Yesterday I wrote about control and influence. A few more thoughts on the subject …
Think about the unhappiest or angriest people you know. What are they trying to control that they can’t?
In my experience, the unhappiest people of the world, (including me at one point), are those trying to control every aspect of their own and other people’s lives. They are seeking certainty and predictability. They are looking for safety and security in their certainty.
The happiest people have let go and are more curious about their lives and the world in general. They understand the limits of what they can control, and the randomness of the world allows them to be surprised and amazed.
What are you controlling that you can’t?
What would be the impact on your life if you let go?
“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have of trying to change others.”– Unknown
I would like you to think back to a time where you felt you were in the best job in the world. One where you felt motivated to come to work every day. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be in that job right now.
What was it that made it the best job in the world?
Was it the pay?
Was it the location?
Was it the hours that you worked?
The odds are that it was not any of these things but a combination of three distinct features of your job or work environment that contributed to that feeling of satisfaction.
Understanding what these factors are, as an employee might help you to identify what it is about your current role that you are enjoying or missing. As a leader, it might help you to create the environment for your employees to achieve job satisfaction.
Want to know what they are? Read on.
This is the first blog since March this year (2017 if you’re reading this in a few years time). During this period I have been completing my Master’s Degree in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney. I made a conscious decision during this time to hold back on my writing and focus on my studies, not for better marks – although that’s always nice – but because everything I learned had a practical application for coaching my clients.
My aim over the coming weeks is to recommence my writing and impart some of the knowledge I have gained over the preceding months.
Self Determination Theory
I want to start, in this article, with a small element that was common to both the subjects completed this semester (Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Peak Performance) called Self-Determination Theory (SDT). SDT discusses human motivation and, among other things, suggests that people will feel more motivated towards their endeavours if they can meet three basic psychological needs.
Those three needs are Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Autonomy is the degree to which people have agency or choice in what they do. They feel empowered to make decisions, and they act in accordance with their values and self-image.
Competence is the ability to use strengths to produce valued outcomes. People who feel competent believe what they are doing is making a difference. They can see how they are growing and developing from their experiences.
Relatedness relates to how much people believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. They feel connected to others in their social groups.
In the words of some respected researchers on the subject (see further reading below):
“People are expected to do well and feel their best when the socio-cultural conditions of their lives (i.e. family relationships, friendships, workplace culture, political systems, cultural norms) support the inherent needs for freely engaging in interesting activities (i.e. autonomy), producing valued outcomes through the use of their strengths and abilities (i.e. competence), and feeling closely and securely connected to significant others (i.e. relatedness).”
What does it all mean?
People may start off doing what they are told because they have been told to do it. They expect either a reward for doing it or a punishment if they don’t (extrinsic motivation). As they are empowered to make choices about how they achieve the task (autonomy) and see they can do it, and what they are doing is making a difference (competence), and work alongside people they value and form connections with (relatedness), they will start to internalise the value of what they are doing and become more motivated (intrinsic motivation).
It may be useful at this point to discuss the importance of these basic needs by examining what happens when we don’t have them. Think about when you have been micro-managed at work, have felt that you were unable to achieve your goals or that you couldn’t find anyone with whom you connected. If you were in this environment you wouldn’t feel very motivated to come to work, would you? Workplaces like this experience high absenteeism and presenteeism, high separation rates, low productivity and low discretionary effort, and high complaint rates against other members of staff. At best in these environments, you will have team members who display no innovation or initiative. At worst you may have a workforce that experiences psychological distress and mental health issues.
As leaders, we need to take a critical look at our workplaces and our cultures and understand if they are supportive of our teams meeting their basic psychological needs or if they are disruptive of them.
Facilitating the basic needs
The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of how to increase employees’ perceptions of autonomy, competence and relatedness. It does, however, provide a starting point and if you are interested in learning more, then there are some resources at the bottom of the page you can call on.
Autonomy is not about doing what ever you want. That would be anarchy. Autonomy is about providing choice and respecting the choices that people make. It is about allowing people to feel in control. This can be accomplished through agreeing on goals and then allowing individuals and teams to make decisions about how they achieve those goals within agreed constraints. Use of coaching or coach style questioning to help individuals and teams to make decisions about what they are going to do conveys task ownership.
