The resilient organisation wins
This month Martin Seligman evidences his ground breaking work with the US military and optimism. Find out how his work can be applied to your organisation. This issue also includes: top of your business reading list; the ABCD tool for leaders; and the basic truths of behaviour change.
The resilient organisation wins
This month Martin Seligman evidences his ground breaking work with the US military and optimism. Find out how his work can be applied to your organisation.
Resilience, optimism, psychological fitness…is positive psychology now entering mainstream organisation development? This month Martin Seligman, the doyen of the field, publishes in HBR an account of a major development programme in the US military which applies the learning from his optimism research and the latest thinking on emotional, psychological and social fitness to build an army that is fit in every sense. The scale and ambition of the programme is exciting.
Resilience development has been taken up here in the local government arena with the help of Dr John Nicholson (his book on resilience was reviewed by us last year). We have been working with a diverse set of clients on ‘mindsets’ – recognising them, managing them, shifting them. In a pilot programme last year we used the research on mindset to develop a new multi-agency strategy for supporting young people not in education, employment or training. The project also helped front line workers identify and help with the barriers to achievement and happiness that develop from being surrounded by low expectations, low support, absence of aspirational role models and low economic opportunities.
Does this have anything to say to organisations that are more mainstream? We believe it does: if more of your people can thrive on change, however disruptive, if more people can focus more of their energy on your goals then the results will show in the bottom line.
How can you start to apply some of these lessons to create more positivity in your organisation? One way is to ‘change the talk’:
- Interrupt patterns of ‘story telling’ that are negative and sap energy. You don’t need to come across as a hopeless optimist if you say : “ Why do you say that?..aren’t there examples where things have turned out differently?(NB see Tip of the month to see a way of doing this)
- Get people to talk about problems that have been solved and difficulties overcome in the past – help them remember the innovation, initiative and resourcefulness that they and colleagues have shown
- Create more opportunities for people to socialise, work with each other, discuss business issues and generally connect with and support each other.
In the news
Top of your business reading list
There are libraries of theories, models and prescriptions on leadership – I’ve certainly read a stackful over the last 20 years – but how to make sense of it all?
How often do you read a business book and come away completely satisfied? Like a perfect five course meal with three wines. In this case my metaphorical five course meal was in a restaurant that has been open since 1981 and I’ve never visited, so all the more surprise that it catered perfectly to my tastes which are not, as you may know, entirely mainstream…Enough of the analogy – I have just been through Gary Yukl’s Leadership in Organizations (7th ed), published by Pearson.
Yukl has been researching and writing on leadership for 40 years and this textbook for business schools is on the 7th edition, much updated and revised over the years since it first came out in 1981.
There are libraries of theories, models and prescriptions on leadership – I’ve certainly read a stackful over the last 20 years – but how to make sense of it all? They all sound plausible but what theories and concepts of leadership have any demonstrable, evidenced, link to leadership effectiveness and organisation performance? The answers are all here for those with the patience to seek them.
Don’t skip to the last chapter to find Yukl’s “The 7 (choose-a-random-letter)of leadership” because he eschews the easy answer. But it’s going to help me articulate the 10 Killer Questions of leadership (sorry to disappoint but I am a consultant, not an academic!)
Tip of the month
The ABCD tool for leaders
A tried and tested tool for a fairly new branch of psychology, the ABCD framework helps leaders and teams talk through critical incidents and get to the crux of the issue.
ABCD (resist the urge to hum along with the Jackson Five) is a well established framework and tool that comes out of positive psychology – it can be used to build optimism, positivity and resilience. As a manager coaching people through tough and uncertain times it’s worth remembering the ABCD of how to get people to think more positively – you can apply it in individual conversations and in a team discussion.
- Adversity – we encounter it and react to it
- Belief – our reactions create and are conditioned by a set of beliefs
- Consequences – the beliefs are the cause of what we do or feel or think next. Often actions or thoughts reinforce the Belief set.
- Dispute – if you want to change the Consequences dispute the Beliefs: the perception and interpretation of facts, the inferences and assumptions etc
Use the framework to talk through critical incidents and get to the really helpful discussion:
How could you challenge and change the habitual beliefs that follow adversity?
- What’s the evidence for your belief?
- Are you catastrophising – imagining the worst?
- Is there another way of looking at it?
- Is it useful to think about this now?
Your questions answered
I’ve recently taken on a change management role and behaviour change looks to be a significant part of it – what’s the latest thinking?
Rather than the latest thinking, remind yourself about some basic truths. Psychology research says there are four components to changing behavioural habits in an individual. Make sure your change programme, at the very least, has these building blocks of change covered:
- Awareness – people have to be able to see and understand the difference between how things were and how things should be. They need to be able to be mindful of how they do things and monitor the triggers that push them into old behaviours or jolt them into remembering the new
- Goals – break the change down into short term attainable goals that provide a focus for awareness and effort. Be realistic and aspirational – don’t let the failure to reach stretch goals becomes a habitual excuse to give up
- Practice – people have to get their heads and hands around change and people have different learning styles but there is no substitute for practicing the new behaviour, acting it out, exploring how it feels so that it can be applied with more confidence in real workplace situations
- Support – it’s hard to change in splendid isolation and hard to sustain change so build in support mechanisms – people to provide encouragement and keep you honest, group efforts and incentives to feel like we’re all in this together.
This article is filed under: engagement, executive coaching, leadership, organisation, organisation design, organisational performance, people, strategic change management