Work and Life Success

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

In a lot of my executive coaching we discuss performance, effectiveness and success. Some executives perceive they are wildly successful using only a narrow way of defining their life–with work being the most important factor despite having poor health, broken family relationships and a sense of not really knowing if they are making a real contribution to anything meaningful.

Merriam-Webster defiines “success” as one that succeeds, the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence or outcome/result.

How successful are you? How do you define success in your own life?

Personal Success Scorecard

In working with so many senior executives that might be described as “successful” in their chosen careers, it became pretty obvious that they were a success but in a very narrow way. It would appear to be much more valuable to have a “scorecard” that could describe domains outside of work and career as a way to define, measure and strive for personal definitions of success. I conceptualize “success” as having at least four overlapping pillars or domains that include:

1. Achievement: What have I done that I am most proud of?

2. Relationships: What Impact have I had with those who mean the most to me? What are my core values and reasons for living?

3. Well-Being: What brings me the most pleasure and contentment?

4. Legacy: What are my core values and reasons for living?

Each of these have specific definitions and metrics that help us to define just how “successful” we might be from our own perspective and as experienced or seen by others.

In fact, we can create a set of objectives and “metrics” for each of these domains that give you an idea of how to maximize your overall success both personally and in the eyes of others you interact with.

I’ve discovered that introducing this personal success scorcard early in my executive coaching intervention provides an interesting model for my clients to think about even if our primary contract is around cultivating their “leadership effectiveness” directly leading to enhanced individual, team and organizational effectiveness. This scorecard also allows me to openly discuss “balance” and what it means to be at least actively cognizant and aware of how we are spending our time and energy.

If a client is completely unbalanced (e.g., a Type A workaholic or what is now being labeled “engaged workaholics” with total focus essentially on the career domain) but isn’t dissatisfied, are they unsuccessful? Perhaps the answer lies in what is valued by the client but I’ve yet to see senior level executives that can sustain a high degree of effectiveness and performance in their chosen occupational field without some time and attention in the other three success domains.

And just how happy should we be? Does it really matter? In fact, recent research suggests that if career success is an important goal, that being moderate or moderately high in self-reported happiness appears to be the most desirable level. However, if we are looking at relationships, being as happy as possible is indeed the goal. Even with a large genetic “set point” we now know that approximately 10% of our happiness level is situationally determined (e.g., we get a speeding ticket or we receive wonderful unexpected feedback from someone we value) and 40% is based on the behaviors, thoughts and feelings we can actively control each day.

Perhaps it isn’t possible to be totally balanced in each of these success scorecard domains but it’s something we should at least be actively reflective and conscious about them each day. At least with the few executives I’ve worked with that have made the most progress in their careers, they have also attempted to focus some time and attention to one of the other domains outside of achievement. I don’t have any research data to support this hypothesis but it seems that attention to the three domains other than work/career might actually have an unintended side effect of facilitating success in that one as well.

Maybe the lesson for leaders can be summed up by Sloan Wilson who said, “Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.”…Be well…..

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When Are You Happiest?

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

We all know that negative moods are associated with poor physical health and psychological well-being (Nowack, K. (2008). Coaching for Stress: StressScan. Editor: Jonathan Passmore, Psychometrics in Coaching, Association for Coaching, UK, pp. 254-274). Happy individuals tend to have more responsive immune systems, less hormonal reactions to stress and are more likely to utilize health lifestyle practices that can make a difference in long term health and well-being (Nowack, K. M. (1989). Coping style, cognitive hardiness, & health status. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12, 145-158).

The Link Between Positive Emotions and Health

In a study of 2,873 healthy British adults conducted by Dr. Andrew Steptoe, those who reported more positive emotions during the day had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol that is typically associated with increased blood pressure, immune suppression and obesity (Steptoe, A. et al. (2007). Neuroendocrine and inflammatory factors associated with positive affect in healthy men and women: The Whitehall study II. American Journal of Epidemiology, 167, 96-102).

Among women, but not men in this study, positive emotions were significantly lower as well as important cardiovascular inflammation markers including C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.

Gathering key new information and using modern research methods to study 1,500 Californians across eight decades, health scientists Dr. Howard S. Friedman and Dr. Leslie R. Martin from UC Riverside found that those with the most optimism and cheerfulness die younger than their less positive counterparts. It was the conscientious people—careful, sometimes even neurotic, but not catastrophizing—who lived longer.

