Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

The Psychology of Hobbits

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

The tale of Bilbo Baggins, central character of The Hobbit, is the tale of how a conservative, comfortable, respectable and timid suburban dweller sets out on adventure and finds himself braver and wiser as a result.

The Hobbit is a morality tale of self-discovery and self-knowledge. Despite his comfort, satisfaction, creature comforts and smugness, Bilbo Baggins in his middle age, finds himself uncharacteristically rising to the romance, lure and challenge of the unknown, and begins his journey of self-discovery doing what few hobbits before him have ever done: having an adventure.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit, now recently brought to the screen by New Zealand’s Peter Jackson, was written in the 1930’s in the context of an English audience, who would have easily seen themselves gently parodied in the suburban mildness of the timid hobbits (just as New Zealanders are probably now doing with the release of the movie), and is often interpreted as Tolkien’s warning against the menacing gathering “darkness” of World War II.

Whether the looming war influenced Tolkien’s thinking and writing, or not, The Hobbit taps into quite deep human psychological themes and archetypes. The hobbits, with their meek and comfort-loving spirit, represent the ordinary, suburban dwellers in most of us, who, by choosing safety and comfort above all else, sacrifice adventure, challenge and wisdom. The Trolls represent thick-headed stupidity, the Goblins evil and depravity, the Dwarves stoic solidity and doggedness, and the Elves the higher, lighter, more shining spiritual and philosophical side of ourselves.

By tapping into these deep psychological archetypes that appear in his writing as well as in the mythology and legends of most human cultures, Tolkien was able to weave a spell of simply and engagingly told adventure, while at the same time teaching us much about ourselves.

And Bilbo Baggins is the Everyman character in this particular morality tale. He is the character most of us can empathise and associate ourselves with, and we will do well to do so.

Bilbo left his comfortable life for an adventure full of risk, danger, but much reward, and the adventure changed him permanently. Along the way, he found himself. Bilbo lost his innocence, naivety and softness, but he gained wisdom, confidence and bravery. Bilbo learnt to face his fears. He learnt that for higher wisdom, self-knowledge and bravery, there was a price to pay, but that the price was well worth it. Bilbo Baggins became a hero, and his adventure became legend in Middle Earth.

With the recent release of The Hobbit in time for the 2013 New Year, and with our own modern psyche so closely tied up with the sweeping challenges of financial uncertainty across the world in recent years, it’s a perfect time to take stock of ourselves and the lessons The Hobbit has to teach us. We can look beyond the confines of Middle Earth.

In business and in life do we want to be hobbits – comfortable and safe, but scared and timid, closed in, small-minded and vulnerable, frightened of development, change and adventure? Or do we want to be open minded, open hearted, spirited and up for challenge in the wider world?

We can all learn from Bilbo Baggins.

We can hide in our safe suburban and small worlds where we are protected behind our round hobbit doors, or we can go out into the wider world and find adventure and new horizons and the courage to face up to challenges. We have choice, and if we choose adventure, we choose knowledge, wisdom and great reward, as Bilbo did.

View Trailer: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Psych Tests & What They’re For

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

The main reason we write this blog is to help bridge the gap between the general world of work, and the more technical subject of psychometric assessment for the workplace. While our psychology practice specialises in providing psychometric testing, our underlying commitment is to helping everyone achieve career and life satisfaction through good job fit.

For individuals, if you do what you like to do and what you are good at, then you can live a happier and more fulfilled life. For organisations and employers, if you find the right staff, you can maximize efficiency, engagement, culture fit and teamwork.

Psychometric assessment used well is a very useful tool to help achieve this.

Everyone understands the general concepts of work and what it’s for: we go to work to earn income, to provide product and services to the general community and we keep the economy turning over. But psychometrics, on the other hand, can seem more mysterious. Despite a growing use of psychometric assessment in the workplace, to the extent that these days most people will have been psych tested for an employment role at some time in their career, how psych testing works is not so generally well understood.

Essentially, there are two kinds of psych tests for the workplace: Ability (or Aptitude) and Personality assessments. In simple terms, Ability assessments tell us if a person can do a given job, and Personality assessments tell us how a person will do the job.

