Posts Tagged ‘team work’

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Why IBM Found Creativity = Business Success

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

In 2010, IBM published the Global Survey of CEOs 2010 and found that,

“More than rigour, management, discipline, integrity or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity”.

IBM and the more than 1500 CEOs they interviewed from 60 different countries are not alone are in this view. Ernst & Young in their Connecting Innovation to Profit Report, 2010 said,

“The ability to manage, organise, cultivate and nurture creative thinking is directly linked to growth and achievement.”

Why is creativity so important?

Creativity underpins everything we do. It’s hard-wired into our DNA. We can’t help but be creative. Creativity is the ability to solve problems and exploit opportunities. It’s what got us out of the caves and experimenting and discovering. As a species, we have an insatiable desire to make new things, to see what we can do with what we’ve got, to invent and discover, to play with ideas and to see if we can push things to the limit.

Creativity is the raw material of innovation, or in other words, innovation is creativity put into action.

This means that to change and adapt, to invent and develop, to find solutions, to lead well, to get and stay ahead of the pack, to grow and flourish and ultimately to succeed financially, we need creativity. And it follows that the individuals and organisations who can harness their creativity the most will do the best, especially in the post GFC world of constant rapid change.

Creativity applies to everyone.

It’s a myth that only some people are creative, like artists or designers, or that creativity applies to the arts and innovation applies to science or engineering.

We believe and perpetuate these myths to our individual and organisational peril. Everyone left alone on a dessert island would display creativity because they would find that necessity is the mother of invention. They’d look for food, build shelter, cloth themselves in ways they might never have thought of before in order to survive.  They’d use their natural, innate creativity.

Why not get as smart as we can and learn to harness our creativity in business?

During the GFC, in our workplace psychology practice, we noticed that the old ways of doing business, finding staff and operating organisations were fast becoming less relevant. Organisations were “stripping fat”, and cutting back spending on things like recruitment and non-essential training, and looking for new and expedient and cost-effective ways of doing things, and expecting more value for the money they did spend. This attitude seems to have remained.

So we started researching products and theories that would help identify and develop the new imperative to think smart and to change and adapt.

Earlier this year, we discovered that from research at Manchester Business School, a new tool for the workplace had just been developed that identified underlying creativity. If you could assess creativity, and work out in what ways individuals were creative and how they applied their innate creativity, then you could use this information to understand, develop and train individuals and organisations to apply creativity more effectively. Impressively simple idea!

It was what we were looking for, and we knew it was what was so widely needed in the world of business and organisations.

So, we have just launched the new me2 Creativity Diagnostic Tool after a three-month Australian validity study in which we assessed hundreds of people from across the country from many different areas and levels of the workplace. The more we trialled it, the more accuracy we saw, and as a psychology practice, the data really impressed us. Having been used in 41 countries by over 3,500 people so far, it is showing no bias for age, ethnicity or language and the research suggests it is predicting 86% variance for creativity compared to the 3-14% that other tools like Myers-Briggs (MBTI), the Big Five and Hogan Development Survey predict.

The me2 Diagnostic Tool by E-METRIXX is based on years of solid research and development into the psychology of creativity by Dr. Mark Batey and the Psychometrics at Work Research Group from Manchester University. We like it because of the credible research, because it works so well and because it is extremely user friendly.

One of our clients described it the other day as “the sexiest new HR tool” and I think he’s right. It’s very exciting, and also quite humbling, to know that you are introducing a new way of understanding and doing things into the workplace.

Can everyone be creative? You bet!

What has creativity got to do with business? Everything! It underpins innovation, problem-solving, team work and leadership and has unlimited potential to apply to profit as well.

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.

* We were asked to conduct a study on creativity using the me2 Creativity Diagnostic for the forthcoming Creative Innovation 2011 Conference in Melbourne featuring Edward De Bono & sponsored by ANZ, the Financial Review & Business Review Weekly. The report will be published in the conference program and is available on the conference website

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.

How to Spot an Original Thinker

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Original thinkers who drive innovation, adaptability and problem solving are highly valuable and sought-after, so if organisations were able to identify and encourage original thinkers they would have a huge advantage in the marketplace.

Can you spot an original thinker? Dr Mark Batey of Manchester University’s Manchester Business School believes you can.

In a recently produced MBS video interview, Original Thinkers, Dr Mark Batey, a world-leading psychology of creativity researcher, outlines the four dimensions he believes make up an original thinker and that organisations can look out for to identify original thinking in their current or potential employees:

Ideas generation

Original thinkers are highly fluent, which means they produce lots of ideas. Even though sometimes their ideas might not be practical, and it might be hard for other people to see how these solutions might be used, the key is the volume of ideas they are able to produce.

As well as the number of ideas they produce, original thinkers tend to produce different or unusual ideas.

In their approach to thinking, original thinkers often like to incubate, or let their thoughts percolate for while. This period will often be followed by a “eureka” experience, what Dr. Batey calls “Illuminative Moments”.

