Tag Archives: behaviour

The Adaptive Skills and Behaviours Required to Succeed in Future Work Environments

There is a lot being said about the future of work, and what this means for the type of skills, attitudes, and behaviours we will require to succeed.  With this future already upon us, it is important that we pick up our pace  of change, and look to build capability that helps us to adapt, thrive and succeed within an ever changing world.  Best selling author, Jacob Morgan, describes in his latest book ‘The Future of Work’ five trends shaping the future of work;

  1. New behaviours
  2. Technology
  3. Millennials
  4. Mobility
  5. Globalisation

These trends are bringing a dramatic shift in attitudes and ways of working; new behaviours, approaches, and workplace expectations.  Whilst many of us are sensing these rapid changes, we aren’t necessarily sure why these changes are happening, what they mean, or how they will impact us.

As Jacob Morgan says:

“The disruption of every industry is also causing a bit of unrest as people struggle to define where they fit or if they will be obsolete.  It’s forcing us to adapt and change to stay relevant while giving rise to new business models, new products, new companies, new behaviours, and new ways of simply existing in today’s world”.

So, the burning questions are:  what exactly do these changes look like for employees, managers, and organisations?  And, what skills, attitudes, and behaviours do we require to succeed?

What we do know is that modern employees are more self-directed, collaborative in their approach, and want to shape and define their own career paths instead of having them predefined for them.  They are continually seeking out learning opportunities that fit with their personal purpose and professional aspirations, and are looking for development opportunities that benefit them holistically as a ‘whole person’.  They seek the skills, confidence and healthy mind-set to challenge the status quo, to think on their feet, and to continually adapt within highly fluid and ever changing organisational environments.  They are looking to learn and develop emotional and social intelligence;  to work within increasingly networked communities;  to lead, collaborate, innovate and share.

Consistent with the above is five crucial behaviours, identified by Morgan, as being required by employees in the modern workplace;

  1. Self-Direction and Autonomy – to continually learn, and stay on top of important tasks within manager-less organisations
  2. Filter and Focus – to be able to manage the cognitive load associated with increasing amounts of pervasive information
  3. Embracing Change – to continually adapt to new working practices whilst demonstrating resilience and healthy mind-sets
  4. Comprehensive Communication Skills – to support collaborative work practices, and to communicate ideas and provide feedback succinctly
  5. Learning to Learn – to be willing to adopt a pro-learning mind-set; to step outside comfort zones, reflect, and make meaning of experiences.

Organisations also need to adapt to the future of work to support these trends and demands, and ensure they are attracting, developing, and retaining top talent.  A good place to start is by fostering and embracing the principles of organisational learning.  Peter Senge suggested in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art of the Learning Organisation’ that in order for an organisation to remain competitive within the complex and volatile business environments that we find ourselves operating they must build their capacity for continually transforming.  This involves developing cultures that;

  • Encourage and support employees in their pursuit of personal mastery (the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, and seeing reality objectively)
  • Encourage employees to challenge ingrained assumptions and mental models
  • Foster genuine commitment and enrolment through shared visions.

Here at OPRA we are developing a carefully selected set of best-of-breed, soft skill learning and development programmes to help individuals and organisations embrace these current and future trends. Our programmes are designed to equip professionals with the emotional intelligence, healthy thinking, learning agility, collaborative team behaviours, and motivation required to demonstrate exceptional performance within the modern workplace environment.  We have grounded our programmes on the principles of positive psychology, and an understanding that REAL learning and engagement only occurs when self-awareness, participation, and a tangible sense of progress are present. Therefore, and in light of this, all our programmes are designed to;

  • Develop self-insight and raise awareness of individual and collective strengths
  • Utilise proven research based content, delivered by expert and accredited practitioners
  • Provide access to on-going professional coaching opportunities to further deepen learning
  • Incorporate social learning methodologies to encourage and enable collaboration and sharing
  • Provide applied on-the-job challenges and reflection to embed and sustain behavioural changes.