Even though there seem to be hundreds of psych tests for the workplace available (and of various usefulness and validity), which all make different claims for our attention, in the end, the important thing to know is that they assess personality and ability. And that makes things more straightforward to understand.

The other thing to understand is that psychometric assessments are simply a statistical analysis of data that is provided by the person who attempts the assessment. They are not magic, they can’t read minds, and they are not designed to trick you (although they do have measures built in to tell if someone is cheating). By asking a respondent to answer a number of questions, the answers can then be put together statistically to give a result. This result then provides a picture for the candidate and the employer.

Psychometric assessment should never be used in isolation, but always as part of a recruitment or selection process, or for staff development down the track. Psychometric assessment provides an objective measure that fits into and integrates with a wider Human Resources process that includes interviews, resume and reference checks.

Some psych tests are better and more credible than others, just as some psychometric providers are more expert, knowledgeable and helpful than others, but what all psych tests have in common is that they statistically use answers to questions given by a respondent to provide an overview or picture.

In the end, psychometric assessment is used in the workplace because it provides an objective and cost-effective way (since it can save a lot of time and effort) to help employers make decisions about their staff. And for individuals, it can help us understand more about ourselves, and the way we work.

Work is essential to adult life, and the more fulfilling it is, the more balanced and satisfying our lives can be. In Human Resources and the world of work, psychometric assessments can have an important role in achieving good job fit and ultimately that means work-life balance.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl and his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

The Currency of Relationships

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Our Managing Director and Chief Psychologist, Stephen Kohl, believes that since the Global Financial Crisis, people have been demanding more genuine engagement and service in business.

In the boom climate prior to late 2009, companies and organisations were prepared to spend much more on out-sourced services like recruitment, training, conferences and “extras”. Following the GFC, things have been leaner and meaner, as organisations have learnt to cut costs by bringing many things we had previously paid others to provide, in-house. And even though the Australian economy has improved, we seem to have got used to this, just like Australian householders have got used to building savings.

At the same time this has been going on, there has been a burgeoning of social media and internet networking, to the extent that these have been increasingly integrated into most companies’ marketing and business strategies.

The result is that people expect much more from their business relationships. We expect real relationships. The GFC forced us to conserve and maximize our spending, and we’ve grown used to only paying for excellent quality, service and value. Post GFC we expect more. And through social media and other traditional advertising and networking, there is no shortage of individual consultants and companies vying for our attention and business connection.

So how do we differentiate? What can we do to stand out from the crowd, and forge real relationships with our clients, potential clients, connections and associates?

The answer is clear: be genuine and provide real and friendly, authentic service. Make genuine human connection.

In his article, It’s More Important to be Kind than Clever in Harvard Business Review this week, Fast Company magazine co-founder Bill Taylor, writes that small acts of genuine human kindness and engagement are the most powerful form of connection, and can be accidentally the most powerful marketing tool we have. Why? Because we are all people, and we all respond to genuine interaction. It makes us feel good, feel trust and it stands out in a world that can seem to be dominated by cynical self-serving and arrogance. All of us want to do business with people we can trust.

To illustrate his point, Taylor recounts the story of an American food franchise, which received huge publicity as a result of a simple and genuine act of kindness by the management and staff of one of their outlets. Though they only produced their clam chowder on Fridays, when a dying grandmother craved the soup on a different day, they made it just for her. This small act of kindness was repaid by thousands of “likes” on Facebook, where the grandmother’s daughter and grandson posted their gratitude.

It’s word-of-mouth advertising on a grand scale, and anyone in business knows that word-of-mouth recommendation is our most powerful tool. But to be powerful, it has to be genuine.  You really have to mean it. To be good at what you do is to want to share your knowledge and service with other people, and everyone responds to honest enthusiasm and care. In her most recent post, Penelope Trunk says, Networking means making real friends.

Acts of kindness make us feel better about ourselves and the world, and this is enough reward. But if we are in business for the long-term, relationships are far more important than quick deals. Good service and kindness should be the basis of everything we provide, because the real currency of business is people.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl and his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Why it Helps to Be Human

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Here’s the good news:

Every organisation or individual can achieve a high rating on Google and the other search engines.

