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December 2012
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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Using Strengths and Positive Psychology This Festive Season

Posted by: Nicky Garcea

 

Christmas and New Year, for some, is a time for celebration and jubilation. For others, it will be a period of reflection, sadness or stress. As I approach my first Christmas with my son, I am reminded of how positive psychology and strengths have played a part in his first year, and how both will feature in our Christmas.

 

Mental snap shots: This year like no other, I have been taking mental photographs and collecting my positive resources. I find I can pull out these positive mental images during points of the day which cause my tension or apprehension. Many of you will be familiar with the work of Barbara Fredrickson and her approach to building positive emotional resources. I know this Christmas, which I will spend with my 10 month old son and 89 year old Nan, will provide me with some great chances to build up my mental image bank. What mental photographs will you take?

 

Creating rituals: As I talk to my friends who are also approaching their child’s first Christmas, they share with me their childhood memories and the new rituals they are forming as a family. Even for those of you who will work over the Christmas period, I suspect you will squeeze in at least one of your favourite Christmas rituals. What will it be?

 

Savouring moments: Christmas, even in years when we may have experienced loss, provides us with moments to savour. This holiday period seems always to be filled with sensory explosions, smells, tastes, sounds and things to touch! Taking time to stop and savour these moments, helps to remind us that pleasure can come from the simplest of gifts. How will you stay mindful and savour more moments this Christmas?

 

Pulling on our strengths: I am an anticipator. I am already conjuring up some of the potential highs and lows of the week ahead. I am currently of the view that the Realise2 strength of Reconfiguration is possibly the most helpful strength over Christmas. This strength means that you can take pleasure in plans changing and can re-arrange resources at a moment’s notice. Which of your strengths do you think you will pull on most this Christmas?

 

Happy New Year: It is scientifically impossible to be happy all of the time. It is also proven that you can have too much of a good thing. However, focusing on our strengths and being realistically optimistic is good for us. It is sometimes easier when we’re under pressure to forget the impact of focusing on what is going well in our lives, losing sight of the benefit this has on our minds and health. As we venture into the New Year, how might you increase your focus on your strengths, the aspects of your life that you most treasure, and the relationships that you want to nurture?

 

Doing each of these will make for a Happier New Year. Here’s to doing them in 2013, and beyond.

 

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The Year in Review on The Capp Blog

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

The Capp Blog launched this year with our first blog post on 17 January 2012. It has been a busy year since then, with 31,514 views of 164 items.

 

Here are five of the most viewed posts that showcase The Capp Blog at its best:

 

#1 – As part of our Performance Management series, Reena Jamnadas and Emma Trenier answered the question What Do Employees Want from Their Managers? As the most read blog of the year, clearly this was a question that you, our readers of The Capp Blog, wanted to answer as well.

 

#2 – Our feature on School Leavers Fortnight in August generated loads of interest, with Reena Jamnadas again leading the way with The Defining Power of Three Small Letters: Helping Students with their A-level Results.

 

#3 – Sharing our learning and development expertise through the lens of positive psychology, my blog On Learning to Learn: Four Positive Psychology Principles had readers re-imagining their own approaches to learning and development.

 

#4 – Throughout June, we ran Female Leaders Month on The Capp Blog, with Nicky Garcea leading the way with her blog Can Only Superwomen Make it to the Top?, originally published on the Financial Mail Women’s Forum.  

 

#5 – Completing our top five of 2012 was my blog on Student Strengths Insights and Strengths-based Graduate Recruitment. This reported the results of the Ernst & Young-Capp Student Strengths Survey, showcasing our work as the leading strengths-based graduate recruiter in the UK.

 

With these blogs – and many more – throughout 2012, we hope you will agree that it has been a great inaugural year for The Capp Blog.

 

We promise to bring you more insights, expertise and entertainment over the next year, but in the meantime, we wish every single reader of The Capp Blog a peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

 

Enjoy your festivities and we’ll be in touch again in 2013!

 

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Strengths Similarities and Differences for Men and Women

Posted by: Alex Linley & Helen Dovey

 

We have recently completed an update to the gender norms for the 60 strengths of Realise2, based on a sample of 12,769 people. This update is now included in the Realise2 Technical Manual (all 126 pages of it…).

 

The striking conclusion we draw from this analysis is that there are far, far more similarities between men and women in relation to the Realise2 strengths, than there are differences. In fact, we could go so far as to say there is a greater difference within gender (between the highest and lowest scoring male, or the highest and lowest scoring female) than there is between the mean scores of each gender.

 

Where we do find differences, they are all – consistently – of a small effect size, with not a single difference of 180 gender comparisons showing a medium or large effect size. In practice, this means that of the differences that do exist, these differences are small and not worth amplifying or being concerned about in any everyday context.

 

In a handful of cases (five of 180 gender comparisons), we saw small but consistent gender differences across the three Realise2 dimensions of Performance, Use and Energy.