Part of the explanation lies in studying the health behaviors of the study subject — the cheerful, happy-go-lucky kids tended to take more risks with their health across the years (Friedman, H. & Martin, L. (2011). The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study. Hudson Street Press). It turns out that overly-optimistic people tend to put themselves in harm’s way — they just don’t see risks as clearly as people who are prone to some level of caution/pessimism. So, it seems that it is important to be happy but maybe not too happy if you want to live longer.

These findings support the idea that happiness is protective.

When Are You Most Happiest?

A pair of researchers from Cornell University are the latest to mine social networks looking for trends. Scott Golder and Michael Macy analyzed 509 million Twitter messages posted over a period of two years by 2.4 million users across 84 different countries. From this data, they have gleaned that people have the same daily cycle of moods, regardless of their culture or language.

The results showed people tend to be happier in the morning and during weekends. The Twitter messages revealed that they wake up happy and slowly grow more dissatisfied as the day goes on. This behavior happens on both weekdays and weekends (the weekend tweets usually start approximately two hours later most likely because people are sleeping in.

Even in countries where the weekend is not Saturday and Sunday (e.g., United Arab Emirates), these patterns were still clear.

Out of that work came a website, www.timeu.se, that allows people to see how often a particular word is used at different times of the day and week.

This research suggests that happiness is an ultradian rhythm (shorter than 24 hours) much like body temperature, concentration, eye blinks) which is maximized in the morning hours….No word yet if you miss out all together if you are a “night owl”….Be well….

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Can Hardiness and Resilience Be Enhanced?

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

 Perceptions of stress at work are quite high with several recent studies by Envisia Learning Inc. suggesting that 40% to 65% of all executives and employees rate their jobs as being very or extremely stressful with significant impact on work/family balance and overall health ((Nowack, K. (2000). Occupational stress management: Effective or not? In P. Schnall, K. Belkie, P. Landensbergis, & D. Baker (Eds.), Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Hanley and Belfus, Inc., Philadelphia, PA., Vol 15, No. 1, pp. 231-233)).

In a poll by Reston, Virginia based TrueCareers, more than 70% of workers do not think there is a healthy balance between work and their personal lives. More than 50% of the 1,626 respondents reported they are exploring new career opportunities because of the inability to manage both work and family stressors. Not only that, a Monster.com survey found that 79% of all job holders said they had increased their search for new jobs since the economy weakened more than a year and a half ago.

We were interested in seeing whether results from our own personal stress and health risk appraisal called StressScan would help to identify what professional working employees reported being stressed about and why some stay healthy in the face of work and life challenges and stressors. StressScan measures 14 psychosocial scales that have been shown to be associated with diverse individual (e.g., job burnout, depression, physical health) and organizational (e.g., absenteeism) outcomes ((Nowack, K. (2008). Coaching for Stress: StressScan. Psychometrics in Coaching Association for Coaching, UK, pp. 254-274)).

Stress is conceptualized as the experience of major and minor irritants, annoyances, and frustrations (hassles) of daily living over a three-month period. This brief measure of work/life stress was based upon factor analytic research of the original Hassles scale. StressScan measures the extent to which respondents experience daily hassles in six distinct factor areas including: 1) Health; 2) Work; 3) Personal Finances; 4) Family; 5) Social Obligations; and 6) Environmental and World concerns.

We analyzed differences by gender across these six StressScan scales (ANOVA) using requests for free trials for this assessment over the last few years (N=149). In general, women reported significantly higher levels of stress compared to males (mean for woman = 16.48 versus mean for men = 15.35, p < .01). No other significant differences were found across gender for quality/quantity of sleep, social support network (availability, use and satisfaction) or happiness.

We found only two stress categories were rated as significantly more challenging by women compared to their male counterparts (p < .01) using a 1 to 5 scale where 1 = Never, 3 = Sometimes and 5 = Always):

  • Family Stressors (mean for women 3.08/mean for men 2.70)
  • Financial Stressors (mean for women 3.15/mean for men 2.72)

So, why do some talent in the face of work and life stress experience job burnout, depression and physical illness and others remain physically and psychologically healthy? Our research has found three distinct coping patterns in the face of work and life stressors: 1) Hot reactors (those who get sick in the battle of stress, challenge and change); 2) Sustainers (those who get sick after the “letdown” with the battle); and 3) The Hardy (those who are resilient and experience stress and challenge free from illness and distress).