Here’s the other news:

You’ve got to be a good writer and like people, language and communication. You’ve got to work intelligently and consistently.

If the second point sounds like bad news to you, here’s why it is this way:

Whether on the Internet, in magazines and newspapers, in advertising, in literature, and for TV and movies, writing is about communication. Communication is about human beings sharing information with each other in order to understand and share experience. And you can’t understand if you don’t get what’s being communicated.

Though, like Coca-Cola’s and KFC’s secret recipes, Google’s algorithms are a bit mysterious, the secret to writing for the Internet is essentially no secret at all. Just write to communicate.

You would think that this would be advice that everyone would intuitively understand, but we all know that many businesses struggle with the simple concept. Very many organisational and business sites look impressive and slick, yet their copy and information feels cynical, wooden, trite, empty or ingenuine. That means that their audience will read a sentence, or a paragraph if they’re lucky, and leave the site.

Recently, an article in Harvard Business Review, by Kyle Wiens, explains why an understanding of language and good grammar is important for writing computer programming. Wiens says, “…programming should be easily understood by real human beings – not just computers”. Clearly, if an understanding of language matters for computer programming, it matters even more for writing for the Internet.

Human beings require that writing is engaging, authentic, sounds and feels honest, flows well and rings true. While there are different styles of writing and different contexts that call for different approaches, formats and tone, essentially, we read because we want to find out things. If we have to work too hard, we’ll stop and find something else. Good writing starts with engagement, whether its advertising copy, high literature, academic or scientific writing, or your Sunday magazine.

Search engines pick up key words and phrases, but they also pick up organic style. This means that if you work too hard to fit in key words or phrases, at the expense of real communication, you’ll lose both your human and your computer audience. Language and writing is about being and sounding genuine and authentic. Just as we can spot a con-man in real life, we’ll instantly stop reading copy that sounds contrived, cynical and self-serving.

Dale Carnegie taught us years ago in his famous self-help bible How to Win Friends and Influence People that to be effective communicators, we have to think about our audience and stop thinking about ourselves. So just because computer-based writing is a relatively new medium, we have no excuse.

This means don’t lecture, don’t be gratuitous or cynical and don’t think you can bully or brow beat your audience or clients into trying or buying your product or services. They are people like you are. You need to have something to say that’s worth saying, and that they want to hear. (Here’s an example of a recruitment website with simple artwork but effective, honest, straightforward writing). And don’t think it’s just luck or magic: there is a reason why some organisations or people have a high Google profile and some don’t, and it doesn’t just come down to how much money they spend.

There is not as much mystery to Search Engine Optimisation as you might think. Mostly, just learn to be a good writer. And how do you do that? Empathise with your audience, tell them what they want to know, have something worth saying and learn to be genuinely yourself.

Good writing is good writing – in any medium.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related posts:

Engagement & Empathy

Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates LinkedIn: Online Citizenship

Grass Roots Sales Tip: Body Shapers & David Jones

A Room With a View

* With thanks to Paul for inspiring this post

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

What Does Sport Teach Us?: London 2012

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Every 4 years, the Olympic Games bring sport into sharp focus across the world, and in most ways the Games are the highest expression of human sporting prowess and endeavour that we have.

Why do we participate in and honour sport so much, and what does it teach us about the rest of life and work?

The Olympic Games are a celebration of being human. They symbolise and encapsulate competition and co-operation, tenacity, skill, mental toughness, physical excellence and sportsmanship. They are a celebration of who we think we are, what we prize most highly, and how we can strive for more.

For thousands of years, sport has been a crucial part of most good education systems, for good reason. Whether sport is played as an individual or as a team, it has important lessons to teach us which carry over into the rest of life, and which apply to business, politics, teamwork and leadership.

Sport teaches us tenacity, focus, perseverance, patience, strength, concentration, timing, courage, adaptability and skill. Sport teaches both mental and physical agility. Sport teaches us to time our run and to tolerate and overcome physical pain and limitations. Sport is about thinking and strategising, and its about mental toughness and resilience. Ultimately, sport is more about the mental challenge than the physical one.

