Posts Tagged avoidance
The title of this article has a dual significance. First, it’s an acknowledgement of my failure to keep this blog up to date. My new role means that I have less time and less headspace for the reflection needed to write this stuff.
A lot of my learning at the moment is around how to be a good manager (or possibly how to be less of a bad one).
Currently, my learning is following it’s usual pattern. I’m learning through doing, reading and trying to teach others. At some point the trying to teach others bit will probably extend to writing more about my learning, but at the moment it is mainly limited to the various bits leadership development training I’m delivering.
One of those bits of leadership development training was the CMI Level 5 module I taught recently on managing ideas and innovation and in my usual domain-hopping way I have started to think about how the theories and models applied here could be useful in career development work with clients and in the development of careers professionals.
It’s not just businesses and entrepreneurs who have to be innovative. In the current economic climate, individuals have to be increasingly innovative with their own career development and job hunting. Similarly, as career professionals, we have to develop more innovative approaches to address the demands of our individual and institutional clients.
And this is where the second significance of the title comes in. Wherever there is a need to innovate, there is an accompanying need to be able to deal with the possibility of failure. In career terms, this is often linked with the idea of resilience. But there is more to dealing with failure than just the ability to bounce back and stay optimistic.
Failure is an integral and unavoidable part of any truly innovative process (unless you are incredibly lucky!). Preparing for innovation requires you to anticipate failure, accommodate failure, plan to recover from failure and learn from failure.
In a recent coaching session with a client, we were discussing options for embarking on a freelance career. The issue of possible failure came up and I struggled to find a way to help her think about failure constructively. Then I remembered a concept I had introduced in the CMI module: 4F – Fail Fast, Fail Forward. She immediately got it and responded enthusiastically. This isn’t so surprising (despite the name) because it actually reflects a growth or incremental mindset and an approach rather than avoidance motivation.
Fail fast – be ready for things to go wrong, know what early indicators of potential failure to look out for and be ready to act quickly.
Fail forward – don’t spend time on recriminations and wishful thinking, focus on solutions and focus on learning lessons so that your next attempts have a greater chance of success.
Way back in 2009 I wrote about the social rejection self-fulfilling prophecy. This relates to the unfortunate fact that, if you expect someone you meet for the first time not to like you, you tend to behave more distantly towards them. This increases the chances that they won’t like you. The reverse is also true: if you assume that you will be liked, you tend to behave more warmly and thus increase your chances of being liked.
People who have high levels of social anxiety tend to fall into the trap of negative expectations. They are particularly sensitive to the possibility of social rejection. This threat triggers an avoidance approach which makes them behave defensively in unfamiliar social settings, leading to less than warm responses from the strangers they interact with. This, in turn, confirms their fears and insecurity about social rejection. A vicious circle.
This self-fulfilling prophecy can be a major handicap when it comes to career development. It means you are less likely to engage in appropriate professional networking, cutting off potentially useful sources of information, insight and advice which could boost your career. It makes you less likely to create a positive first impression during an interview. It can also affect your ability to establish important relationships in the crucial first few days of a new job.
How do you break out of this trap?
A few weeks ago I wrote about regulatory focus theory (approach and avoidance motivations) and its possible impact on your career satisfaction.
To summarise quickly: approach or promotion focus is about trying to achieve positive outcomes, whereas avoidance or prevention focus is about trying to preclude negative outcomes.
Different types of goals and situations can induce either prevention or promotion focus. Benign environments tend to lead to promotion focus because people feel more inclined to take risks, whereas threatening environments tend to encourage prevention focus so that they are less likely to make damaging mistakes.
Having said that, most people will have a default approach they take to new situations. Generally, people feel more motivated about their goals if they can pursue them in a manner which fits with their regulatory focus. So, promotion-oriented individuals will feel more engaged if they are allowed to pursue goals in a positive, eager manner and prevention-oriented individuals feel better if they are allowed to be careful and vigilant.
A recent study by Righetti et al. (2011) looked at how the regulatory focus of someone trying to achieve a goal was affected by the focus of someone who was advising or supporting them.
Think about a recent job change that you made by your own initiative (rather than by force of circumstance, such as redundancy).
Why did you change? Had you got so fed up with your previous job that you had to move to preserve your sanity? Or were you tempted away by the opportunities on offer in the new job?
What about changing your mobile phone company, utilities, mortgage deal or internet service provider? Do you switch when you get fed up or do you constantly look for better deals?
What motivates you at work and why is it important to you? When you’re thinking about a job move, do you make a list of what you want or a list of what you don’t want?
When you make a list of pros and cons, which column tends to be most influential in making your mind up about something?
This issue of whether you are moving towards something or moving away from something has been a recurring theme in things I have been reading and in discussions I have been having over the last couple of weeks.
Partly, of course, there was the Christmas break. Too many things to do (and besides, who is going to read this blog in preference to spending precious festive time with their loved ones?).
Oh, and then there was that workshop on Time Management that I had to prepare (I really didn’t have time to do it before now, honestly). And I had to have a few breaks in order to catch up on my LoveFilm DVDs (I’ve got to get my money’s worth). And setting up the new Kindle on our WiFi took much longer than I anticipated.
And then I have to own up to the excessive amount of time I spent trying to beat the backgammon game on my phone (I’m sure it cheats!).
OK. I admit it. I’ve been putting it off.
Let’s say the word together: PROCRASTINATION.
It’s not just me, and it’s not just about writing blog posts. Whether it’s a student putting off their visit to the careers office until the last week of their final year or the dissatisfied worker who never gets round to changing their career, the ‘I’ll do it later’ attitude prevents many people from engaging with career development tasks.