As stated earlier, people will feel competent when they feel they are making a difference, are using their strengths, and can see how they are growing and developing from the experience. Leaders can facilitate competence by ensuring that their teams have the right training and that they get to use that training to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. Additionally, as leaders, we should help our people set goals that stretch, but not break, them. As they achieve those stretch targets, our team members will come to realise they have skills they didn’t know they had and, in turn, want to apply those skills.
Fostering teamwork, breaking down silos and promoting collaboration will all contribute to being part of something bigger than the individual effort. Leaders, also, however, have a role in understanding what individuals within their teams value at a personal level. While organisations have espoused values, these are not what gets their employees out of bed in the morning to come to work. As a leader, you can help your team members feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Get to know them, understand what is important to them and assist them to link their values to the organisational outcomes.
So, now what?
Take some time to reflect. If you are a leader in your organisation, do you feel like you experience autonomy, competence and relatedness? If you do, great. Does your team? If not, then, as a leader, you have a role to play in creating an environment where they can. The research suggests that both the organisation and its people will both benefit.
If you don’t think you’re experiencing these basic psychological needs, then there is a chance your team isn’t as well. Ask yourself, what’s within your control to facilitate those needs within your team. Perhaps, you could set yourself a stretch target of having a constructive conversation with your boss about this concept. There is some further reading below if you want to learn more.
What tips do you have for fostering a motivation rich environment in the workplace? What have you seen that works? Please, share your ideas with us so that all of us in the Campbell Leadership Clan can learn from your experiences.
Is there someone who you feel could benefit from the information contained in this blog? If so, please feel free to share it with them and, even better, sit down and discuss with them the way they could help facilitate autonomy, competence and relatedness with their teams.
If you would like more information or would like to discuss any of the concepts mentioned above, please feel free to contact Anthony at Campbell Leadership Solutions so that we can see how we might be able to help you.
And, as always, thank you for reading and leading.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.
Spence, G. B., & Deci, E. L. (2013). Self Determination Theory Within Coaching Contexts: Supporting Motives and Goals that Promote Optimal Functioning and Well-being. In S. David, D. Clutterbuck, & D. Megginson (Eds.), Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring (pp. 85-108). London: Gower Publishing.
As we begin the new working year I thought we’d kick it off with a brief summary of the leadership thoughts published by Campbell Leadership Solutions in 2016. If you continue on with these behaviours and tips that you started with last year, you’ll be sure to make an easy segway into 2017. If you want to revisit the concepts in full, just click on the link to go straight to the article, or feel welcome to contact us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions for more information.
From The “What I want you to do …” Series
It is so important to allow members of your team to make mistakes. You can create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and your team know that they are supported at all times. Providing this environment allows your team to learn from mistakes, removes the fear of having a go and builds trust between your team and you.
Progressing from building trust by creating a safe to fail environment, awareness of two key factors will help in building successful relationships with others. The first, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various working styles can help constructively develop team dynamics. This will help you understand how others want to be treated, so you can then apply that knowledge. Secondly, how you see yourself is not necessarily the same as how others see you. Seek feedback and hear it without judgement, you’re sure to learn a few things about yourself!
Remember, leadership is not a position. It is a series of behaviours. Anybody in any role in any organisation can demonstrate leadership behaviours. If you are working toward something you believe in, you are a leader, whether your job description says so or not – you already have the ability to motivate others to follow, so believe in yourself and continue to refine your leadership skills.
This article provides a simple, four-step, problem-solving process to help you overcome those times when you have a block. It helps you identify what you already know (it’s usually more than you think), what questions you need to ask and how to build a plan to tackle the next steps of your project. It’s an easy way to continue to move forward and re-energise that challenging mindset we all get when we’re seemingly stuck with something.
Inspired by one of my clients, this article puts a different spin on the work/life balance discussion. Rather than aiming for more time at home and less time at work, what if you were to pay attention to where you are, right now? At any given moment, this technique would go a long way to improving the quality of your time rather than trying to change the quantity, which is something not always possible. Mindfulness is a great way to take control over what you can, rather than being frustrated at what you can’t.