Sport teaches us sportsmanship, which is essentially how to handle ourselves with grace, dignity and humility in victory and defeat. And whether we are participants or spectators, to be good sports there can be no complaint, tantrums, weakness or bad grace, and the only tears we are allowed to shed are tears of joy.

Since ancient times, when children in Ancient Sparta, for instance, were taught to hone their physical skills and compete in sports because the experience prepared them mentally and physically for tough adult life, sport has played an extremely important role in both preparing young people for adult life and for symbolising the human traits we hold most dear. Sport also provides safe battles between teams and nations, and in many ways negates and compensates for potential war and conflict.

Every four years the world comes together in a glorious display of competition and celebration. Though nations compete for glory and success of their individual champions and collective teams, the Olympic Games nevertheless represent human co-operation more than they represent competition, because we are universally united in our deep-seated  and common respect for the underlying principles that sport represents.

Sport embodies and develops physical and moral courage and the Olympic Games allow us to celebrate our species with joy and pride, and to paradoxically come together in our shared delight in competition.

As the Games of the XXX Olympiad, London 2012, draw to a close, we do well to learn the lessons that sport teaches us, and that the Games symbolise:

In work and the rest of life, sport reminds us to do better, last longer, be stronger and aim higher. And strive, individually and in teams.

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related Posts:

Slam Dunk

Leadership & Good Manners

Social Trends: The New Conservatism?

Staying Afloat: Boats & Analogies

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

 

Engagement & Empathy

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Human beings belong to a gregarious species. We live in groups, we organise ourselves in communities, we develop language, rules and technology to communicate and co-operate with each other, and usually, we work in teams.

In short, we engage with each other and with our environment. Our engagement keeps us safe and happy. By co-operating together, in every form of work and endeavour, we support each other, harness the power of multiple skills, talents and intellectual points of view, and we create outcomes that would be impossible if we lived and worked alone.

Of recent years there has been a lot of interest in the subject of engagement at work. It is recognised that people are happier, more fulfilled and are likely to be more productive if they are engaged with their jobs. In many ways, this is fairly obvious, since you only have to look to your own experience of life to know that you have a better time and feel better about yourself and other people if you feel connected – connected with an activity, connected with other people, connected with your surroundings or connected with an idea.

Underlying this ability to connect or engage is what is probably our species’ highest, most prized skill: the ability to empathise. Empathy helps us connect with the world and people outside our own skins. It makes us understand. It allows us to see and feel beyond ourselves. And by doing this, we keep the group, and the individuals within it, safer and more effective.

Empathy drives our fascination with each other and this underlies almost every form of human expression and drives culture (from reality TV to fine art and literature), commerce and research & education. In every culture and across time, religion, age, gender, and geography, humans are fascinated with each other because we are fascinated with ourselves. Other people are like a mirror. To study other human beings is to understand ourselves better, and to understand better is to increase the likelihood of our success.

Really successful human beings have a high level of empathy, which imbues them with many advantages. Empathy allows us to read signals, understand situations, foresee problems quickly and connect subtle clues. Empathy allows us to see beneath the surface and operate with a sophisticated level of interaction.

People with low empathy struggle greatly. They can’t read social or facial cues, or discern more sophisticated relationships or patterns. They have a hard time “joining the dots”, understanding what other people understand, reading non-verbal language, and picking up on higher order social rules or patterns like metaphor and tone.  How things connect is often a mystery to them. People with low empathy have many difficulties with other people and their environment because they can’t read the signals and warning signs. Sometimes people like this are stigmatised with popular culture labels like “nerd” and lack of empathy characterizes autism spectrum conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome. Without the ability to exercise empathy, human beings have a hard time in life.

Engagement is not just a Human Resources term. All managers and employers should be developing an engaged workforce and an engaging work environment. But it goes much further and deeper than that. There is not a divide between work and the rest of life, and we are ourselves whether at home or in the workplace. Being engaged is what enlivens us, and underlying engagement, is our ability to empathise.

