What is self-agency? by Eleanor Shakiba

This video is part of a positive psychology series. Find out more about positive psychology in Eleanor’s free eBook, the Positive Psychology Toolkit.

Actively create ways to achieve your desired results with self-agency. Agency is an empowering mental state. It is driven by the belief that you can make a positive difference in the world. Also known as ‘personal agency’, self-agency gives you the power to achieve your goals and overcome obstacles. Hear Eleanor Shakiba discuss how using positive psychology techniques and attending resilience training can help you build your sense of agency.

This video on self-agency is part of a playlist of positive psychology videos by master trainer, Eleanor Shakiba. If you’re looking for resilience videos or positive thinking videos, subscribe to Eleanor’s channel for regular updates. To book Eleanor to train your team, visit her official site at Think Learn Succeed. To purchase training materials on resilience, learned optimism and employee wellbeing, visit the Think Learn Succeed shop.

 

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About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

What superkids taught us about resilience by Eleanor Shakiba

We often talk about resilience as if it is a solo activity. In fact, there is compelling evidence that supportive relationships are more important than self-agency in fostering resilience. In this video on resilience at work, Eleanor Shakiba discusses what we can learn from studies of childhood resilience. Then she suggests ways to boost resilience by developing positive workplace culture. View What ‘Super Kids’ Taught Us About Resilience now.

 

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About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

Self-agency is more important than self-esteem

Have you ever been told you need to work on your self-esteem? If so, you might want to rethink that advice. It turns out that there is an even more important area to focus on: your sense of ‘personal agency’. Agency is an empowering mental state. It is driven by the belief that you can make a positive difference in the world. Also known as ‘personal agency’, self-agency gives you the power to achieve your goals and overcome obstacles. If you want your people to take initiative, solve problems and get results, fostering their self-agency will fast-track success.

In the early days of behaviourist psychology, psychologists believed that the actions of humans were primarily driven by external stimuli. The work of Professor Albert Bandura helped change this belief. Bandura argued that humans are the agents of their own development. He demonstrated that self-agency is not an inherited trait that only some people are born with. Anyone can gain more control over their actions and thoughts, thereby increasing their sense of personal agency.

Bandura’s original research suggested there are four primary ways to build greater self-agency.

Immersing yourself in mastery experiences

A mastery experience involves achieving a specific goal through applying or growing your own abilities. When you do this, you feel a deep sense of satisfaction. This links to increased belief in your own ability to get positive results from your actions.

Seeing role models succeed

When you see someone like yourself succeed in achieving a goal like yours, you’re inspired to achieve your own success. This is why exposing yourself to positive role models is an important part of developing your self-efficacy and your self-agency. Positive psychology trainers often advocate mentoring and coaching in business, because this helps employees connect with positive role models.

Receiving positive feedback

Bandura called this being exposed to ‘social persuasion’. His argument was that when others believe in your ability to succeed, you will experience stronger levels of self-belief. Base on this argument, positive psychology trainers encourage leaders to boost positivity ratios in their teams. When you let someone know that you are confident in their abilities, they become more confident in their abilities.

 

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Regulating your physiology

The fourth method for developing a greater sense of agency involves taking a closer look at the various states of physiology. Bandura explained that your physical state directly influences your emotional state. For example, when you are in a low mood, you are more likely to negatively judge your abilities. It’s not just positive psychology trainers who say this: exercise improves your mental resilience, not just your physical fitness.

According to Martin Seligman (who draws on Albert Bandura’s research on self-agency and self-efficacy) agency is underpinned by three core thinking patterns. These are of particular interest to leaders and human resource practitioners who want to foster ‘positive deviance’ in their organisations. Significantly, these thinking patterns can be taught, as experienced positive psychology trainers (especially those with an interest in resilience training) will tell you. So, what are they?

The first agency-boosting thinking pattern is self-efficacy. This is your belief in your ability to reap positive results from your actions. If your self-efficacy is high, you will feel powerful enough to act even in challenging times.

The second thinking pattern is optimism. Positive psychology trainers define this as being a generalised belief that things will turn out okay. Thinking optimistically helps you maintain goal- oriented behaviour, because it leads to a belief that your results will ultimately be positive.