Personality traits

Original thinkers are inclined to be very curious. They ask lots of questions, and want to know how things work the way they do, and why.

The other personality trait that stands out in original thinkers is that they are comfortable with a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty. Original thinkers tend not to see things in black and white, and are quite happy with contradiction, competing evidence and shades of grey.

Motivation

Original thinkers tend to be motivated intrinsically. This means that they have a strong drive that comes from within them. They will be very self-motivated.

In addition, Dr. Batey believes these people are quite competitive, and they will quite likely want to “beat” other people with their ideas.  Although they may work well in a collaborative team environment and be willing to share their ideas with colleagues, they will want the team to do better than it’s competitors.

Confidence

Original thinkers tend to be very confident about their ideas. This applies to having ideas, believing in the quality of their ideas, sharing them, and being able to confidently implement them.

 

In September 2009, Olivier Serrat wrote in a paper for the Asian Development Bank, “Creativity plays a critical role in the innovation process, and innovation that markets value is a creator and sustainer of change. In organisations, stimulants and obstacles to creativity drive or impede enterprise.”

The ability to identify original thinkers would clearly provide huge advantages to organisations faced with the fast changing pace of a developing national and world economy.

As Mark Batey says, “It’s not just being an original thinker, it’s being an original applier as well”.

Watch Video: Original Thinkers: Dr. Mark Batey

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:

The Creativity Imperative

King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace

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.

Psychopaths at Work

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

For all our recruitment tests and practices in HR, the problem of psychopaths in the workplace remains a problem that’s hard to solve.

Everyone has worked with a psychopath. I’m a lay-person, so I use the term in it’s popular sense, but I’m on their case. Sometimes they are the obvious bullies in the office, sometimes they are your boss, and sometimes they are someone not apparently in charge, but who has everyone running around after them and who manipulates and wreaks havoc on the whole group by subtle disempowerment.

I’ve known a few. The first one was my boss, and he nearly destroyed my health and my career.

Sometimes, psychopaths are so effective at getting their way and destroying everyone around them, that the only way you can detect them is by noticing the destruction around them. Like a Black Hole in the universe, which you can only detect from the glow around it as light gets sucked in, you can tell if there’s an office psychopath around because everything in the office will be going wrong somehow: team spirit will be low, team work and cooperation will have disintegrated, group optimism and company or department vision will have disappeared, everyone will be tense and guarded and resentful, and nobody will really know why. And most likely, the psychopath will be undetected, and worse, they might be the only person that everyone thinks they can trust.

It’s scary.

I’ve been reading the website of one of the more recent psychopaths in my life. Having totally destroyed the morale of the people he worked with, having repeatedly covered up monthly losses by making charismatic and extravagant promises to the people above him and blaming other people, having (in this day and age!) indulged in outrageous and blatant sexist, harassing and upsetting behaviour with his junior staff, having offended clients with his use of bad language and other inappropriate and crass behaviours, he is now the CEO of a company.

I can see how he got there. He got there through deceit, using other people and destroying lives, reputations and health.

His website looks pretty good. In fact, I recognize some of my own words and ideas there. According to his bio, at the company where he used to work, and where he was finally let go because they just couldn’t afford the losses he kept making, he now claims he made huge profits. Not only that, but the bio is misleadingly worded to give the impression he was much higher in the organization than he actually was. From the bio, you get the impression this guy was actually in charge of the whole Australasian operation. You’d think his former employer would make him change it. The website shows he’s even got some of his ex-victims working for him. How does he get away with it? Because it’s the way psychopaths work, that’s how.

Psychopaths have a way of charming people. Psychopaths tell us what they think we want to hear. Psychopaths have a sense of over-entitlement. They manipulate us and destroy our reputations behind our backs. They divide and rule.

The most powerful weapon a psychopath has though, is their total lack of shame, and this is what makes them different from everyone else. The rest of us care what other people think of us, most of us want to genuinely cooperate, and most of us would be embarrassed if we behaved outrageously in public. Not the psychopath. Because of this, they are able to lie and cheat to great effect.

In tandem with their lack of shame is their other secret weapon: they are really great actors. Though they have no remorse, they can pretend. They are very good at mimicking normal (and even empathetic) human behaviour. They don’t feel it, but they copy it. They are very convincing and can be very charming. While if you stand up to a psychopath they’ll eventually yell, scream and in extreme cases even kill you, they don’t usually need to because they’re so adept at manipulating through charming deceit.

The psych tests we apply in HR to job candidates and staff development are not clinical tools and should not be. They won’t pick up a psychopath. In any event, psychopathy, or sociopathy as it’s now called, is a Personality Disorder, not a mental illness as such, and is extremely hard to detect even in a clinical setting (they’re charming right, and they even know what a clinician wants to hear).

If you gave an Emotional Intelligence test to a psychopath, they’d probably blitz it. Some psychologists even argue that giving EI information to a psychopath is like giving them a loaded gun. It gives them more ammunition to use against the rest of us by teaching them how to be even more charming and apparently agreeable.