Hot Reactors: About 1 in 5 executives can be described as “hot reactors” on the basis of how they react to stress and the effects on their long term health. Hot reactors are most likely to experience physical illness, job burnout and psychological distress during stressful and challenging projects, assignments and heavy workloads. Behaviorally they are prone to demonstrating impatience, irritability, frustration with incompetence, mood swings and anger. In our research, these hot reactors are highly correlated with typical measures of Type A behavior characterized by a relentless drive for success as well as cynical mistrust of those around them.

Hot reactors seem to be biologically “wired” to react to stress with exaggerated physiological and behavioral responses. These executives are often resistant to changing their basic coping style as most truly believe their ability to work long hours, suppress fatigue and feel energized by stress is a key to his/her career success. Such executives seem to chronically be exhibiting the classic “fight or flight” response almost to the point of exhaustion and burnout. Most are high risk for long term cardiovascular disorders including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Sustainers: Talent who find themselves feeling the symptoms of a cold coming on right after a big project has been completed or getting away for a much deserved vacation are experiencing the clinical “let down effect.” Such individuals are shifting from a high state of activation to a lower state rapidly making their immune system “let down” from its normal “high stress” protective state and leading to increased vulnerability to get sick in the short term.

Sustainers are used to prolonged periods of high stress states and are able to suppress fatigue and “get up” for the battle in order to succeed. Their vulnerability comes not during the battle but after. By using relaxation strategies to manage the chronic stress response these executives can stay healthy both during stressful times and when things slow down. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress, tension and anxiety when they first appear, executives can begin to utilize a wide range of behavioral and cognitive strategies to avoid the chronic “race horse” condition that is characteristic of most “high flyers.” These “sustainers” truly do pay the price of being able to hang in during very stressful situations, challenges and times without breaking down physically or emotionally.

The Hardy: The resilient and hardy talent in our research are the ones who experience high levels of stress, work/life unbalance and critical demands but maintain a high level of physical health and psychological well-being. In our research, these individuals are less likely to report job burnout, absenteeism due to illness, anxiety, sleep problems, and depression.

Resilient talent appear to maintain and practice specific lifestyle behaviors that become part of his/her daily routine and utilize coping habits that help translate stress into positive challenges that energize, rather than, compromise the immune system and well-being ((Nowack, K. (1994). Psychosocial Predictors of Health and Absenteeism: Results of Two Prospective Studies. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, September 1994, Los Angeles, CA)). We can’t always avoid some chronic (high level of work demands or child care issues) or acute (injury, child illness) stressors but those who are hardy appear to cope and manage them in a manner that minimize negative health outcomes.

Profile of Hardy Talent

  • Experience and report less work and family stress on a daily basis
  • Maintain a high level of physical activity/exercise despite travel and work/family demands (e.g., work out at least 3 days a week for 60 minutes).
  • Maintain heart healthy eating/nutrition habits (e.g., eat breakfast, avoid convenience food, and manage weight).
  • Are non-smokers and drink alcohol in moderation (e.g., no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day).
  • Consistently maintain an adequate level of sleep and practice sound sleep hygiene (e.g., avoid building a sleep debt and get adequate sleep required to avoid being inappropriate sleepy during the day).
  • Minimize hostile, impatient and aggressive behaviors towards others that are associated with eliciting the “fight or flight” response.
  • Practice some type of daily mental or physical activity that elicits the “relaxation response” (e.g., meditation or yoga) reversing stress activation.
  • Cultivate and utilize a strong social and professional support network by spending time with those who are satisfying to be around and avoiding those who are “energy zappers” in our life.
  • Possess a hardy outlook on life including viewing change as a challenge, identifying and spending time on his/her passions and develop an external set of attributions for failures ((Greene, R. and Nowack, K. (1996). Stress, hardiness and absenteeism: Results of a 3-year longitudinal study. Work and Stress, 9, 448-462)).
  • Identify and emotionally express strong feelings in writing or verbally to others on a daily basis.
  • Stop obsessive thoughts that create tension and explore action plans to resolve the stressor.
  • Minimize the use of defeating and perfectionist “self-talk” (e.g., constantly using the words “must” or “always”).
  • Actively ruminate and express gratitude for his/her life situation
  • Identify and act on his/her signature strengths to maximize career and life satisfaction.

Being resilient isn’t something that we are necessarily born with although there appears to certainly be a genetic predisposition to possessing biological wiring favoring the release of neuropeptide Y and other hormones that may damper the stress response. We have also seen in our own research and others the capacity to develop hardiness or resilience:

Hardy talent appear to develop an ongoing commitment to maintain a lifestyle that enables them to balance the demands at work and home while remaining energized, productive and healthy.