Thinking pattern number three is imagination. Also known as creativity, this way of thinking enables you to visualise the future, create new ideas and find solutions to problems. When combined with optimism. It is a powerful force for positive change at individual, team and organisational levels.

Other recent research – particularly into the psychology of hopefulness – has added another two dimensions to the self-agency model. It turns out that individuals with high levels of self-agency combine ‘will power’ with ‘way power’. In other words, they don’t just wish their lives were different. They actively create ways to achieve their desired results. The truth is that everyone has the power to shape their futures. By using positive psychology techniques and attending resilience training, you can build your sense of agency. This, in turn drives, self-confidence. Contact Eleanor Shakiba to begin exploring strategies for promoting a greater sense of self-agency.

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a trainer and coach, with a passion for unleashing the power of positive deviance in talented people. She has taught more than 50,000 people how to excel professionally. An expert in the field of Positive Psychology, Eleanor is also qualified in Social Anthropology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She specialises in helping HR and L&D practitioners to unleash the power of positive psychology in business. Her major focus in developing three key areas that support positive workplace cultures: positive mindset, proactive communication and purposeful leadership. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. Download your free copy here.

What is a curiosity mindset? by Eleanor Shakiba

This video is part of a positive psychology series. Find out more about positive psychology in Eleanor’s free eBook, the Positive Psychology Toolkit.

Unlock your creative talent by strengthening your curiosity muscle. Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman say curiosity is one of five strengths which promote wisdom. They define curiosity as “taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering”. In this quick introduction to curiosity mindset, Eleanor Shakiba shares how you can foster curiosity thinking in your business.

This video on curiosity mindset is part of a playlist of positive psychology videos by master trainer, Eleanor Shakiba. If you’re looking for resilience videos or positive thinking videos, subscribe to Eleanor’s channel for regular updates. To book Eleanor to train your team, visit her official site at Think Learn Succeed. To purchase training materials on resilience, learned optimism and employee wellbeing, visit the Think Learn Succeed shop.

 

Subscribe to our mailing list and receive fortnightly tips and videos:

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

Using fear of failure to inspire confidence by Eleanor Shakiba

Enrol in Eleanor Shakiba’s online courses and coaching here. Or download her free e-book, the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners here.

For many people, pandemic change is triggering fear of failure and anxiety about the future. How can we deal with this, when the future seems so unpredictable? In this video, Eleanor Shakiba shares insights into what a fearful state is and how to respond to it resourcefully.

 

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About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

Curiosity mindset: the creative thinker’s secret talent

If you want to unlock your creative talent, it is time to strengthen your curiosity muscle. Curiosity and creativity work together like stretching and aerobic activity. They complement each other and lead to better ‘mental fitness’. This is why positive psychology trainers and researchers are so interested in the concept of the ‘curiosity mindset’. This is a way of engaging with the world that leads to improved resilience and is also linked to high performance in academic, social and work contexts.

So, what is curiosity and why should leaders and HR practitioners be interested in fostering it? According to Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman it is one of five strengths which promote wisdom. They define curiosity as “taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering”. In the workplace, the benefits of promoting curiosity are clear. You probably know this from practical experience. But what does the research tell us about curiosity and thriving at work?

It turns out that curious people suffer less stress, respond to problems more creatively and bounce back quickly after experiencing setbacks. In other words, curious people have higher levels of mental stamina and resilience. They also have high levels of engagement and connection – and this supports the development of positive workplace culture.

Overall, there is a strong link between curiosity and learning ability, because curious people naturally acquire useful information, habits and skills. Benefits of encouraging your people to be curious include:

  • Higher motivation and engagement
  • Better problem-solving
  • Increased innovation
  • Development of positive workplace culture
  • More ‘positive deviance’ across the organisation

 

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How do you tap into these benefits in your business? You can use positive psychology training tools to teach employees to flex into the curiosity zone. Building curiosity involves developing two personal characteristics. Exploration is the tendency to seek out new or challenging situations. Absorption is the ability to become fully immersed in an experience.

How can leaders and trainers encourage people to strengthen these characteristics? By micro skilling them in three key cognitive skills.

Attention direction

Put simply, this means learning to focus. Positive psychology trainers often advocate the use of mindfulness techniques. These are, essentially, techniques which help people focus and direct their attention to what is happening in the here and now. It turns out that people who are skilled in the art of exploration are also skilled in the art of attention direction. So, teach mindfulness and reframing skills.