Watch this space for further announcements about OPRA Develop over the coming months. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how OPRA can support your learning and development with proven, researched based soft-skill development programmes, then please contact your local OPRA office:

Wellington: 04 499 2884 or Wellington@opragroup.com

Auckland: 09 358 3233 or Auckland@opragroup.com

Christchurch: 03 379 7377 or Christchurch@opragroup.com

Australia: +61 2 4044 0450 or support@beilbyopragroup.co.au

Singapore: +65 3152 5720 or Singapore@opragroup.com

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Attacking the Myth That Personality Tests Don’t Add Value

For this month’s myth, the last on the topic of psychometrics, I have chosen a slightly different approach. I’m coming out in defence of personality tools; when they are used correctly and understood in the right context. Rather than reinvent the wheel in this regard, I have chosen to highlight what I believe to be a very reasoned article on the topic in Forbes by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

Before posting a direct link to the article, I want to set the context for the value in psychometrics. For me, it is based on 5 key points:

 

  1. Predicting human behaviour is difficult: The psychometric industry often over steps the mark with the levels of prediction it claims to have. Assessments are not crystal balls and the search for the greatest predictive tool which is easily generalizable across multiple contexts is futile. The corollary, however, is not true that due to human complexity assessments have no application and understanding a little more about a person’s behavioural preference, and understanding a framework of personality, has no value. On the contrary, it is valuable for the very reason that human beings are complex and more information on individual differences and frameworks to help us conceptualise behavioural patterns does add value to the people decisions we need to make. Psychometric tools provide a framework for understanding personality and provides a simple, relative measurement model to assist decision-making..

 

  1. Human beings have free-will: It never ceases to amaze me when I meet people who are sycophantic with respect to their devotion to a particular assessment tool. It is as if they choose to ignore the concept of free-will. Behaviour will inevitably change across situations and with different reinforces, and this is so inherent that it needs no further explanation. What psychometric tools can do however is estimate the likelihood of behavioural change and the preference for behaviour. The assessment does not supersede free-will but rather helps us to understand how free-will be displayed a little bit better.

 

  1. Lying, or distortion, is a problem for any assessment method: Lying is something humans often do! A common argument against personality tools is that people may present themselves in an overly positive light. It should be noted that the same criticism can reside in any assessment methodology, from interviews to CVs.  It affects many dimensions of life, from employment to those hoping to meet Mr or Ms Right via an online dating site. Quality personality tools attempt to mitigate this issue with response style indicators such as measures of social desirability, central tendency and infrequency.

 

  1. Behaviour is an indication between the situation and preference: Much like the comment on free-will, the situation should never be ignored when attempting to understand behaviour. Personality tests provide us with part of the puzzle, and in doing so they help us understand how someone is likely to behave. The keyword in that sentence is ‘likely’, and how ‘likely’ depends on the strength of the behavioural preference and the situation.

 

  1. Personality assessments are a simple, coherent and quick method for shedding light on human complexity: The bulk of personality tools are used for recruitment. When recruiting a person, we need to make an expensive decision on limited information and in a short timeframe. This necessitates the need to look at all the feasible ways of making an informed judgement. At its most basic, the instrument is: a collection of items that have been clustered along psychometric principles, resulting in a degree of reliability over time and internal consistency thus giving meaning to a wider trait. A person’s responses are then compared to others who have taken the tests. Assuming the norm is relevant and up-to-date, and with spread, it gives us an indication of the person’s relative behavioural preference against a comparison group of interest. The information is used to make inferences on likely behaviour together with other information collected. That is the sum total of the process. For argument’s sake, the alternative would be to say that human behaviour is all too complex and we should operate without asking any questions at all. That is equally untenable.

 

The problem is not that personality tests have no value, but that practitioners over estimate their value and predictive power. Psychometric test providers may also confuse the issue by over promoting their assessment, marketing their uniqueness; and extolling the magical powers of their special item set. When understood in the right context, personality assessment can add value. When used as part of a complete system, interlinking recruitment to training to performance management, a deeper understanding of how personality impacts company performance can result. I agree that there are some tools that do not meet minimum psychometric standards and as such their usefulness is limited, but for those assessments that attempt to simply ‘do as they say on the tin’ the problem lies not with the assessment but the practice of the users and unrealistic expectations.

 

I strongly encourage you to read this short piece on the seven common, but irrational, reasons for hating personality tests: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomaspremuzic/2014/05/12/seven-common-but-irrational-reasons-for-hating-personality-tests/

You Take The Effectiveness of Your Communication For Granted

Perhaps I should instead phrase that as a question?  Let me try that again:  

Do you take the effectiveness of your communication for granted?

