset.
  • Then use SEO techniques to add to this analysis.
  • Have a forum where this information is fed into the leaders and digested so they have taken into account all that is known and knowable about the social side of their industry.
  • Be involved in formulating responses and align the social media responses to responses in other channels.
  • Raise the issue of timing and ensure that the forum is meeting sufficiently often to hear the quicker response that comes from social media and to formulate the reply – remember this is a dance – if our partner has to ‘wait’ for our response . . .
  • Coach on how our response has been perceived – was it liked and why? We must have the capacity to answer why and what would our constituents prefer?

We must be able to discuss the consequences of the preferred response on parts of the social fabric who don’t use social media, and, the consequences of not delivering what is preferred on the people who do use social media predominantly.

Metrics must tell us more about our people and the direction they think we must go. “There go my people. Quick, I must find out where they are going so that I can lead them!”

I’ll be at MediaCampLondon on July 5 2008.

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May 2008 wrap-up: mess or dazzling facets of a diamond?

What a month!

I am a psychologist with a strong background in HR consulting (the stuff you don’t see – pay, job, organizational design, etc.). I am a Zimbabwean. I was living in the Asia Pacific, and now I live in the UK. I teach in universities and have a lot to do with Gen Y. And I am seriously into social media – you know, blogs like this, Facebook, etc.

All of this came up in my blog this month. To a newbie, it must seem as if I am jumping from one topic to another.

The big event in Harare this May was waiting for the Presidential results to be announced. While Zimbabweans were waiting-and-waiting, and while the most horrible violence escalated, artists went ahead and held their annual Harare International Festival of Arts, with a catchy title, the Art of Determination. Pithy puns, in the midst of despair, and art that is timeless.

At the other extreme, quite by chance, this May I stumbled on the phrase and cartoon character, Mr Kiasu. Through Mr Kiasu, I met Singaporean social media evangelist, Daryl Tay, who alerted us to a great presentation on social media for beginners. Kiasu is also an symbol of determination – but of the dog in the manger sort – I don’t want it, but you can’t have it. A safer place to be, perhaps, than in Harare right now, but actually, less healthy psychologically than the Art of Determination.

And that is the diamond in the center of this all – that strong sense of survival and expression that underlies everything we do.

  • It is the subject matter of positive psychology.
  • It the key process we are managing in the HR office (despite the paperwork) where we have one goal – to produce a prosperous, happy firm.
  • It is the key process that social media leverages or liberates.
  • And it is why social media is a fascinating challenge for managers, marketers, HR, psychologists and anyone else who think ‘people & enterprise’.

My other posts pivoted around this theme of making positive spaces

– where we have freedom to pursue our interests & our identity

– and where giving freedom to others expands the freedom we have ourselves.

  • The pattern of an unconference and the success of Bucks08: here
  • How to understand the value of the community created by social media: here, here, and here
  • And a ‘twist in the tale’ of Clay Shirky‘s keynote address about the centrality of participation in the expectations of Gen Y and Digital Natives who come after them.

And as for diamonds

De Beers has announced that it is moving its diamond sorting house from London to Gaborone in Botswana (you saw No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, didn’t you?).

Makorokoto, Amahlope! I salute you. The significance of an industry always associated with London moving to Africa is huge indeed. We are proud!

Thanks

I have many people to thank as well for a great month.

To newcomers to my blog, Daryl Tay social media evangelist in Singapore, Jackie Cameron Gen Y coach in Scotland, Dan Thornton community marketing manager in Cambridgeshire, Paul Imre social media guru in High Wycombe, Peter Koning social media guru on Facebook: welcome and thank you for making this a productive month for me.

Scott McArthur of HR 2.0, hope we will finally meet! MediaCampLondon on July 5 is a date?

Steve Roesler, OD consultant Stateside and conservation master extraordinaire, thank you for linking to my article “Who moved my mouse?“. You sent me a lot of traffic!

And a very big thank you to Chris Hambly of Audana and the Social Media Mafia for a most productive and enjoyable meet up at Bucks08 and for all the on-line interaction afterwards.

If you are interested in modern management and haven’t checked out Steve Jurvetson’s Flicker blog, I recommend it highly. And, if you like rockets, check him out on TED too!

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