If you are interested in seeing how resilient you are and would like a free trial of StressScan (www.getlifehub.com/stress_scan) just email me at ken@envisiaonline.com and I will be happy to set you up! Be well….

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Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

There are at least three distinct approaches to measuring EI and emotional and social competence representing different models.

The first, delineated by Reuven Bar-On, was influenced by his interest in the aspects of performance not linked to intelligence; the second, often tied to Daniel Goleman’s interpretation, approached EI through competencies; and the third, represented by Mayer and Salovey and colleagues, was influenced by their interest in the relationship between cognition and emotion.

These three approaches have led to diverse and non-overlapping measures of EI characterized as: 1) Personality oriented (e.g, Bar-On Emotion Quotient Inventory); 2) Competency or “Mixed” model oriented (e.g., Emotional Intelligence View 360); and 3) Ability or skill oriented (e.g., Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test; MSCEIT).

Issues with Ability Based Measures of Emotional Intelligence

  • Independece from personality measures (e.g., five factor models)
  • Weak convergent validity with other cognitive ability measures (i.e., they don’t highly correlate with IQ)
  • Scoring issues (i.e., lack of agreement and some controversy on how these assessments are scored)
  • Confounded with a measure of knowledge (i.e., they seem to be measuring what someone “knows” as well as emotional intelligence)

Problems wiht Self-Report (Mixed) Measures of Emotional Intelligence

  • High correlations with five factor personality measures (i.e., the overlap is so high it suggests that some measures of EI are really nothing more than another personality inventory)
  • Limitations of 360-feedback (e.g., inflated self-ratings, moderate correlations between and within rater groups)
  • Limitations of self-report (how do you measure EI in people who lack emotional intelligence?)
  • Tend to ignore context, situation and setting (EI is not a useful predictor of performance in jobs that don’t have high emotional labor or are socially demanding)

Our own “mixed measure” of ESC called Emotional Intelligence View 360 based on the Goleman construct has some strengths and limitations as all measures. Our EIV360 appears to be statistically unique from ability based measures (very low correlations with the MSCEIT), correlated with the most popular measures of transformational leadership and predictive of both academic and work performance.

In a review by Joseph and Newman (2010), they found a negative association between measures of EI and work performance when jobs do not require strong social skills. Although the sample sizes for this analysis were rather low (N = 220 and N =223, respectively) it does suggest that EI is important for positions like sales, customer service and leadership and less important in predicting performance and success when high levels of interpersonal interaction are required ((Joseph, D. & Newman, D. (2010). Emotional intelligence: An integrative meta-analysis and cascading model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 54-78)).

A newer 2010 meta-analysis by O’Boyle et al. included 65% more studies and twice the sample size to estimate EI and job performance outcomes ((O’Boyle, E., Humphrey, R., Pollack, Hawver, T. & Story, P. (2010). The relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 10.1002/job.714)).

Their findings extent those of Newman (2010) and suggest that trait, personality and mixed measures demonstrated corrected correlations ranging from 0.24 to 0.30 with job performance. Their research also shows that all measures show incremental validity over cognitive ability and personality measures.

Measurement of emotional intelligence (ability based) is most likely different from other approaches (personality and mixed) but all techniques tend to significantly predict job performance, health and social competence particularly in roles and positions requiring high interpersonal interaction. So, depending on your purpose (e.g., selection versus development of talent) some approaches to measuring EI might be better than others.

The one big lesson from the confusion in the measurement of emotional intelligence is that “it’s not HOW smart you are that counts, but how you are smart…Be well….

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Succesful in Your New Year’s Resolutions?

Kenenth Nowack, Ph.D.

 

Did you make a New Year’s resolution?

Nearly four out of 10 adults will make one or more resolutions for the new year, according to a study done by the University of Scranton (Norcross, J., Mrykalo, S., & Blagys, M. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 397-405).

  • After the first week of carrying out the goal, about 75 percent of people maintain their goal.
  • After week two, nearly 70 percent of people will maintain their goal.
  • After one month, about 64 percent will stick with their resolution.
  • After six months, about 46 percent of people are still on track with their goal.

Rehab is for Quitters

Old habits are indeed very tough to break and relapse seems greatest when we are under stress. Starting new behaviors is indeed more challenging than sustaining them over time. Quitting is indeed something that some of us are pretty consistent in doing well.

