Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I have been up to

It's been a long while since I have blogged. I had a number of 'ahha' moments in class, browsing the internet and through conversations...and i'm like, I definitely should blog about that. I guess I have truly been converted to a blogger :).

The semester is finished and I am very happy that I was able to do very well on my Seminar in Work Motivation and Leadership Course. The teacher was very dynamic, had interesting class exercises and made the class very practical. People have a tendency to forget good teaching skills and effective lesson planning when it comes to adult learners. Yes, we bring more to the table and we are often more independent than younger learners. However, we still need to be engaged. Therefore, I was very appreciative of the lecturers teaching style.

I started my fellowship today and I am super excited. The highlight of the orientation was a speech by one of the founders of the program. Determination and passion resonated from her speech. She spoke of the transformation of students from being F students to B students in a year. The interesting thing was that some of the students were classified as having learning difficulties. The questions that pop up immediately are, how many students are being doomed by bad assessments? How many students are being stifled from reaching their full potential? I am very happy to be apart of a program that makes learning engaing and invest in offering'at risk students' work skills.

Well that's what I have been up to! oooh I totally forgot about my exciting final project. I am doing a gap analysis of my father's business, then design and implement one intervention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Complex Brain

I have just completed the learning experience of scanning some pages into one PDF document. So one would think all you have to do is place the pages in the document feeder and hit the scan button and then an option will come that ask you what to save the document as, you select PDF and Tadah...you have your document....well that didn't happen!

The scanner I used has multiple programs attached to it and therefore can do several things. I don't remember the model. When I placed the papers in the feeder, several prompts and error messages came up like, unable to locate folder. So I started doing a bit of troubleshooting. Clearly the program was not installed correctly or something was wrong with the computer. I finally found the location were the scan pages were stored, however each page was stored separately as a jpeg image in the image gallery. I converted each image to a PDF but I was required to produce 1 PDF document that has all the pages.....so that didnt work! To cut a long story short I explored several complicated solutions to solve this problem.

My final and very simple solution was to locate the program from the program menu. I opened the scanning program, HP Director (I think) and operated the scanner from there. Instead of pressing the scan button manually and expecting the program to automatically give me options. My question to myself is, why did this soultion come to me after pursuing all the other complex ones. I must admit, I felt abit dumb.

This is not the first situation where my brain went complex and ignored simple. My first attempts to learn to drive was with a standard/stick vehicle. I quickly mastered changing the gears smoothly before learning to steer the vehicle. Everyone that I told that I couldnt steer, couldnot understand as they thought that was so much easier than changing gears. The problem could have been that I had a bad teacher.

So I decided to go automatic and I actually did the test, which is very comprehensive in Jamaica. We get tested on everything. Unfortunately, I falied on the road because I slowed down at the stop sign instead of stopping, I was a nervous wreck and messed up my indicator signals and the assessor claimed I took my corners badly. However, I passed reversing and parallel parking the two areas that people often fail....how odd. Oh well. Just thought I might share my complex brain moment.

I have a funy feeling I am not the only one who thinks and learns like this, don't be shy....please share :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How satisfied are you with your job?

Wow with the state of the economy, some people are not too concerned about how enriching their jobs are but the emphasis is on maintaining a job. None the less as I am a hopeful person the economy will once again bloom and employees will have more demand in the type of jobs they select. Employers will have to design jobs so that the are both motivating and satisfying.

I have an exam tomorrow and the topic of job enrichment is one of the areas that interests me. I guess it's practical and can be applied. Hackman and Oldman in their Job Characteristic Model state that there are 3 core psychological states that are necessary for intrinsic motivation. When characteristics of the job facilitate these states it results in high performance and job satisfaction. It is said an image is worth more than a 1000 words so here is a diagram that sums it up.

I can relate to this model, I tend to like to be connected with what ever I am doing. This connection that I value relates to what they refer to as meaningfulness on the job. Meaningfulness on the job is achieved when the jobs allows employees to use a variety of skills and enagege in a variety of task. In addition, the task must be significant, that is, it impacts others in the organization or those associated with the organization. With regards to meaningfulness, they make reference to some jobs that are highly specialized where each person works on a part of a task but never gets to see how that small part that they worked on contributes to the whole. The 'big picture' is useful as it generates meaning. Hint hint, supervisors and managers: Involve your employees let them see and understand the 'big picture that their work contributes. Give them variety, let them feel competent and stimulated. Yes some of it is easier said than done, but it's still worth thinking about.

Another psychological state is autonomy and a lot of research has verified that when workers feel they have a sense of freedom and choice in their job they are more satisfied. Again let the employees have some say even a little bit.

The other psychological state is knowledge about the actual results of work. What is interesting is that they assert that there are 2 types of feedback. The first we get from the job itself. For example, if you designed a course for a team and the manager notices improvements then that's feedback from the job; you have proof that you did well. The second type of feedback we get from others like our peers or superiors. It was found that feedback from the job itself is often more valuable than feedback from others. Feedback from others can come with interference like the credibility of the person among other social and psychological factors.

One note to bear in mind is that Hackman and Oldham recognized that job enrichment strategies will not motivate every employee as some people just see work as a means to an end and seek satisfaction in other areas of their lives. They are not desireous to feel challenged or have choice in tasks etc.