Activation of flow states

Flow is a state of total immersion in an activity. Think back to the way you became immersed in games when you were a child: you were experiencing flow. Adults enter this state when they do things they love and when they draw on their strengths to solve a problem. Teaching your people flow theory is a great way to help foster this state – which links directly to curiosity-boosting ‘absorption’.

Tolerance of ambiguity

Many people feel uncomfortable with ambiguity. For example, leaders who seek closure dislike the ambiguity of not having immediate solutions to problems. Curious people, on the other hand, thrive on ambiguity. It triggers their interest and shifts them into a state of exploration and creativity. Teach your people this. Encourage them to attend resilience training, positive thinking workshops or creativity sessions. All of these will foster increased tolerance of ambiguity.

Overall, then, there is a lot you can do to foster curiosity thinking in your business. Focus on building focus, flow and tolerance of ambiguity. Then watch your people thrive!

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a positive psychology trainer and coach. She works with ‘positive deviants’ to build positive mindsets, proactive communication and purposeful leadership. Since 1994, Eleanor has been teaching talented people how to think, communicate and behave in ways that build success. She holds qualifications in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She’s known for her dynamic training style and passion for experiential learning techniques. Download a copy of Eleanor’s free ebook Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners.

Beating stress with flow theory

In tough times, you’re likely to experience fight or flight reactions. These are adaptive states whcich help you cope with short-term stress. However, staying in a fight or flight state for more than a few days can damage your physical and psychological wellbeing. In this video, positive psychology trainer, Eleanor Shakiba, explains how to reduce stress by entering a flow state. Watch Reducing Stress with Flow Theory now.

 

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About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

What is culture building? by Eleanor Shakiba

This video is part of a positive psychology series. Find out more about positive psychology in Eleanor’s free eBook, the Positive Psychology Toolkit.

Do you want a workplace where people are resilient, positive and creative? You can build that business by working on your organisational culture. Edgar Schein made the term ‘organisational culture’ popular. He defined culture as the “beliefs, values and interactions followed by a group”. In this video, positive psychology trainer Eleanor Shakiba provides concrete steps leaders can take to shape workplace culture and build flourishing teams. If your business doesn’t have this type of culture yet, it’s time to start learning more about positive leadership and culture change.

This video on organisational culture is part of a playlist of positive psychology videos by master trainer, Eleanor Shakiba. If you’re looking for resilience videos or positive thinking videos, subscribe to Eleanor’s channel for regular updates. To book Eleanor to train your team, visit her official site at Think Learn Succeed. To purchase training materials on resilience, learned optimism and employee wellbeing, visit the Think Learn Succeed shop.

 

Subscribe to our mailing list and receive fortnightly tips and videos:

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a specialist in positive psychology. Her passion is teaching talented people to use social and emotional intelligence to excel in business. These skills centre around building positive mindsets, proactive communication habits and purposeful leadership behaviours. Eleanor’s qualifications include degrees and diplomas in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. She is also the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. This is a free resource for trainers and facilitators.

Building culture is like trying to see a blind spot

If you’re struggling to ‘build’ or restructure your organisational culture, you’re probably grappling with a little-known paradox. You can’t shape culture from within that culture, because the culture is shaping you. As a positive psychology trainer with a background in anthropology, I see the task of redefining cultural norms is exactly the same as trying to see a blind spot.

Only people with a real blind spot (and I am one of them) know that you never can see a blind spot. So, the commonly used metaphor of exposing a blind spot in order to gain insight just doesn’t work. If you have a blind spot, although you know it is there, your perception is still always influenced by the ‘whole’ in your visual field. Thus, despite knowing you have areas of blindness, you will still inevitably collide with objects that fall into the blind spot. To prevent this happening, you therefore need to adapt the way you look at the world.

Exactly the same principle applies to ‘seeing’ problematic aspects of organisational culture. A trainer or facilitator situated within a business cannot fully understand the culture of that business, simply because they are part of it. This doesn’t mean internal efforts to build culture are doomed. However, it does mean it’s wise to broaden your perspective and get input from outside the system in order to accelerate your culture change efforts.

 

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As a positive psychology trainer with a bent for the anthropological, here are three ways I suggest you do this.