According to new research, quitting may actually be better for your health. Psychologist’s Gregory Miller and Carsten Wroshch have found that people who are able to feel comfortable quitting when faced with unattainable goals may actually have better mental and physical health than those who persevere and push themselves to succeed (Miller, G. & Wrosch, C. (2007). You’ve Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em: Goal Disengagement and Systemic Inflammation in Adolescence. Psychological Science, 18).

This study was based on their previous research which found that those persistent individuals experienced higher levels of an inflammatory protein called C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress) as well as increased cortisol. They also reported lower psychological well-being. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal but inflammation appears to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other stress related conditions.

Contrary to what we might have been taught, it appears that it might be in our best interests to “cut our losses” in the face of unattainable goals and life challenges and actually disengage from the goal to ensure optimum well-being and potentially long-term health. This appears to be true whether we are in unsatisfying long-term relationships, working for leaders who are toxic or targeting a goal that is beyond our skill and ability “set points.”

So, any good things for those who persist? In other research Carsten and colleagues found that in the face of life challenge and disengaging from unattainable goals, those who redefined and set new goals were more likely to be able to buffer the negative emotions associated with failure. Maybe “rebound” relationships and new entrepreneurial goals might actually serve to help us find closure to the past and re-engage us for future journeys (Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251-265).

Want Help to Facilitate Successful Behavior Change in Clients?

Our new book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Dont’ Get it is based on a new three stage individual behavior change model. These stages include:

  1. Enlighten
  2. Encourage
  3. Enable

We have developed over 80 free coaching exercises to help your clients translate awareness from coaching and feedback into deliberate practice. Over time, these new behaviors become automatic requiring less cognitive load (concentration) and rehearsal and greater effectiveness.

Have a look at our book and free exercises to see what might be useful for some of your challenging (and easy) coaching assignments….Be well…..

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Post Thanks (Giving)

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

If you want to change the world, have a lasting impact on your community, create a meaningful and psychological healthy workplace, develop a safe community, loving family or meaningful partnership–it all starts with you.

Several recent research studies have focused on the power of gratitude giving as a necessary condition for developing self esteem, enhanced social ties happiness and physical health.

Gratitude Research

Psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues have focused on a variety of psychological interventions that increase individual happiness1. In a 6-group, random-assignment, placebo-controlled Internet study, he tested 5 happiness interventions and one control exercise. They found that 3 of the interventions significantly increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms–a few for as long as 6 months.

Two of the exercises (using signature strengths in a new way and writing about three good things that went well each day) increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months. Another exercise, the “gratitude visit” was associated with significant and positive mood changes for 30 days. The other tested exercises and the placebo control created positive but only transient effects on happiness and depressive symptoms.

Another psychologist, Robert Emmons, from US Davis and his colleagues have also extensively studied the impact of gratitude2. In one study with adults with neuromuscular disorders, were asked to keep a gratitude journal every day for two weeks. They were asked to focus on several things each day that they were thankful about and to write about what things in their life they saw as positive and meaningful.

Participants in the “gratitude condition” showed significantly more optimism and life satisfaction than a control group. Interestingly, the researchers reported that spouses of study participants (i.e., people in the gratitude condition) seemed significantly happier than those in the control group. Not only did focusing on gratitude change attitudes, it also apparently changed behavior of those in the study.

Gratitude Exercises

Giving gratitude is something we can develop and make an automatic part of our day. Here are two evidenced-based gratitude exercises that have been proven by Seligman, Emmons and other researchers to enhance psychological well-being, social ties and life satisfaction.

1. Gratitude Journal: For two weeks, write down each day several things you are truly grateful for and explain why in your own person journal.

2. Gratitude Letter: Identify someone in your life you truly value that has contributed to your life success in some way. This person can be a family member, friend, teacher, or another person who has touched you in a positive and signifcant way and whom you have not probably acknowledged in a heart felt manner. Write a letter to this person describing what they have done to influence your life and why–mail it or deliver it in person.

3. Signature Strengths: Make a list of 3 things that you do well and you have a passion for. Actually schedule to do each during the next 30 days.

4. Be a Gift to Someone Else: Look for an opportunity to do something spontaneously positive to a stranger or someone you barely know (e.g., pay their toll on the freeway, purchase a coffee and something to eat for a homeless person asking for money outside your favorite coffee shop, cut a neighbor’s lawn that is difficult for them to do, drop off some groceries for someone who has a difficult time getting out of the house).  The recipient will appreciate your gesture and you will immediately feel a boost of the pleasure hormones that come with giving.

As Jack Buck says,”Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out“…..Be well….

  • Seligman, M., P, Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421
  • Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-38
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Not Everyone Wants to be a Leader

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. 