In the world of work, as in the rest of life, higher level empathy allows you to see effectively and well, and to achieve better and more sophisticated and seamless results. Understanding other people helps you understand yourself, and makes your path in life more smooth, and gives you respect and influence because you understand how other people tick.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment

Related posts:

Psychopaths at Work

Building Real Relationships

Who Are You? “Know Thyself”

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

Murder in the Village: Teamwork & Community

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

The Secret Ingredient of Creativity for Profit & Productivity

Friday, July 13th, 2012

I’ve noticed, as I go around talking to organisations about diagnosing, understanding and harnessing their creativity to improve their business practices, that there is one crucial ingredient of creativity that most people don’t know about. This makes me think that idea Incubation might be the secret ingredient of innovation and problem solving.

Some people, like Steve Jobs, know the secret automatically, but you can learn to use it too.

What is Incubation, and how does it work?

Incubation is what we do when we stop thinking intensely and deliberately about something, and allow our brains and thoughts to flow. Incubation is the process of allowing yourself to think about things at an unconscious level, and using it results in “Eureka”, or “light-bulb” moments and break-through ideas.  All “creatives” know how it works, and they use it deliberately to help them solve problems, create innovations and exploit opportunities.

Incubation should be factored in to any problem solving process, whether it’s developing new products, improving teamwork, knowing how to lead effectively or generally adapting effectively and well to change. Incubation is the secret ingredient for staying ahead of the game.

So how can you make it work for you?

The process of creative problem solving requires a number of elements coming together, and all human beings have an inbuilt ability to do it.  When we use Incubation, whether deliberately or not, we allow ourselves to percolate ideas from deep inside, without directly thinking about them.

This process involves a change of scenery or activity. It explains why sometimes we have breakthrough ideas or find solutions in our sleep or when we are in the shower. By changing the way your thought patterns operate, you can allow your brain to “free-range” and this change allows your brain to see patterns, put pieces together and join the dots.

While some people know how to deliberately use Incubation, everyone can learn how to do it. You can learn how to deliberately factor in Incubation time to your personal or organisational processes. Companies like Google and Pixar are famous for using various Incubation techniques, like allowing free time for employees and having free-form work places that provide various activities like talking, playing sports and walking around the grounds, and they have reaped the rewards by becoming dominating players in their fields.

But you don’t need to invest in new buildings or huge organisational change. It’s easy to learn how to increase and exercise Incubation. There are a number of exercises you can do (and which we can help you with) or you can do it yourself. On a personal level, you can go for walks, do crossword puzzles, look at the sea, play a game of squash, or doodle. Any activity that takes your mind off the problem at hand and that allows your thoughts to either roam freely or be focussed on an entirely different activity will do the trick. On an organisational level, you can introduce the deliberate use of Incubation into your decision-making processes.

The key is to understand that Incubation is crucial and necessary to the creativity process, and that with a small investment in time, and learning to understand how it works, you can maximise the production of all innovative solutions.

Working creatively and smart maximises individual and organisational out-put, productivity, ideas and innovation, problem solving, time management and ultimately financial and every other sort of profit.

Make Incubation your friend, and put it to good use.

 

To her surprise, she found the great detective, engaged in building card houses. 

“It is not, Mademoiselle, that I have become childish in my old age. No. But the building of card houses, I have always found it most stimulating to the mind.”

Hercule Poirot, Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment

Related posts:

Creativity in the Workplace

How to Spot an Original Thinker

Why IBM found Creativity = Business Success

Creativity: The Essence of Being Australian

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Social Trends: The New Conservatism?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Social change and trends relate intimately to the world of work and work life balance, and understanding social changes, mores and norms is an important tool for leaders and employers, and anyone who has an interest in understanding how human nature works. Hopefully, that’s all of us.

The increasing focus on gay marriage in Australia and across the western world brings movements in social change into close focus.

At first glance, the call for allowing gay marriage looks like a move to increased social liberality and equality. Homosexuality has increasingly, and rightly, lost its stigma in modern society and most people in Australia currently believe that the gay community, like anyone else, should have the right to marriage.

But if we look beyond the gay question, it seems that the thing that no-one is questioning anymore is the institution of marriage itself.

In the 1960’s and 70’s the institution of marriage came under serious philosophical and social attack. As a result of the general social disillusionment resulting from the Second World War, marriage became a central target in the rise of liberalism and new social tolerance with the rise of Second-wave Feminism, general social liberality, the Anti-War Movement, the Sexual Revolution largely brought about by the introduction of the Pill, the Hippie Movement, and the tearing down of the influence of the Church and general conservatism.