  • Pay attention to the gap between what people say and what they actually do. Culture change experts call this the gap between espoused theory and theory in use.
  • Seek input from people outside your system. This can include customers, industry experts and culture change consultants.
  • Focus your efforts on strengthening what’s working, rather than trying to eliminate what isn’t working. Being strengths focused shifts your attention to activities which will improve engagement far more than punishing people for so-called negative behavioural norms.

During the chaos of pandemic change that characterised 2020, did you notice how organisations with positive cultures thrived? This isn’t a coincidence. This is why all leaders and organisational development experts should take culture seriously. Make reflecting on and shaping culture an ongoing process, though. In this way, you will develop the reflective practices that we advocate in every session we develop in our Learn with Eleanor Shakiba online programs.

If you’re interested in using positive psychology training tools to develop thriving organisational cultures, download my free e-book, Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners.

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor consults in the area of culture-building and behaviour change training. Her customers are people who want to embed positive psychology in teams and organisations. Since 1994, she has been teaching talented professionals how to think, communicate and lead in ways that build success. Eleanor holds qualifications in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. Download your free copy here.

What is ‘organisational culture’ and how do you build it?

Imagine a business where everyone is committed, engaged and inspired to do their best. A workplace where people are resilient, positive and creative. You can build that business by working on your organisational culture. The science of positive psychology provides concrete steps leaders can take to shape workplace culture and build flourishing teams.

Anthropologists define culture as ‘a way of life’. Culture impacts how people think, speak and behave. But what about ‘organisational culture’? It is probably a term you throw around regularly. Do you actually know what it means? The idea that the culture of an organisation influences the actions of workers was introduced in 1951, by Dr Elliott Jaques. He studied the development and impact of corporate group behaviours. His conclusion was that the overall culture of an organisation guides the actions of everyone working there.

A social psychologist named Edgar Schein made the term ‘organisational culture’ popular. He defined culture as the “beliefs, values and interactions followed by a group”. He also pointed out subcultures emerge in large organisations. For example, a business division or regional group may operate differently to other parts of the organisation. This point is particularly relevant if you work in a multi-national organisation.

In 2011, Flamholtz and Randle claimed that organisational culture is equal to the ‘corporate personality’. They defined organisational cultures as being an outcome of the beliefs, values and norms people adhere to. However, it is important to recognise that most people are not consciously aware of their beliefs, values and norms. As positive psychology trainers know all too well, gaps often exist between what people say and what they do. For example, a leader might claim to value employee input. At meanings, though, everyone might be afraid to speak up because the leader does not tolerate new ideas.

 

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Over the years, positive psychology trainers have developed a variety of techniques and practices for driving a cultural change within an organisation. Before an organisation can change its culture, you need to have clearly defined values and behaviours for others to follow. People cannot fit into a culture if they don’t know that it exists. Translate the values that you want to achieve into actionable behaviours. For example, if you want to promote inclusiveness, provide real-world solutions for achieving this goal.

Leaders need to take a detailed look at current policies and practices to determine what works and what needs to change. Keep the elements of your organisational culture that work well and promote your goals.

Focus more on the strengths of your organisational culture. In positive psychology, identifying and enabling a positive trait is believed to foster greater resilience. By focusing on what works, you naturally begin shifting the culture of your organisation.

After devising a plan and setting a new agenda, it is up to the leaders to set an example. Supervisors and managers need to adopt the changes if you want the rest of the workforce to follow them. Measuring your efforts is also essential. You cannot evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies without monitoring the impact. Use concrete metrics to measure employee engagement, morale and productivity to determine whether your culture is shifting toward the positive.

You know as soon as you walk into an organisation with a vibrant culture. There is a buzz of positive conversation and energy levels are high. You notice people solving problems together and finding constructive solutions to challenging situations. If your business doesn’t have this type of culture yet, it’s time to start learning more about positive leadership and culture change. By actively setting the values and beliefs for an organisation, you can get others to follow the same vision. Contact Eleanor Shakiba for more advice on how to build a positive organisational culture, using positive psychology training techniques.

 

About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor consults in the areas of culture-building and behaviour change training. Her customers are people who want to embed positive psychology in teams and organisations. Since 1994, she has been teaching talented professionals how to think, communicate and lead in ways that build success. Eleanor holds qualifications in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners. Download your free copy here.