Too often in my executive coaching I run across a senior leader who will confess to me that they aren’t sure why they ever went into management. I’m always curious to ask what they would love to do instead and almost all of them share they would rather be “doing” than “leading” and a small minority tell me they just plain hate organizational politics and would rather work for themselves and start their own business.

Maybe not all of us “have the right stuff” to be leaders. It’s a lot more popular to subscribe to “leaders are made” versus “leaders are born” but perhaps research suggests that both positions are right.

For example, Avery and colleagues, based on twin studies, estimate that about 33% of the variance in holding leadership roles is due to genetic factors (Avery, R.D., Zhang, Z. Avolio, B. & Kreuger, R.F. (2007). Developmental and gentic determinants of leadership role occupancy among women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 693-706). Findings from numerous studies of personality show that genetic effects account for approximately 50% of the variance in five factor domains (Bouchard, T.J. & Loehlin, J.C. (2001). Genes, evolution and personality. Behavior Genetics, 21, 243-273). Maybe we all have some “leadership set-points” that provide a ceiling or upper limit to our leadership capabilities.

If leaders truly understood the pre-wiring of the interests, values and motives of talent and tried to use this information to lead them more effectively they would be able to unlock some of the mystery surrounding effective leadership.

The four career path preferences summarized below are theory based and measured in one of our assessments called the Career Profile Inventory. Understanding the primary interests, values and motives underlying each can help all of us better understand what our “signature passions” might be. These “paths” also provide some insight about how best to reward and recognize talent to enhance engagement and retention.

The Four Career Path Preferences and Motives Underlying Them

LEADERSHIP — This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in continually moving vertically up the organizational ladder into traditional supervisory and managerial positions with increasing spans of control, responsibility, power, and authority.

Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include power, influence, leadership, control, task accomplishment, status, managerial competence, and directing others. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include: upward mobility, promotion, special perks, titles, and organizational symbols of success (e.g., profit sharing incentive plans, company car, stock options, financial planning, expense account, club memberships, etc.).

SPECIALIST/INDEPENDENT CONTRIBUTOR — This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in remaining in one career field or profession for much of their working life. Along the way, these specialists are able to highly refine their technical knowledge, skills and abilities. These individuals are less interested in moving up as they are in becoming the expert and having autonomy to do things their way.

Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include technical and functional competence, expertise, skill mastery, service to others, independence, affiliation and security. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include: job enrichment, continuing education, membership in professional associations, recognition, motivational programs, organizational benefits, sabbaticals, tenure and job security.

GENERALIST/PROJECT MANAGEMENT — This career path preference is best characterized by those who gradually change jobs and career over time but utilize the foundation of previously acquired skills, knowledge and abilities. These generalists generally move either laterally or upwards increasing their breadth of knowledge and experience along the way. Individuals who follow this career path tend to prefer new challenges and assignments that will enable them to grow and develop professionally. This career path preference is particularly well suited for project and program management assignments within organizations.

Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include professional growth and personal development, learning, coaching, developing others, and innovation. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include cross training, job rotation, project management, tuition and educational reimbursement and coaching and mentorship assignments.

ENTREPRENEURIAL — This career path preference is best characterized by those interested in rapid job, career, and occupational changes over short periods of time. These individuals enjoy working on diverse projects, tasks, assignments, and business ventures with measurable and visible outcomes. They are most motivated by autonomy, risk taking, challenge, achievement and being their own boss. In a new study of 3,412 twins from the UK and 1,300 twins from the US, researchers examined whether genetic factors were associated with the “Big Five” personality characteristics) and the tendency to become an entrepreneur (defined as self-employed, starting a new business, being an owner, or engaging in a start-up process). The researchers found that common genes influenced the correlations between only two personality factors and the tendency to become an entrepreneur ((Shane, S. et al. (2010). Genetics, the Big Five and the tendency to be self-employed. Journal of Applied Psychology, 6, 1154-1162)). These included:

  • Openness to Experience
  • Extraversion

Typical career anchors and motives of these individuals include: entrepreneurship, achievement, autonomy, variety, risk, challenge, change, freedom from organizational constraints, flexibility, creativity and diversity. Appropriate organizational rewards for these individuals might include flexible schedules, short-term projects, independent contracts, consulting assignments, start-up operations, job sharing, and bonuses.

Of course we find combinations of these drivers. For example those of you high in both “specialist” and “entrepreneurial” anchors are likely to be attracted to external consulting. Others with a combination of “managerial” and “generalist” love “fix it” assignments and short term challenges before moving on to another leadership opportunity.