Work with another client inspired this post as well. You may be surprised to know that I learn as much from you as you from me! Taking time to reflect on your achievements over the longer term can reduce the frustration we feel in ‘not getting anything done.’ In fact, revisiting this blog is helping me do this by allowing me to see what I have achieved during 2016.
Competitiveness with people in your own organisation is counterproductive. Rather than trying to “win”, or be “the best”, adopting a learning approach can reduce the pressure you place on yourself, help with achieving results and allow you to enjoy work more all while developing your skills.
This one is simple. Get out from behind your desk and go and talk to your people. Have an easy, informal conversation and find out what’s going on for them. You will learn things about them you didn’t already know and you will build relationships with them. Building relationships allows you to establish trust and influence, which in turn allows you to lead more effectively.
Asking the same questions will get you the same answers. Challenge yourself to ask different questions, ones you may not have asked before, or have been afraid of asking. Doing so will give you access to new information and provide opportunities for better decision making. If you really want to set yourself a leadership task, get through the day without asking the same question twice. This will allow you to really analyse your thinking and questioning techniques and help you find out what you really need to know.
This article proved to be one of the most popular. It provides ideas on how you could influence those in a position of authority when you may not be in that position yourself. There is a simple framework for getting your voice heard within your organisation, and is another great demonstration of how anybody in any position can lead effectively.
Dealing with workplace conflict is not something we necessarily enjoy doing but is an essential skill for leaders. Adopting a curious mindset can help. This is another way to challenge your thinking and questioning process and establish positive relationships through leadership.
We’ve all been told to ‘live your values’ but how exactly do we do that? The answer is simple. Find some small actions that you can do each day that accord with those values and communicate to people what you think is important. Values identification is an effective way to get people on board, chances are, there will be at least one value that is common to everyone in your workplace.
It’s easy to be frustrated by things that are outside of your control, and it can take a daily toll. Understanding what you can control and what you can only influence can go a long way towards reducing those frustrations. So if you can’t control it, let it go and find another way to manage, so you can put your energy and focus into something that will reap a positive outcome.
Are you having difficulty convincing others of your ideas in the workplace? Taking their perspective might just help you understand why. Understanding others can help you to be adaptive and flexible, which in turn, can help you to influence and lead. It’s important to be able to see a situation from a number of different perspectives and understand the impact a single decision can have on a range of people.
From the “Interlude” Series
This article describes the meaning behind the Campbell Leadership Solutions logo. The lighthouse is symbolic of guidance. My role as a teacher, coach and mentor can help you to develop your leadership ability and achieve results in the complex environment that you operate in. You are already the subject matter expert, but even the Australian Cricket Team has a coach. Who is yours?
I love coaching, mentoring and helping people provide quality leadership. This final article for 2016 describes a little of my own leadership journey and how I came to be where I am today. I believe in growth and I believe in change, and I am ready to support you through your own personal journey.
I believe 2016 was a great year, despite what social media might have us think. I see 2017 as a further opportunity to engage with clients, friends and followers to achieve even more goals in the leadership space. If you would like to receive early access to the new releases on leadership, mentoring, performance and other related topics then head to our website to join the Campbell Leadership Clan.
Please feel free to share any or all of these articles with your colleagues, friends or followers. There is, I believe, something in here that is useful for everyone.
Also, please continue to share your leadership experiences on the website or social media (links to various social sites are on the website). We all have great stories to share and can all learn from each other. We have a great opportunity to build a community of leadership learners.
If you would like assistance with your own leadership journey or would like to discuss any of the concepts detailed in these articles, please contact us at Campbell Leadership Solutions. We stand ready to assist you.
“Basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile”
– Stephen R. Covey
I use the train system to get to work. Why? I see driving as a waste of time. On the train I can sleep, I can read, I can meditate. I have attempted all three while driving with no success. So, I spend a little bit of time standing on train platforms waiting for trains. Sometimes the train is late. It could be one minute, five minutes or it could be a lot longer. I am always interested in people’s reactions when this happens. I see people looking at their watches. I see pacing. I see fidgeting in their seats. I see angry words exchanged with the station staff. All of these behaviours are signs of frustration over something that these people have absolutely no control over.