People, by their very nature, are notoriously naïve when it comes to believing they have a good understanding and awareness of their communication style.  Stake my word on it, there will be shared opinions on how you communicate which will differ vastly from how you see yourself.  While you may see yourself as Martin Luther King Jr., others might not.   There are good psychological reasons for this “above-average” effect.  One is your in-built mental defence mechanism. Psychologists call this ‘self-serving bias’ which (amongst other similar biases) is the tendency to attribute any perceived criticisms to external factors (AKA, the “it’s them, not me” effect, or the “oh yeah, but that’s probably because of [insert extenuating circumstances here]” effect—both equally as common).

By far in large this unconscious bias plays a crucial part in your effective functioning and is fantastic at protecting and enhancing self-esteem.  However, when it comes to the fundamental business skill of increasing self-awareness and improving your communication ability, the self-serving bias may act as a road block to success.  It is these self-serving mechanisms which may be hurting your ability to communicate effectively with your team wider organisation.  All is not lost, however, if you know your ABC’s.

The ABC model is a framework for addressing these concerns:  what level of awareness do you have around being able to consciously choose your communication style.  To what degree can you consciously choose and deliver a behaviour that will result in the best possible interpersonal outcome?  Finally, how much awareness do you have around the consequences of your communicative actions?  If you —like nearly everyone—are positive you are great on all of these, probability tells us that you have just fallen victim to one of our many self-serving biases.  Not all great communicators are born naturals—active self-development plays a vital role in strengthening your ABC’s, and thus your communication ability.

If you are looking at an effective communication program, make sure that the following areas are addressed:

  • Increase self-awareness of one’s own preferred communication style, communication strengths and biases;
  • Develop  an understanding of how one’s preferred communication style can impact on others;
  • Develop an ability to consciously choose an appropriate communication style and behaviour in anticipation of desired outcomes;
  • Learn to use communication as a tool to build co-operative alliances and maintain team performance in difficult situations;
  • Enhance conflict resolution skills and learn win-win communication techniques.

Or if you would like further information on effective communication, or how such an initiative could be effectively implemented into your team please get in touch with one of our psychologists/consultants.

Being Present During Feedback

During my career in the HR and L&D space, I could not put a figure on how many times I have given 360 degree feedback to managers, often as part of a leadership development programme. The 360 degree process is certainly not a new one. We know the demand for 360 degree surveys is growing and that this process is increasingly a part of our roles as HR and L&D professionals and leaders in business.

Despite my experience to date though, I am always amazed how much I continually learn about myself in these feedback situations. I know I am an extravert and I operate very intuitively. Whilst these are my strengths in giving feedback, they can also be my downfall. I need to always be mindful of how I am in a 360 degree feedback scenario, and adjust my style for the person receiving the feedback.

The top ten golden rules of feedback are always in our minds. Use specific examples, do not judge, choose the environment etc. However it is useful to remind ourselves of those other rules of behaviour that are obvious, yet sometimes easy to overlook. We must not forget that how you say things and how you phrase your message carries more weight than you think. You cannot escape your personality—but you can temper it.

I recently read some ideas around how to ‘BE’ in a debrief:

  • Be present and maintain self-awareness
  • Avoid value laden language, tone, body language and facial expressions
  • Avoid making interpretations
  • Avoid the use of closed and leading questions
  • Use open and probing questions to facilitate discussion of the results
  • Draw on the individuals context
  • Offer suggestions for improvement when invited to do so and you have them to offer
  • Call any mistakes you make and apologise

(Ref: Dr Ben Palmer, Director, Genos International)

These behaviours sound straightforward right? Yet it is not easy to always be this way when immersed in a feedback relationship with an individual. Our role, the purpose of the 360 degree feedback, the emotional response from the individual can all pull and lean us in directions we should not really go. The first point is the key: Be present. If we stick to that then the rest should fall into place.

Healthy Thinking

According to Wikipedia, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes. CBT achieves these outcomes through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most widely used clinical interventions. It is thought to be effective for the treatment of a variety of conditions related to mood, anxiety, and personality. Given the success and widespread application of CBT it is surprising that it is rarely referred to as the basis or a component of work-place training or intervention. This is even more so surprising given that so many aspects of various training courses have elements of CBT and in particular the key premise that changing maladaptive thinking leads to change in affect and behaviour.

