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Category Archive: Progress-focused

Congruence in progress focused work

If we want to get real good at something we have to work real hard

zwoegenA few days ago I spoke to a manager who told me that she had had a conversation with a subordinate in which she had communicated some clear expectations she had of him. She told me that she had found it quite hard to prepare for the conversation. In this conversation she had used our technique of progress-focused directing. With this approach you formulate very specifically what you expect of the subordinate (this is called your expectation) and you give a clear reason for your expectation (this is called the rationale). This manager told me that, during her preparation, she had found it hard to formulate the rationale. She said she had made it quite difficult for herself and that she made her rationale very complex at first. Only at the end of her preparation she had managed to formulate her rationale in a brief and simple way. When she told me this, I asked her whether the conversation had led to the desired result. She said it had and added: “But I wonder why I make things so hard and difficult during my preparation.” Click here to read more »

Blaming people never contributes to progress

imagesWhen something has gone wrong we are often inclined to assigning blame to individuals or groups. It happens in families, in schools, in companies, and in politics. The assumption is apparently that assigning blame is useful and necessary for solving the problems in question. But is this true? I don’t think it is.

I think that blaming people never contributes to progress. The reason is that the person who is blamed will view this as an attack and will try to defend himself. As psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson show in their book Mistakes were made but not by me, people seldom agree with accusations against them. In the way in which people view reality and their own choices and behaviors, a mechanism of self-justification operates. Click here to read more »

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

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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 »

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 »

What is meaningful work?

workAs Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown, making progress in work that is meaningful is one of the most motivating, if not the most motivating, things in work. Even small progress may have a big positive impact on one’s inner work life (this is the authors’ term for perception, emotions and motivations in one’s work).

‘Meaningful progress’, of course, consists of two parts: the meaningful part and the progress part. I have focused a lot on the progress element in many previous posts. I’d now like to focus on the meaningful part. Click here to read more »

How progress can make itself invisible

progress levelThe feeling of making progress in something which is important to you is very motivating. But sometimes you make progress without being aware of it and thus you miss this motivating effect needlessly. In this article I explained some reasons why achieved progress can sometimes be hard to notice. One reason I mentioned is sensory adaptation. This means that we get used to the progress we have made and because of this we stop perceiving it. A second reason I mentioned is that we may interpret progress negatively. An example of this is that we may view the availability of technological resources not as advantages but as perils or problems. A third reason why we may not notice progress is that we may, sometimes unconsciously, concurrently raise the bar for ourselves. When this happens, not only our competence level has increased but also the level we aim for. Because of this, the distance between our current level and our goal remains the same (or even increases). Click here to read more »

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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