(By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I am guilty of this on occasion as well. This is especially true in periods of high stress or time pressure.)
These frustrations occur due to a lack of control and a lack of certainty. There is nothing that we can do to make the train move faster or arrive at the platform earlier. Even the station staff has no control over this. We have somewhere to be and now we are not certain that we will make it there on time. Yet, people seem to think that becoming agitated, frustrated or angry will somehow improve the situation.
We know, rationally, that this kind of reaction doesn’t help.
Now, as you are reading this, put yourself in that situation and say to yourself, “What is within my control?”
Stephen Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about Circles of Influence and Circles of Concern. His premise is that proactive people understand what they can do something about and what they cannot, and spend their time focused on the former. Whereas reactive people, to use Covey’s words:
“…. focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and feelings of victimisation.”
Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence
So, let’s now move from the train station to your work environment. Think about a situation at work right now over which you are feeling a measure of frustration. Go on. Take a minute…
Have you got something? Good. Now ask yourself ….
What is within your control?
I ask this question of my clients a lot. Often I notice that their language appears victim-like and they focus on the actions of others. Let me give you an example.
One of my clients – let’s call him John – was talking about how one of his peers was always coming to work late. “I’m always on time and complete my work and he’s always late. There are no repercussions for him. The CEO doesn’t seem to care that he’s never on time. The CEO should hold him to account and make him be here when he is supposed to be. It’s not fair for the rest of us.”
Firstly, I’d like you to notice the language that John is using here. “It’s not fair for the rest of us.” This language is self-victimising. John has given his peer the power to affect his emotions and enjoyment of work. So, after highlighting this to John I asked him “What is within your control?” Here is some of what we came up with:
- You can’t control other people. John realised he couldn’t make his colleague come into work on time. If he wanted to influence his peer he could try by having a courageous conversation with him (that’s a whole different article), but ultimately, there was no way to force him to be there early.
- Spending time worrying about things outside your control increases stress. Focusing on what you can control increases your sense of achievement. John came to understand that worrying about his colleague was causing him levels of frustration that were impacting on his own ability to complete and enjoy his work. When he refocused on his own work and what he could control he started to find satisfaction in his job again.
- You can control how you think about the situation. John came to the realisation that if he adopted a curious mindset to the situation, rather than a judgmental one, he felt better about the situation. (For more on using curiosity in the workplace check out one of our recent blogs here). With curiosity, John started asking questions like, “I wonder what is going on for him that’s causing him to be late?” This allowed John to take a different perspective on the situation. He was now able to feel a measure of concern for his peer rather than feeling a level of annoyance.
Asking yourself the question, “What is in my control?” is a powerful way to bring you back to what is important. It allows you to reduce your stress levels and re-engage with work. The benefits of this approach can also be applied to other areas of your life, not just work, where you may be focusing on things outside of your control. The Centre for Creative Leadership recently published a related article on reducing your stress by letting go of rumination and “controlling your attention”.
So, what I want you to do is …
This week, notice when you are feeling frustrated. Whether it is on the train platform, sitting in traffic, at work or at home, notice when you are starting to feel increased stress. This may be evidenced by a rise in heart rate, increased sweating, lack of concentration, a general feeling of being angry or annoyed, or even the use of colourful language. You will know your own warning signs.
When you notice these things, ask yourself, “What is in my control?” You may be surprised by how your feelings of frustration and annoyance reduce when you focus on what can do and let go of what you can’t.
Do you know someone in your network that has trouble understanding what is within his or her control? How does it manifest itself? Please feel free to share this article with them and talk to them about it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Have you yourself ever experienced feelings of annoyance at something outside of your control? How did you deal with that? I’d love to hear about your experiences so that we can all learn together.
If you would like to talk about this or any leadership related topics, please feel free to leave your comments below or get in contact with me here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. I’d be happy to talk to you about how we might assist you and your team.