Many practitioners steer clear of using psychological terms to describe their interventions. This is somewhat of a shame as it leads to a situation where watered-down interventions result. The reality is that there are a range of quality techniques that have their genesis in the CBT movement and have huge application to improving workplace relations and work place productivity.

One workplace intervention that is explicit about links to CBT is Healthy Thinking, as developed by Dr. Tom Mulholland. Healthy thinking, or HT as it is commonly known, is at its core a reframing technique. The programme teaches participants how to become more aware of the impact of their thinking on their emotional state and how this leads to behaviour.  The programme also has a range of simple to remember and simple to use cognitive cues that people can use to evaluate their thinking process and whether it is indeed a help or hindrance.

As with all the products and training that OPRA promote we tend to adopt an approach of trialling internally first. Our motto is that unless we are convinced of a solution’s merits it is unlikely to have value to our clients.

While I had many insights that I could share from my experience with HT the one that I found most salient is that for psychology to have an impact it must be useable. HT works not only because it is in part based on aspects of CBT but that Dr. Tom has packaged it in such an easy to remember framework.  Being able to identify what type of unhealthy thinking I often resort to, and have an antidote at the ready has been invaluable for being able to have a positive impact on my thinking. Being able to TWIG (an mnemonic for processing a thought before allowing it to drive emotion and behaviour) ensures that I now have a process by which to evaluate whether a thought is useful or needs to be replaced. The removal of ‘Moan-Zones’  (places to have a whinge!) in our office has resulted in a much more positive working environment.

While the concepts of CBT may be perceived as the domain of psych professionals I strongly encourage all our clients to take a look Healthy Thinking and identify applications to improving workplace performance. Whether it is a training course, the e-learning or just a book on how to be a healthier thinker I’m confident that there are lessons that all our clients will find enhancing. Click here for more information on Healthy Thinking.

What is Ethical Behaviour?

In our work and personal lives most of us make hundreds of decisions every week, many of which involve some degree of deciding the ‘right’ thing to do. As such, we are often faced with complex situations in which we have to determine the most ethical way to proceed.  But what is ethical behaviour? I think most of us would agree that in the majority of situations there is not simply one ‘right’ and one ‘wrong’ way of doing things. In fact, most situations we face are very complex and involve multiple factors we need to consider in order to decide on a course of action that we see as ‘ethical’. So how do we make these complex decisions?

Often it is simpler than you might think. While there are many models of ethical decision-making which outline a step by step process of how to make an ethical decision, the reality is most of us would struggle in many situations to find the time and resources to engage in such a process. So, how do we make these decisions? The reality is that most of us are experts in what we do. We have worked 40+ hours in our jobs for a number of years, and have generally gained some form of expertise. As a result, when we are faced with these types of complex decisions, where there is often limited information and time with which to choose a course of action, we often use a degree of expert intuition, and may not seem to engage in a rational, step by step process as to deciding the best way to behave. So does this mean we are cutting corners? Not necessarily.

There is a time and a place for both a logical, step-by-step process of making ethical decisions, as well as a more intuitive, “what do I think is right”, process. Sometimes making ethical decisions will involve a step-by-step process, by which you consider each possible course of action and their potential consequences, weighing up the best way forward. These occasions tend to be when both time and resources are sufficient, when you need to justify your decision to someone of higher status such as a professional board, or when you are new to an area of work and have not yet developed expertise. On the other hand, when you are an expert, you do not have all of the information available, time is limited, and there are a number of factors to be considered, relying on our intuition is more likely to occur.

Whichever process you engage in, there are a range of factors that may impact on the course of action you choose. Are there things about yourself (e.g. age, gender, educational background) that might impact on what you define as ethical behaviour? Are there situational factors such as the organisation you work for that could play a part? All of us could view the same situation, engage in a rational decision-making process, and still come to a different conclusion about what is the most ethical way to behave. So, the key is knowing yourself, understanding your situation, and taking a moment to consider how these factors might impact on the course of action you take when deciding the ‘right’ thing to do. Why not take that moment now?