To social reformers, and the generation who are now referred to as Baby Boomers, there was no place in an enlightened, socially tolerant society for the institution of marriage. Marriage symbolised social conservatism, slavery and ownership of women by men, and religious, sexual and social tyranny. In a huge wave of change, a generation began to foreswear the dominance of marriage, and its role in a modern, tolerant society began to be over-turned.

There were various ways that this was enacted: women stopped changing their names and wearing wedding rings when they married, the practice of calling women by the titles of “Miss” or “Mrs” which defined them by their marital status (and thus whether they were “available” or not) when men were not labelled in this way became largely redundant, and very many people refused to be married at all.

Some of the effects of this huge social change have remained, most notably that now most couples don’t think twice about living together without being married, and most people wouldn’t think to disapprove of this. Children born to parents who are not married are no longer stigmatised and we refer to couples as “partners” now, whether they are married or not, heterosexual or gay.

But many of the effects have disappeared, and I think this indicates a New Conservatism that most of us are not aware of. There seems to be a growing trend for young women to change their names when they marry, for girls and young women to fantasise about weddings and associated paraphernalia without any apparent social guilt or embarrassment, and for wedding rings to have returned without a thought. You can even buy Bride Dolls again! These seem to be a part of a general and growing conservatism, evidenced by things like increasing hero-worship of soldiers and the new reverence for Anzac Day, and the return of blatant sexism to all sorts of advertising (is it just me, or have you noticed that TV and print ads are looking just like the 1950’s?) and other forms of social culture.

It’s an interesting turn of events.

The question of gay marriage should make us re-visit what we think the role of marriage should be in modern life. Is it a religious ritual? Is it a secular rite and right? Is it to ensure the stable upbringing of children? Is it a public statement of personal commitment? Is it a financial contract? Is it between two people regardless of gender? Or even, as was often said in the past, is it to protect women when they “lose their looks”?!

I make no judgements about marriage, and am married myself. But I can’t help noticing certain shifts in social trends and I know a ship is steered more safely if we know what lies beneath the surface. We can manage our staff, our roles, our relationships and ourselves better if we recognise and understand underlying social trends and structures.

Human beings should never be judged by their sexuality, but what does the return of the unquestioning of the institution of marriage mean in a society that clearly regards itself as liberal, sophisticated and enlightened? Are we really being more inclusive and tolerant, or are we just homogenising apparent “difference”? Have we become more enlightened, or just more conservative? And has anyone noticed?

“Curiouser and Curiouser”, said Alice.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on the heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.


 

Easter Time: Celebration & Symbolism

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Easter time is one of my favourite times of year, because in Australia around Easter the light is gentle, crisp and golden. In contrast to its underlying symbolism and meaning, Easter in the Southern Hemisphere is in autumn and in Australia there is a mellowness and relief in the air, as though the earth is resting from the intensity of summer, and gently closing itself in, in preparation for the hibernation of winter soon to come.

Easter itself is a celebration of spring and resurrection. Like Christmas, Christianity’s association with Easter came much later than its deep pre-Christian roots and symbolism.

In Christianity, the three days of Easter reflect and remember the story of the death of Jesus. Good Friday represents the day Jesus was put to death by the Romans, and so is a day of sorrow, and Easter Sunday is a day of rejoicing because in the Christian story, Jesus was resurrected two days after his death.

Tales of resurrection are not confined to Christianity. The Ancient Greeks, for instance, celebrated the story of Adonis, and carried effigies of his body through the streets in his honour, the Egyptians had the story of Osiris, and there are resurrection stories in many cultures including Scandinavian and Indigenous American and Australian cultures. The Graeco-Roman hero Heracles (Hercules) descended into Hades and returned, and was later rewarded with immortality by the gods.

Resurrection stories reflect the seasons of the earth and the cycle of life. Food crops are our main human source of sustenance, and these are closely and directly tied to the seasons. Spring is a time of replanting and renewal, and is a time of rejoicing after a long period of winter months of hardship and hibernation. The warmth and promise of spring enliven us and give us optimism and energy.

