‘Hope’ is not a Strategy
I am pondering the News and the Media today. Everywhere is doom and gloom. The UK is poised on the precipice and apparently falling apart and no one seems to be doing anything about it. We have Public Sector Unions engaging in striking behaviour with threats of further walkouts in the New Year. Things are looking more than a little sticky. So, what do we do?
One thing I would beg us not too do is rely on the strategy of simply ‘hoping’ that things will go back to normal. Sorry, but this is the new ‘normal’ – so we all better get used to it. What does this mean for businesses and organisations?
Decision Fatigue & Learned Helplessness
Well I can tell you what has happened. Many business leaders are inactive. Their ‘decision fatigue’ and ‘learned helplessness’ has set in. Hoping that things will change for the better is not a strategy. We have to take action ourselves and shape a new future, rather than accept the way things are.
Leadership & Unreasonableness
Consider George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote goes something like this…. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself - therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. “ So now is the time for unreasonable people to step forward and tackle indecisiveness, and shape organisations to be all that they could be. And further, it would be excellent if our top teams could lead by example.
What does this mean in terms of change in Behaviour?
It means rising to the challenge. It means rethinking how we do things. Now has to be the time for motivation sessions and building on what little success appears to be about. It is about being active and positive, rather than passive and negative.
The majority of us learn by example. Right now we need our leaders and managers to be role models, not helplessly watching and commenting on events as perceived by in media organisations with a negative agenda. That means managers taking responsibility for driving change, assessing the situation, taking thoughtful action and working resolutely towards; winning new business; adapting their organisations to add greater value, and thus delighting the end user or customer of the service. Consider the alternative, which is neither pretty nor desirable.
Trending – Hopelessness driven by the Media
Learned helplessness is well documented in both animal and human psychology. Many of the early experiments with animals suggest that animals learned quickly to behave helplessly. The bad news is if ‘perceived’ circumstances remain as they are, the result in terms of behaviour change is the same for humans.
Please note, even when the opportunities are restored to help avoiding an unpleasant or harmful ‘perceived’ circumstances to people have been subjected, behaviour does not change to be positive.
Learned helplessness can be the foundation for mental illness and clinical depression and its root cause is from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. Research tells us that people varying reactions to situations that can cause learned helplessness.
Helplessness & Hopelessness Generalized to all Situations
Learned helplessness sometimes remains specific to one situation but at other times generalizes across situations – so you can see the implications for wider society and the management of organizations if we focus entirely on the reports in the media.
The more people perceive events as uncontrollable and unpredictable, the more anxiety, tension, depression and stress they experience, and the less hopeful they feel about making changes in their lives and their future. What concerns me is that this helplessness can transcend across families, organisations, communities, societies and generations.
People with a pessimistic style tend to be poor at problem-solving and thinking and this is demonstrated in a negative outlook: always expecting the worst, poor job satisfaction and unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships in the workplace. It does not do a lot for physical health either. Those with a pessimistic mentality also tend to have weakened immune systems and persistent minor and major chronic health issues.
Psychological Health & Personal Motivation
Learned helplessness can also lead to significant personal issues with long and short term planning, and conscientiousness, resulting in major issues of motivation which can spread through an organisation like a cancer. Individuals who are the victims of this thinking who have perceived ‘failures’ or unimagined ‘lack of perceived control’ are largely incapable of improving their performance and shaping their future. It is like they have been shocked into psychological inertia that translates into their work, their relationships and performance.
Learned Optimism & Engagement Strategy
Professor of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman proponent of ‘learned optimism’ has well documented studies indicating that, people can actively learn to be less pessimistic and more optimistic through cognitive behavioural therapy techniques. We can use these techniques to avoid the worst experiences that the current ‘return to recession’ will generate and portray in the coming months as we move through 2012.
Believe it or not, you really can turn a ‘glass half empty’ person into a ‘glass half full person’ relatively quickly – but it does not happen by accident. It has to be part of a rigorously well defined and designed ‘Engagement Strategy’ delivered through motivational workshops and one on one Coaching.
Engagement Strategy: What Can You Hope to Achieve?
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