So what can you do about an office psychopath? Start to look for the human and organizational fall-out around them. And don’t kid yourself that you are immune to their charm and stories.

The only way to slay a psychopath is with rationality. Insist on evidence and measurable outcomes, not their promises and stories. If everything seems to be awry in your team, and you don’t know why, then you’ve most likely got a psychopath in your midst.

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.

* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. This is a lay-person’s view and the example in this post should not be construed to be a real person, and examples of behaviour cited here are illustrations of typical behaviour patterns. More posts below.

Related posts:

Murder in the Village: Team-work & Community

Leadership & Good Manners

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.

Genesis Means Create: The Creativity & Innovation Imperative

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The word “genesis” means create or come into being. Creating things is what human beings can’t help but do. We are driven to it.

Creativity is at the heart of what it means to be human. Creativity informs everything we do and as a species it’s our overwhelming imperative. We invent, produce, have ideas and think of solutions. And never stop.

Everything we do is based on our essential creativity and nothing would happen if we had no creativity.

In the modern world of business and organizations, innovation and adaptability are both highly praised and greatly desired. Especially in uncertain economic and fast changing times, the need for innovation and adaptability is becoming one of our highest priorities, because if we have access to and control of these then we can adapt quickly, stay afloat or ahead of the game and be ready for all challenges.

Creativity is the raw material of innovation. Innovation is simply creativity put into action. Creativity is necessary not only for innovation but also for critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, teamwork and almost every area of life we most highly value.

In business and the workplace, creativity is the most powerful tool an individual or organization can have and across the world there is a growing recognition that we must muster our individual and collective creativity and learn to innovate or perish. An IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs cited in the Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis in July 2010, identified creativity as the number 1 “leadership compentency” of the future.

If we want to be lean and mean, if we want to continue to find successful and elegant solutions, if we want to continue and increase technological development, if we want to make good decisions and think clearly and well, if we want to re-define and re-invent the way we use natural resources, if we want to feed the world’s expanding population, then we need to recognise and apply our creativity as expediently, intentionally and intelligently as we can.

There is no more time to play silly games with our creativity: no more time to pretend that it only belongs in the arts, that it is not rational or scientific, that it’s what other people have and not us. Creativity has to be recognized, embraced and applied universally and well.

The organisations and individuals who have recognized this are already ahead of the game. There is nothing tricky or mysterious about creativity. It’s what’s inside us all.

We can all generate more good ideas and good decisions that invent the future.

Lynette Jensen

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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.

Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates LinkedIn: Online Citizenship

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Most of us in business or other organisations belong to LinkedIn, and many of us participate in discussion groups related to our fields and areas of specialisation and interest. Furthermore, marketing and promotions professionals these days tell us that it is extremely important to have an online presence and profile, and though there are other alternatives like Brazen Careerist, LinkedIn is the professional social networking standard.

Accordingly, like most people I know, I belong to many LinkedIn groups, which in my case cover areas like organisational psychology, psychometrics, creativity, arts, advertising and HR. Like most people, I subscribe to a few good professional blogs, and through these come upon many links to other blogs and articles. It’s an expanding world, and I’m both personally and professionally grateful to be exposed daily to so much information and food for thought.

I have always been interested in many different areas, and so my professional interests and reading reflect this.  Lately, because I’ve started to notice some patterns in myself and others, I’ve begun to realise that my online life is very similar to my real life.

Online, the contacts I collect seem to be like my friends and associates in real life: they are interesting, varied, creative, mostly outspoken, confident, leaders and thought influencers, and from many walks of life and professional areas. The things they say to me are starting to be like things people in real life say to me.

More importantly though, I’ve started to realise that the virtual, online professional world needs to maintain standards and etiquette, just like in the real world. Just as I do in real life, I seem to spend a lot of my time being on guard for and smoothing over potential conflicts. The online world of professional social net-working is a place where all cultures come together and connect instantly, where the nuance of the written word is often difficult to understand and subtleties are sometimes misunderstood, and the different time zones across the world make the time of day an ingredient in the way we communicate and what we say.

Online, even in the professional sphere of LinkedIn (as opposed to Facebook for instance) there are bullies, cranks, show-offs, posers, extraverts, introverts, casual people, funny people, serious people, formal people and many, many others. Just like real life. In real life though, you can look someone in the eye and hear the tone in their voice and judge their body language.

So I’m beginning to think that we need to proactively think of ourselves as online citizens, with responsibilities to be civil and not too dominating in discussions but to have something to say and keep discussions going, aware and empathetic of differences like race and culture, and to be particularly careful to try to pick up verbal nuance and humour, and not to over-react to apparent slights but to publicly object to online dominance, bullying or impoliteness.

A year or so ago my sons made a short film called Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates Facebook for Kino, Sydney. It should come as no surprise to me to find that the same principle applies to LinkedIn.

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.

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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.