One important organizational lesson is to stop teasing that specialist/independent contributor about leadership roles–they really just want to practice their craft and be left alone. Oh, and stop trying to lead them too!

Interested in knowing your own career path preference? Just email me at ken@envisaonline.com and I will set you up for a free career assessment….Be well….

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Quitting Sometimes Might be a Healthier Choice

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.


THE PREDICTIVE POWER OF “HOLDING”

In a series of studies by Angela Duckworth and colleagues, individuals demonstrating “grit” were more likely to be successful in both academic and job related measures of performance and success (Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthews, D., Kelly, D. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92(6), 1087-1101). The researchers defined and measures “grit” as passion and perseverance for long-term goals, grit accounted for an average of 4% of the variance in success outcome measures (e.g., educational attainment among 2 samples of adults (N=1,545 and N=690), academic GPA among Ivy League undergraduates (N=138), retention in 2 classes of United States Military Academy, West Point, cadets).

Grit, as measured by the researchers, was not correlated with IQ but was highly correlated with the fiver factor personality construct of Conscientiousness. Grit demonstrated incremental predictive validity of success measures beyond IQ as well as conscientiousness. Many large-scale studies suggest that a mere 25% of difference between individuals and job performance and a third of the difference in school grades can be attributed to IQ. Personality factors, such as resilience, achievement striving, emotional stability and extroversion are said to contribute to the other 75%. It appears that grit and intelligence are completely independent traits. Both are associated with increasing the likelihood of success, but those with high intelligence are no more likely than those with low IQ to be gritty.

THE PREDICTIVE POWER OF “FOLDING”

According to new research, quitting may be better for your health. Psychologist’s Gregory Miller and Carsten Wroshch have found that people who are able to throw feel comfortable quitting when faced with unattainable goals may have better mental and physical health than those who persevere and push themselves to succeed (Miller, G. & Wrosch, C. (2007). You’ve Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em: Goal Disengagement and Systemic Inflammation in Adolescence. Psychological Science, 18).

The findings build on their previous research, which found that those persistent individuals experienced higher levels of an inflammatory protein called C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress) as well as increased cortisol. They also reported lower psychological well being. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal but inflammation appears to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other stress related conditions (Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251-265). It appears that sticking with an unobtainable goal might actually be dangerous for your health.

Contrary to what we might have been taught, it appears that it might be in our best interests to “cut our losses” in the face of unattainable goals and life challenges and actually disengage from the goal to ensure optimum well-being and potentially long-term health. This appears to be true whether we are in unsatisfying long-term relationships, working for leaders who are toxic or targeting a goal that is beyond our skill and ability “set points.”

So, any good things those who persist? In other research Carsten and colleagues found that in the face of life challenge and disengaging from unattainable goals, those who redefined and set new goals were more likely to be able to buffer the negative emotions associated with failure. Maybe “rebound” relationships and new entrepreneurial goals might actually serve to help us find closure to the past and re-engage us for future journeys.

Research by Laura King and colleagues at the University of Missouri, Columbia has recently explored how we deal with lost opportunities and mistaken expectations play a role in health, happiness and personality development (Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthews, D., Kelly, D. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92(6), 1087-1101). In their research, King found that to be truly happy individuals must “divest themselves of previously sought after goals” that are no longer achievable.

Their study suggests that the happiest individuals acknowledge loss, do not spend much time ruminating on the past and can more easily disengage from failure and “what might have been” in the past. Overall, they are more likely to be focused on and committed to current goals, passions and life activities.

If you are going to regret, it seems healthier to do it about things you have tried to do, rather than, the things we are too afraid to try……Be well….

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Work Hours, Vacations and Health

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

Vacations and Health

How likely, on average, do you take the full vacation time allotted to you by your organization in a year?

Never

Seldom

Sometimes

Often

Always

If you answered never, seldom or sometimes you might want to reconsider. Researcher Karen Matthews from the University of Pittsburgh studied 12,338 men for nine years as part of a large coronary heart disease study called MRFIT (Gump, B. & Matthews, K. (2000). Are vacations good for your health? The 9-year mortality experience after the multiple risk factor intervention trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, 608-612). She found that taking annual vacations by middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease was associated with a significant reduction in all-cause mortality and more specifically death due to heart disease. Her study provides some interesting research in support of the argument that vacations might actually be good for your health, particularly if you work long hours, have a heavy workload and tend to “burn the midnight oil.”