I definitely value autonomy, meaningfulness and positive feedback in my job.
  • What features of your job make you tick?
  • What drives you to go to work ?
  • What job enrichment initiatives has your organization implemented?
Please share!

Aside: I especially enjoyed typing this blog post as it reinforces the information for my exam, unfortunately I am being tested on much more than this..so I am off :)

Reference: Pinder, C.C. (2008). Work motivation in organizational behavior (2nd Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hope: Wishful thinking or Goal planning?

MSNBC article titled
Reagan redux Like the Gipper, Obama offers hope — and wishful thinking compares President Obama with Ronald Reagan, the author went as far as coining a word for it “Reaganesque”. The concept of hope pervaded the analysis of President Obama's speech. The analysis questioned the feasibility of some of Obama's reform strategies, but likens this era to that of Ronald Reagan's reign. Reagan's optimism contributed to the improvement of the economy. Thus, even though the author questioned, he recognized the importance of hope and optimism in a crisis like this:

"Hope is who we are and what we do. We need to believe – indeed, the world needs to believe – that “We will emerge stronger than before.”

Hope and Optimism are two of several constructs of Positive Organizational Behavior that positive psychologist have studied. This school of thought believes that even though these constructs can be closely linked to a person's personality they can also be developed and can significantly improve performance.

What is hope?

According to psychologist C. Rick Synder hope is more than wishful thinking. It's about the will and the way. Hope involves the belief that goals can be set, ways of achieving them can be devised and one can motivate themselves to follow through. Thus, the truth in the adage: Where there is a will there is a way.' Research shows that hope has a positive impact on coping with challenges and illness, academic achievement and emotional health.

This is definitely a construct that managers should pay attention to with employees especially in this time. Synder offers some strategies that may help to develop hope such as:
  • Include employees in goal setting
  • Clarify goals, break down complex strategies in small steps
  • Develop action plans and pathways for achieving goals
  • Develop skill of regulating goals, so adjustments can be made where necessary in case of obstacles: thus avoiding false hope
President Obama has clearly done some of these things. It is important to note that a leader's level of hope is significantly related to the success and viability of their unit and satisfaction of employees. President Obama's hope surely has the potential of diffusing to the rest of the population and I have noted informally the positive results of this through daily conversations with people. It is also a good thing that he's hopeful as research as shown that people with hope in stressful professions become less burnt out and survive better.

My emphasis is on hope, but since optimism was also mentioned let me note that this also affects health and performance positively. Optimism can be developed as well by:
  • Identifying self defeating beliefs in challenges
  • Evaluate accuracy of belief
  • Replace with more accurate belief
How are your hope and optimism levels as an individual and within the organizations you are affiliated with?

What are your thoughts on the importance of hope and optimism?

What other constructs do you think are important?

: Luthans, F. (2002). Positive organization behavior: Developing and managing psychological strengths. Academy of Management Executive, 16, 57 -72.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Leadership trait or skill?

We’ve often heard astounding leaders being described as ‘born leaders’ or gifted. This topic is quiet relevant in light of the fairly recent inauguration of President Obama. In my Analysis of Educational Issues: Socio-cultural Perspectives class Obama came up in one of our class discussions; we were asked to discuss the predominant factors that led to his victory. The pro Obama students gave responses like: He is a gifted communicator; He involves the people in the decision making; He acknowledges that he is human and gauges the expectations of the public accordingly; his policies are sound. These responses highlight some important skills that a leader must have, the ability to communicate the vision; ability to motivate people; ability to analyze problems, look ahead and devise effective strategies. The big question is do these things come naturally or are there a set of skills that can be learned?

One of the required text for my class “Leadership Theory and Practice” by examines the Skills Approach in Chapter 3. (Yeh, I know...you can tell that I am back at school...referencing all these books and classes )

What does the skill’s approach purport?
  • Leadership involves skills and knowledge that can be learned and is not just based on inherent gifts and attribute.
  • They define Leadership Skills as “The ability to use one’s knowledge and competencies to accomplish a set of goals or objectives.”

Robert Katz is one of the early adopters of the Skills approach to leadership and he proposed a 3 skill approach model, outlined below.

Robert Katz 3 Skill Approach
  • 3 foundation skills are necessary for effective administration
  • The three skills can be summed up as Technical skills: Competence in the skills and knowledge of the content area of the job, Human Skills: knowledge and ability to work with people and Conceptual Skill: Ability to work with ideas, conceptualize the vision of an organization.
  • The type of skill and intensity that is needed varies according to Management level (Top, Middle and Supervisory management) (See Fig 2 below).
  • More information on Katz model

(Fig. 1 Summary of 3 skill approach double click to see larger image)

(Fig 2: Katz 3 Skill Approach based on management level)

Is leadership as clear cut as this approach puts it? How does this approach stand when you think of the Gallup strengths-based findings, which emphasize that we all have strengths and we perform better in capacities that utilize our strengths? In addition, they assert that our time is better spent building on our strengths than our weaknesses. I say this to question if some of these traits that can be learned as proposed by Katz aren’t based on individual inherent strengths. Can everyone be a leader if trained? What are your views and experiences?

In my next blog post I will discuss five components that some other psychologists (Mumford et al) of the Skills Approach school of thought proposed.