Coaching with compassion

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Dr. Richard Boyatzis is a big deal in organizational behavior circles. His official titles on his web page at Case Western Reserve University take up a full paragraph. He has written seven books and a slew of articles outlining his Intentional Change Theory. I first learned of his work through a MOOC entitled Conversations That Inspire: Coaching, Learning, Leadership, and Change.

Boyatzis projects great warmth, and his theory reflects his own personality. He  advocates fostering of what he calls positive emotional attractors. Simply put, this entails coaching with compassion instead of coaching for compliance. The leader, boss, or coach should not focus on the problem or try to fix the employee. They should help the employee envision an ideal future. Only through a shared vision is organizational change possible.

Negative emotional attractors have a longer shelf life in our memory. Boyatzis estimates it takes three positives to counteract one negative interaction. Negative emotions, of course, mean stress. Chronic stress increases cortisol which turns off the immune system and inhibits growth of new tissue in the body. Chronic stress constricts peripheral vision literally and figuratively. We’re not interested in seeing new ideas or new people. That inhibits change from occurring.

My problem with Boyatzis and the authors of best-selling leadership books in general is that in my long and exceedingly checkered work life, I have encountered maybe one or two bosses who through education or instinct seemed to practice this approach.

Is it me? Am I just a malcontent, or have I had incredible bad luck in bosses? I would love to hear from anyone who has worked for one of these supportive leaders.

 

 

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Function over form

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Instead of beating yourself up every year when you fail, yet again, to achieve your resolution to lose weight, why not learn to appreciate the body you have? What a concept.

Researchers at Florida State University have put together a program that helps participants feel better about themselves. Professor Pamela Keel has studied body image throughout her career. She notes that the ideal body type as portrayed in the media is unattainable for almost everybody. Although the resulting dissatisfaction with their bodies is particularly prevalent among young women, it affects an awful lot of people. After all, the majority of Americans are overweight.

So what do you do to counter the bad feelings? Take a deep breath and stand in front of a mirror with few or no clothes on. But instead of berating yourself, think about the function of your body parts. In other words, don’t focus on how fat you think your legs are. Instead, think about how they get you everywhere you want to go. Doing this draws on the idea of cognitive dissonance.  Positive statements that conflict with the negative thoughts you’ve had about your body eventually turn those thoughts around.

And once you start thinking more positively about yourself, you begin to take better care of yourself, and that may actually lead to the weight loss you wanted all along.

Win-win.

 

Do who you are

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Career counselors have long advised clients they will be happier if they can find a job that matches their personality. A new study suggests they will earn more money too.

Lead researcher Jaap J. A. Denissen of Tilburg University examined nearly 8500 Germans in terms of the “Big Five” personality traits: openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extroversion agreeableness, and neuroticism. Then two independent psychologists looked at each of the participant’s job with respect to those same characteristics to determine what level of each characteristic made for an ideal employee in that particular job. Not surprisingly, bookkeepers require the least amount of extroversion.

When it comes to extroversion, agreeableness, and openness to experience, a closer match between an employee’s own personality and a job’s demands was linked with higher income. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For example, an employee who is more agreeable than the job calls for will earn less than someone who is less agreeable.

Findings from previous research have indicated that some personality traits such as being conscientious are generally beneficial when it comes to any work environment. It appears that is not exactly true. They found that highly conscientious people whose jobs didn’t demand it earned less than their less fastidious peers.

The takeaway is that one size, one set of universal personality characteristics, doesn’t fit all. No two jobs are created equal.

I want to be alone

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What a relief! A new study indicates social withdrawal isn’t always a bad thing.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo looked at the motivation behind the desire to be alone. They cite three reasons why people avoid others. One is plain old shyness because of fear or anxiety. A second is avoidance, dislike of being with others or social interaction.

The third, however, is that some people just like spending time reading or working on their computers. They call this unsociability. Can I hear an amen from the introverts of the world?

That third category of people may not initiate social opportunities but will accept them if offered, so they are not totally missing out on peer interaction.

The first two categories result in negative outcomes like lack of social skills or support. The third is positively correlated with creativity. This gives me great comfort.

So, if you are like me and really would prefer to keep your distance most of the time, go ahead. Embrace your solitude. You know you want to.

 

 

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Go nuts

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While nuts have already been known to prevent or fight diseases below the neck such as  heart disease and cancer, new research shows they also help our brains. A study done at Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center examined the results of eating six different kinds of nuts.

Pistachios ranked highest in gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning, perception and rapid eye movement during sleep.

In contrast, peanuts produced the highest delta response, which is associated with healthy immunity, natural healing, and deep sleep.

Walnuts had the highest concentration of antioxidants.

Almonds, cashews, and pecans presumably fell lower on the benefits scale.

So, I guess the takeaway here is pick your nuts carefully. For better memory, try pistachios. For better sleep, try peanuts.

 

 

Nip mental health problems in the bud

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A new assessment may help get mental health help to students. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia developed a student version of the Social, Academic and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS). They had middle and high school students complete the instrument to self-identify their mental state.

The student version is available through Fastbridge Learning, a software company that works with schools to offer online academic and behavioral screening, as well as other assessment services.

In lower grades, students have only one teacher, so it is easier to see problems developing. In higher grades, students have different teachers for each different subject, so changes in behavior can’t be observed as readily. While families may not have the resources to access preventative services, schools usually do.

I can see a few problems with this approach. Will the students answer the questions honestly? And if they do, will this somehow stigmatize them in the eyes of teachers and administrators?

Still, if even one potential tragedy is avoided, this seems worthwhile to me.