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Category Archive: interventions

Saying ‘no’ effectively

Messages of encouragement that convey a growth mindset (Kahn Academy study)

encouraging a growth mindsetJascha Sohl-Dickstein, Dave Paunesku, Benjamin Haley, and Joseph Williams (see Paunesku, 2013 and this summary) conducted a study in collaboration with Kahn Academy to investigate the effects of brief messages of encouragement on learning. In an experiment with 265,082 students learning math on the Khan Academy website, brief messages encouraging a growth mindset were presented above math problems such as: “Remember, the more you practice the smarter you become!” and “If you make a mistake, it’s an opportunity to get smarter!” The study also had three control conditions. In one control condition standard encouragement messages were presented such as standard encouragement, e.g., “Some of these problems are hard. Just do your best”. In another control condition science statements, e.g., “Did you know: An elephant brains weighs 7/2 as much as a human brain.” Finally, there was a no-header control condition. Click here to read more »

Self-Determined Goals

Self-Determined Goals and Treatment of Domestic Violence Offenders: What If We Leave It Up to Them?

Lee, Uken, & Sebold (2014)

Abstract: Despite empirical evidence of self-determined goals and positive treatment outcomes, most conventional treatment programs of domestic violence offenders do not use self-determined goals as an integral part of their treatment efforts. The foundation for this article is a qualitative study that used data from 127 domestic violence offenders to explore the content and characteristics of goals that were self-determined by the offenders in a solution-focused, goal-directed treatment program. The emergent themes showed that the self-determined goals developed by offenders focused on self-focused and relational-focused attitudinal change and skills development. Three observed characteristics of these goals revolved around (a) emotional regulation versus cognitive understanding, (b) positively stated versus negatively stated goals, and (c) capacity building versus problem elimination. The implications of findings are discussed with the intention of generating useful dialogues among helping professionals to revisit treatment practices, orientations, and assumptions regarding treatment of domestic violence offenders.


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The power of small steps in project management (case by Niklas Tiger)


Two years ago I posted a post which I called Taming the beast, which described a case by Niklas Tiger (he had originally posted it as a comment to this post: Small steps are often the only way to start tackling problems that nearly overwhelm us). Niklas wrote how my post had inspired him to start tackling the biggest problem in his organization with a small steps approach. He said that he and his colleagues has just started but that they felt that they were already on top of things and that success was just around the corner. Now Niklas has posted an update, again in the comment section, in reply to a question by another reader wo wondered what had further happened to Niklas’ case. Here is Niklas’ update:

Hi! I actually wrote a piece on this about a year ago and my idea was to post it here but somehow I forgot about it. Anyway, I found it so here it is along with some additional thoughts, now two years later. Click here to read more »

Autonomy support at work

autonomy support and controlSelf-determination theory (SDT) is one of the most powerful frameworks to understand how human flourishing can develop. Here is a very brief recap of what it is*. SDT assumes two things about human beings: 1) that they are naturally active and growth-oriented, and 2) that they have a tendency toward psychological integration. This second process means that, as people encounter new experiences, they are challenged to integrate them with existing aspects of themselves. This process of integration leads individuals to develop increasingly complex self-structures in which values and regulatory processes from outside are internalized. Click here to read more »

Using social network incentives to stimulate engagement, trust and results

IMG_6116In this article I mentioned Alex Pentland’s book Social Physics. One of the points frequently made in the book is that engagement, direct strong, positive interactions between people, within work groups is very important. By repeatedly interacting in cooperative manners, trust grows between team members and common beliefs, habits and norms emerge.

The question is, how can you create an environment in which these kinds of social connections are stimulated? Conventional management approaches such as working with individual performance targets and incentives will backfire. What is needed, says Pentland, is to provide incentives which are aimed at people’s social networks which create a social pressure to interact around specific, targeted ideas. Click here to read more »

Are progress-focused skills just conversational tricks?

magicIn a recent training group I had been teaching participants about several progress-focused techniques such as the NOAM 7 steps approach, the progress-focused circle technique, the positive no technique, and progress-focused directing (which is a way of making your expectations clear in a motivated and constructive manner).

On the second day of the training, one of the participants made a remark which was something like this: “First of all, I really find all of this interesting and useful but I am wondering about something. If both we employees and managers learn progress-focused skills aren’t both parties just becoming better at conversational trickery? First my manager will try to make a clever formulation to try to get me to do something and then I will counter that will some clever formulation of the positive no technique. It feels just like we are just applying tricks? I just don’t think we will still be able to be honest and spontaneous!” Click here to read more »

It can also be useful to look at what is outside of the outer circle

outside of the outer circleThe progress-focused circle technique is getting more well-known and popular. It works like this: the coach draws two circles on a piece of paper or on a flip-over sheet, an inner circle and an outer circle. On small post-it notes clients write down what progress they have already achieved and then they hang them in the inner circle. Next, clients write on post-it notes what progress they further need and/or want to achieve and they hang these in the outer circle. Finally, clients choose which note(s) they first want to be able to move from the outer circle to the inner circle and how they will try to accomplish this.

On the first day of a training I gave to a group of teachers I explained the circle technique and invited them to experiment a bit with it. I also gave an example of how I had once used the circle technique with a client of mine. What was interesting in that situation was that my client had not only hanged post-it notes in the inner and outer circle but also outside of the outer circle. He explained: “I won’t be able to achieve those things anyway!” The fact that he hanged a few post-it notes outside of the outer circle I found somewhat surprising but it did not form a problem in any way. Shortly after I had coached him he achieved a terrific result. Click here to read more »

Adding constraints in order to improve performance

wasting lightI am often intrigued by the complexity and paradoxes in optimal human functioning. One thing which interests me in particular is that our performance may sometimes be improved by deliberately adding constraints to the circumstances in which we have to perform. I came across nice example when I was watching Back and Forth about the rockband Foo Fighters. Just before starting to record the 2011 album Wasting Light, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl decided that instead recording the album digitally they would record it on tape. This implied that the recording process would be harder and less flexible. While digitally recorded music can be easily manipulated and corrected, analogously recorded music can’t be.

Grohl realized that the easiness of digital recording might make musicians a bit lazy and easy. After all, any mistake could be relatively easily corrected. But analogous recording would require the band members to be really sharp and play really well. While we can’t know how and to what extent this contributed to the album’s succcess, we can say the album was indeed a success. It became their best sold album and won five Grammy Awards.

Could you ask me what is going well in my job?

MH900422543Recently, Gwenda Schlundt Bodien and I conducted a training progress-focused management in a large organization in the financial sector. One of the participating managers said that wished that his manager would ask him about what goes right in his job and about what progress he has made. He said that getting asked this question would not only help him get a clearer sight on what went right, he felt he would also experience it as a form of recognition. Click here to read more »

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