Archives for 21 May,2016

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The Games People Play

games-people-play-totemUnderstanding the dynamics of relationships in a way that is truly practical

The Games People Play explains and analyses with pertinent real-life examples, the continual struggle between our inner child, parent and adult to dominate a social situation, colloquially termed as ‘games’.

The book interprets that the outcomes of these games are a fundamental human requirement and by understanding the way these games are played we learn to understand the motivations of ourselves and our peers.

Each chapter addresses various situations and the author lists the multitude of games people partake in where the outcome is win, lose or draw.  The games have names such as: “See What You Made Me Do”; “Ain’t It Awful”; and “I’m Only Trying To Help You”.

Berne introduced some of these concepts in Transactional Analysis and gives lots of examples of the different games played by people.  The book provides a view to pinpoint and categorise people’s behaviour or combinations of behaviours and to think about the origins & continued causes of this behaviour.

The book examines the roles people assume in their interpersonal relationships which foster the subsequent and often repetitive transactions. The description of some of the games such as Alcoholic and Courtroom are incredibly interesting.

On the whole the book is a very interesting study of human behaviour and a good set of “worked examples” for anyone trying to understand Transactional Analysis.

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LMS Conference Speaking Session

speechWhen people say ‘we are at our best*’ do we have a notional understanding of what that means?

It’s certainly an easier term to use in discussions with non-academics than the more lofty concepts of engagement, potential, performance and commitment.  In fact, we recently had to qualify our research* in front of a panel of academics – what a fascinating challenge!

Here are some snippets from our day:

Do we have a shared meaning of what it means to be at your best or are we all thinking about different things?

Our research* uses an iterative process to explore whether we have a shared meaning of what it means to be at your best in work and this presentation provides the results from the initial stages of that research process.

The research takes a social constructionist approach where meaning comes into existence in and out of the interaction with the world and as such demanded a predominantly qualitative and interpretive design.  Starting with a literature review, an overlap in the definitions and descriptions of the concepts of engagement, performance (including high potential) and commitment were identified so the question arose – does being at your best reside in the overlap of these concepts?

To examine this further interviews and questionnaires with staff in three retail stores (within the same organisation) took place: the highest performing store; the store with the highest staff engagement survey results; and the store with the longest serving staff.

Totem Lollipops

Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) provided the framework for the analysis of results.  Using Nvivo software, themes within the interview transcripts were coded and interrogated to ensure each theme was distinct.  Results were compared with questionnaire data, other research evidence and were shared with participants to ensure they remained meaningful and appropriate. The themes formed the basis of a tentative framework to describe the shared meaning of being at one’s best.

The question remained as to whether findings were specific to the organisation or relevant to other contexts.  Further investigations have taken place to explore whether the findings are context bound or indeed relevant elsewhere.  Initial analysis suggests there are clear consistencies with the tentative framework of being at one’s best and will be subject for future presentations.

The consistency in the themes and descriptions of experiences within the three retail stores provided the basis of the tentative framework, involving: internal elements – the emotions we feel when we are at our best; and external elements – the behaviours we display when we are at our best.  This high level of consistency and the support from wider research provides some support for the notion that being at one’s best may reside in that overlap of concepts and a tentative framework describing the shared meaning of being at one’s best.

A clearer understanding of what it means to be at our best in work could have far reaching implications – for individuals aiming to develop and for organisations looking to provide an environment and support for those individuals.  The research* process may also have implications for future explorations of shared meanings.


(*Addicott 2015)

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Our Research Journey

steppingstonesA step by step guide to our research process…

Our research into ‘Best’ began with a positive psychology approach focusing (naturally) on the positive, what is working and why are employees staying in their jobs, rather than on negative issues such as employee turnover.*

In 2000, Seligman put forward the idea that psychology suffers from a “preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life” and neglects to build on positive qualities.

He suggests that by also focusing on the conditions that support well-being, contentment and happiness, psychology will learn to “build the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish”.  We couldn’t agree more!

Our research aimed to further study the idea of ‘best at work’ but in the context of a few different work environments to make sure we were on to something.  The context was slightly different in terms of the industry but also in terms of the definition of what ‘best’ looks like.

We started with an initial case study in a well know department store.  They have great Christmas adverts…

Totem Lollipops

We visited 3 different stores: The one with the highest performance, the one with the highest levels of employee engagement (staff survey) and the one with the longest serving staff.  We spent two fascinating days in each, observing and talking with staff and in total interviewed 42 staff across the sites – using appreciative inquiry questions.

We also asked members of the stores to complete a questionnaire – a learning point for us here – it was very long and I didn’t get a huge response.  But after interviewing, we used Nvivo to code the themes.  We had assigned the themes on internal characteristics and behavioural expression.  You can check out the background to that choice here.

Having coded these themes in terms of internal characteristics and behaviours, we did a cluster analysis and found consistent elements of

  • Developing
  • Challenging
  • Focusing
  • Passionate

across each store.  These elements are beginning to appear in additional studies we have conducted in different working environments too.  Rather exciting is that that perhaps we are getting closer to describing what best is like within these stores!

The so what, or Pow factor of this research seems to be indicating that the following are key to being at your Best*:

In terms of the internal characteristics – I have passion and pride and I am confident that I am contributing were two of the most common themes. And in terms of behaviours the most common was I take ownership for delivery.

One little surprise that came up from the research was actually from a conversation starter activity.  We gave our test subjects a sheet of words and asked them to highlight which were important to them personally.  We then asked them which were fed or supported by their work.  An average of 93% of the words highlighted were also supported by their work.

One interpretation here is that there is potentially some sort of values connection exists for these individuals.

This throws up a whole lot more questions for us to consider, as there are particular implications for business as well as for coaching and development practitioners.

We’re getting closer to having a confident framework to describe a shared meaning of being at one’s best in work.  And the next step for us is to illustrate the implications of this framework in terms of providing greater definition to the notion of positive workplaces and the application to work structure, people management practices, personal development, learning and development interventions and recruitment and succession planning.

We just need to remember to take it one step at a time!


(*Addicott 2015)

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