Work Hours and Health

How many hours, on average, a week to you work?

  1. Less than 7
  2. 7 to 8
  3. 9 to 11
  4. More than 11

If you regularly work very long hours, you may want to reconsider. A study by Mika Kiivimaki and colleagues at University College London suggests that people who put in 11 hours or more of work on a daily basis may increase their risk for coronary heart disease (Kivimaki, M. et al. (2011). Using Additional Information on Working Hours to Predict Coronary Heart Disease: A Cohort Study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 154, 457-463).

Traditional calculations of the likelihood of heart disease are based on genetic and lifestyle factors including age, sex, exercise, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking. However, factors like daily work hours are not usually considered.

University College London researchers assessed data on more than 7,000 civil service workers first studied in 1991-1992 (Whitehall II study) who showed no signs of any heart disease. The same group was studied every 5 years until 2004. Researchers found that adding information about work habits actually improved predictions of heart disease. Those who reported working 11 hours a day or more had a 1.67-fold increased risk compared to those who said they work only 7 or 8 hours per week.

Coffee/Tea Consumption and Health

If you are going to work long hours, then at least drink a lot of coffee and tea. Researchers found that moderate consumption of either drink can reduce your chance of death from a heart attack by at least a fifth (but not stroke or any other diseases) in a recent study of of 37,514 people followed for 13 years (Gans, J. et al. (2010). Tea and Coffee Consumption and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.109.201939).

They found that tea had the biggest impact on heart disease but that all but heavy consumption of coffee was also beneficial:

  • Those who drank between 3-6 cups of tea were 45 percent less likely to have CHD problems
  • Those had drank more than 6 cups had a 36 percent lower risk

Given that moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages (no more than 2 drinks daily for males and 1 drink a day for females) is also associated with cardiovascular protection there is no word on what happens long term if you work long hours, drink a lot of coffee and spike a few cups of it with your favorite distilled spirit…..Be well…

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The Power of Gratitude

 Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

If you want to change the world, have a lasting impact on your community, create a meaningful and psychological healthy workplace, develop a safe community, loving family or meaningful partnership—it all starts with you.

Several recent research studies have focused on the power of gratitude giving as a necessary condition for developing self esteem, enhancing social ties, facilitating psychological health and physical well-being.

The Evidence for the Gratitude Affect

Psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues have focused on a variety of psychological interventions that increase individual happiness (Seligman, M., P, Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421). In a 6-group, random-assignment, placebo-controlled Internet study, he tested 5 happiness interventions and one control exercise. They found that 3 of the interventions significantly increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms–for as long as 6 months.

Two of the exercises (using signature strengths in a new way and writing about three good things that went well each day) significantly increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for six months. Another exercise, the “gratitude visit” was associated with significant and positive mood changes for 30 days. The other tested exercises and the placebo control created positive but only transient effects on happiness and depressive symptoms.

Another psychologist, Robert Emmons and his colleagues have also extensively studied the impact of gratitude (Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-38). In one study adults with neuromuscular disorders were asked to keep a gratitude journal every day for two weeks. They were asked to focus on several things each day that they were thankful about and to write about what things in their life they saw as positive and meaningful.

Participants in the “gratitude condition” showed significantly more optimism and life satisfaction than a control group. Interestingly, the researchers reported that spouses of study participants (i.e., people in the gratitude condition) seemed significantly happier than those in the control group. Not only did focusing on gratitude change attitudes, it also apparently changed behavior of those in the study.

Gratitude Exercises

Giving gratitude is something we can develop and make an automatic part of our day. Here are several evidenced-based gratitude exercises that have been proven by Seligman, Emmons and other researchers to enhance psychological well-being, social ties and life satisfaction.

1. Gratitude Journal: For two weeks, write down each day several things you are truly grateful for and explain why in your own person journal.

2. Gratitude Gift: Identify someone in your life you truly value that has contributed to your life success in some way. This person can be a family member, friend, teacher, or another person who has touched you in a positive and signifcant way and whom you have not probably acknowledged in a heart felt manner. Write a letter to this person describing what they have done to influence your life and why–mail it or deliver it in person.

3. Gratitude Reflection: Each night, reflect on one thing that made your day special and then physically smile to elicit the physiology of relaxation (moods follow your body).

4. Gratitude Acknowledgement: Call or email someone you love, work with or know in the community and sincerely share a thank you with them about their behavior, service or recent work.

Perhaps we can all make a step towards making our lives and those around us a bit better by first giving gratitude for what we have….as Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves“…..Be well….

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