Why do bright, motivated people get stuck in their careers? I’ve spent the last 10 years or so thinking about the issue and working with people who are stuck in this way. I write about this in my other blog, Headstuck. I find ACT is useful for people who are stuck because it helps them not only get unstuck but to move forward with purpose in a direction they choose. ACT liberates people.
I put together a presentation on this and it struck me that it might be of interest to readers of this blog. Hope you enjoy!
Whenever we work in a team there is a tension between getting the outcomes we want and contributing to the outcomes that others need.
If I spend time giving John the information he needs to get his board paper written, then I might have to delay my meeting with my direct report, Sarah, and as a result she doesn’t meet her deadline. I will need to trust that, at some point in the future, John will return the favour.
David Sloan Wilson has been doing some cool research on this in his home town of Binghamton. He has found that the culture of the suburb where teenagers live determines to a large extent how prosocial they are (i.e. how readily they will take voluntary actions to benefit others, such as sharing, comforting, helping, rescuing). If teenagers move from a harsh suburb to a more nurturing environment, they often become more prosocial.
It looks like certain environments encourage people to be cooperative, trusting and kind and other environments don’t.
So what does this mean for you and your team? If your team aren’t very cooperative; it may not be because they are selfish or difficult; it may be because the environment isn’t set up to encourage prosocial behaviours. How do we create those environments?
In his work with groups at Binghamton, Sloan Wilson uses Elinor Ostrom‘s design principles, which are:
Strong group identity and purpose
Clearly defined boundaries
Getting rewarded for contribution. Members of the group agree a system that rewards people for their contribution to group outcomes
Group members create their own ground rules and make group decisions by consensus
Monitoring – a process to check for free-riding or active exploitation by individual group members
Graduated consequences for inconsiderate or selfish behaviour
Mechanisms for fast and fair conflict resolution which are cheap and easy to access
Local Autonomy – The group (and subgroups within the larger team) have some authority to manage their own affairs
Where the group is part of a larger system, they are organized as multilayered nested enterprises. Each group has its own governance that fits within the larger group. Local efforts are linked together.
Ostrom found that groups that have these principles in place are more likely to work together to look after group resources rather than compete for and ultimately deplete them.
Sloan Wilson has been applying these principles to create changes in schools and neighbourhoods with surprisingly good effect.
My experience is suggesting they are helpful for workplace teams too.
SadlyElinorOstrompassedawayon June 12th. Myhopeisthathercontributionwillliveon, helpingustoimprovethewayweinteract witheachother andtheworld.
This post is based on some writing by Dr Hank Robb. Hank is a deeply wise psychologist based in Oregon. You can see a video of him here.
Sometimes, when we act to make something important in our lives, we experience painful emotions. And, we can choose to feel them willingly.
There are, really, two important aspects to that willingness. There is “willingness with your feet” and also “willingness with your heart.” If you think about “flight phobics” you see both kinds. Some won’t get on the airplane – they lack “willingness with their feet.” However, many who do get on the plane are then “white knuckleflyers” – they lack “willingness with their heart.” Both kinds of willingness are choices.
To give you a sense of “willingness with your heart”. Cup your hands. Imagine holding a feather in your cupped hands, it will be gentle. And, you can hold it gently. Now imagine putting the fruit of a prickly pear cactus in your cupped hands. It will not be gentle. And, you can still hold it gently. Willingness with your heart is holding gently whatever is there to be held.
Whatever feelings turn up, you can choose to treat them with compassion and gentleness.