All the symbols of Easter then are symbols of fertility, resurrection and celebration. Eggs symbolise imminent rebirth, rabbits symbolise fertility, hot-cross buns which are traditionally eaten by Christians on Good Friday, represent the abundant use of dried fruits which historically got us through winter and which can be used up extravagantly with the return of spring and the coming of fresh fruit. Western and some other Christians have added decorative crosses to symbolise Christian understanding of death and resurrection. The bright colours with which we paint and now wrap eggs is a symbol of our collective joy at the return of spring and the “rebirth” of the earth following the “death” of winter.

The instinct for celebration and symbolism is central to our human psyche and keeps us alive, optimistic and looking forward. Whether we’re Christian or not, celebration and symbolism make us who we are as individuals, cultural groups and as a species.

Happy Easter!

And if you’re in the mood for irony, here’s a spoof Goo Egg ad!

 

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Play to Your Strengths

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

When I was a child growing up in the middle suburbs of Sydney, every household seemed to religiously read The Australian Women’s Weekly. It was a cultural and social mainstay: both a barometer and a bible.

One of the main things I learned from the Women’s Weekly is to play to your strengths. Over and over again, and in various ways, The Weekly published articles about how to emphasize your good points and disguise or compensate for your bad ones. (What shape is your face? How do you disguise a pear-shaped body? How do you make narrow shoulders look wider? What is your best colour?) From these articles I grew up learning how to look for my good features and compensate for the ones I didn’t like so much.

Though the lesson was generally intended to apply to your appearance, the regularity of these articles over many years became deeply entrenched in me, and I expect all the other young readers, and it soon became such second nature that it wasn’t hard to apply the principle to my whole life, not just to the way I looked.

I came to understand that the same principles are taught in sportbusiness, advertising, graphic art, leadership and coaching, and that they apply to every area of successful life management. In graphic art for instance, we are taught to quickly grab the attention of the viewer and convey the message instantly and effectively, and you need to understand the best points of something to be able to do that. In sport, we play our best players and team combination, put them in the right positions for their talents, teach them to compensate for each others flaws, and we understand to “never change a winning team”.

Yesterday, our Genesys Australia team examined our creativity & problem-solving profile. We have assessed many other teams and groups recently, and we decided it was time we “put our money where our mouth is” and looked at our selves.

Looking at our collective strengths and weaknesses, and examining how these fit with our aims, practice and style as an organization, I was reminded of the Women’s Weekly and it’s lesson to know yourself, and I was extremely gratified to have the opportunity to see how we all looked as a team and to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie.

We combined our individual results from the me2 Diagnostic, and examined our team in terms of the dimensions, which include idea generation, personality, motivation and confidence. We charted these on graphs, so that we could clearly see how we all fit together.

Our over-all score is well above average, which is reassuring in a post GFC world, where organizations need to be ready to constantly change and adapt.  As a group, we are high on fluency, idea generation and confidence in sharing ideas. We performed well on achievement and incubating ideas, and can see how we can increase these areas further. Though still in the average range, our lower score was in competiveness, which, after some discussion, we believe is consistent with our strong service-based ethic to help our clients solve their problems. It also reflects that we are both a psychology practice and a very cohesive collaborative team whose members work closely and well together. But we will keep our eye on this – perhaps we need to develop ourselves a bit more in this area and we will introduce some exercises and measures to help us.

The graphs showed a very creative team that has many healthy elements of diversity, and yes, strengths and weaknesses.

By understanding your strengths you can obviously use them to your best advantage, and you do this by minimising or reducing weaknesses and by using, fine-tuning and developing strengths. Many people waste a lot of time concentrating on weaknesses but they are only part of the picture. The key is to play to your strengths which means know your weaknesses and minimise them, but focus on and hone your strengths.

The Australian Women’s Weekly taught me that you can’t play to your strengths unless you know what they are. Yesterday, using the me2 Diagnostic, our team gained a clearer and more focused idea of how to do that. And it gave us a reassuring sense of understanding and self-confidence.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related Posts:

How to Spot an Original Thinker

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.