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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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.

To be or not to be yourself

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In a job interview, how much should you reveal? Researchers at University College London say that depends on how good a candidate you are.

The research focused on the concept of ‘self-verification’, which refers to individuals’ drive to be known and understood by others according to their firmly held beliefs and feelings about themselves.

The study showed that high quality job prospects who came off as too polished were deemed as inauthentic by interviewers. If they had scored high in self-verification, on the other hand, they presented themselves more honestly and were more likely to be hired.

The reverse happened to lower quality candidates. Authenticity reduced their chances at getting the job.

What are the lessons here? First, I guess you’d better know if you are highly qualified or not. If you are, feel free to be yourself.

Secondly, if you are not highly qualified, why are you applying for the job anyway? And if you insist upon applying, you’ll do better if you put on an act.

The researchers say that authentic behavior has been proven to lead to good outcomes over time in a job setting, but this study is the first to show that good outcomes also occur in short-term interpersonal interactions like an interview.

From my own personal experience in the workforce, I question these findings. It has always seemed to me that it was the most inauthentic people who did well in both short- and long-term interactions. I’ve never found honesty to be highly valued in corporate America.

Am I too cynical? What has been your experience?

 

 

Want to keep working? Plan ahead

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A study done at the University of Gothenburg says if you plan to work in your senior years, you should start planning before age 50.

The researchers, psychologists Kerstin Wentz and Kristina Gyllensten, say their participants engaged in what they call career crafting. This meant taking themselves seriously and thinking about what they wanted in life. Remaining employed at least part time allowed them to flourish and avoid boredom while maintaining a social life. They were proactive about learning new things.

The researchers advise vocational counseling for those age 45 similar to what is given to teenagers. They also advocate making student loans available.

As an avid devotee of MOOCs and webinars, I love this idea. Personally, I grew to hate the career in the insurance industry I stumbled into at age 18. At age 45, I embarked on a master’s degree to pursue something more meaningful. I cycled through several stop gap jobs until I finally got a job at a community college. That whole process might have been shortened if I had done better research and planning.

What’s your story? Will you continue working past “normal” retirement age?