 

As a Realise2 practitioner, if you wanted to pay slightly more attention to these strengths when you were working with men or women, respectively, here is the summary:

 

Competitive is the single strength where men scored consistently higher than women on the three dimensions of Performance, Use and Energy – but again, remember that these effect sizes were only small.

 

Emotional Awareness, Gratitude, Order and Relationship Deepener were the only strengths where women scored consistently higher than men on the three dimensions of Performance, Use and Energy – but once again, please do remember that these effect sizes were only small.

 

You might think we’ve gone for overkill with all the mentions of “remember these effect sizes were only small” – and we have, for good reason.

 

Human beings – and the media in particular – seem to be wired to focus on amplify and gender differences, when the reality is that there are more similarities than there are differences. Our emphasis on this is simply intended to try and prevent you from falling into the same trap.

 

What do you think about these gender differences and similarities? How do they resonate – or not – with your own experiences? Let us know by sharing your thoughts on the Comment section below.

 

 

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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – November 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

For the last three years Capp has sponsored strengths-based community building in the Shiriti slum in Kolkata, India, through our charitable activity, The Strengths Project.

 

Our Strengths Consultant who leads this work, Avirupa Bhaduri, this month brings us her experiences of strengthspotting with a range of disadvantaged people in Kolkata. These include the women of the Shiriti Women’s Sewing Co-operative, and a diverse group from the squatter colony beside the railway tracks in Park Circus Station, Kolkata.

 

Avirupa’s blog powerfully demonstrates how strengths can be identified in all of us, whatever our circumstances. She also shows how these strengths can in turn help us to ovecome difficulties and work towards what we want to achieve in life. This is the purpose of The Strengths Project.

 

When you read the stories from the women of Shiriti and the squatter colony of Park Circus Station, below, you will see why Capp is so proud to support this work of developing strengths in underprivileged communities.

 

As Avirupa reports:

 

“November is the month that marks the last of the religious festivals in Kolkata. In the first week we met at Shiriti, but the turn out was poor, with only Sharmila giving me company, as the other women were busy with preparation of Lakshmi Puja. We decided to drop the meeting for the next week as it was the week of Kali Puja, bhai pho(n)ta.

 

When we met the week after, I talked about my Hasnabad experience with Mousumi & Sharmila. They were very interested about the session. Sharmila, the ever curious, had a lot of queries; What did I perceive about the session’s success, how different were they from their group, whether they responded well, how about their problems? Were they any similar to Shiriti?

 

Mousumi asked whether I have talked about the Shiriti group to the women of Hasnabad. I had to admit that I didn’t, I should have. Then the three of us generally talked about our lives, our role as women of the house, the differences and similarity of our experience as women, and during the course of conversation we realised that as women we are less encouraged to appreciate our own strengths.

 

That got me thinking and I asked them to think of certain core strengths that are specific to women as caregivers. Immediately Resilience, Compassion etc. came to the forefront, plus there was one more strength that they both tried to explain, which is unique to women, it is the art of “shongshar kora” (managing household) Which, I considered, comes through a combination of strengths like Judgement (satisfying the varied needs of every member of the household by organizing the right thing at the right time), Order (keeping every thing in order in the house), Relationship Deepener and Unconditionality.

 

Mousumi pointed out that there’s one more special strength, an ability that a poor housewife has, to make do with minimum resource to maximize satisfaction of all. However, it’s debatable about the extent to which this is learned behaviour or strength, but that was too complicated, so we parted with a smile, saying that as women we are the pillar of strength for our families.

 

The next two weeks were Jagadhatri Puja and Muharram, so by mutual consent we thought it’s practical to meet in the month of December.

 

Meanwhile due to the success of the 1st session, I was asked to take 3 more Leadership Training workshop with diverse groups of marginalized community in the months of November and December.

 

The first one was with a squatter colony beside railway tracks in Park Circus Station, Kolkata. It was a mixed group, comprising of elderly men, women and young people. Their socio-economic status was also mixed, some were rag pickers, some worked as domestic help, some as “ayaah” at local health clinics, some young people were studying in local free high schools, some of the men were van or rickshaw pullers, and there was one man who is a veteran social worker. In terms of language spoken they were also varied, a majority spoke hindi, so I conducted my session in a mix of hindi and bangla.

 

In the previous session they talked about their problems and vented their frustration against Govt. and social agencies, exploitation by powerful people, people in power. The mood was thus very negative and tense.

 

So, this time I chose to begin with a hopeful song, Hum Honge kamiyab (hindi version of We shall overcome), which found a lot of takers. Then I asked if they really believe that power or khomota lies externally, in the hands of “others”. They answered “yes” in unison. Then I asked them to look within, and try to see if there are any “khomota” present in themselves.

 

As expected the response was silence and hushed murmer, then I gradually introduced the subject of strengths and talked about how inevitably we are born with one or other, and that it’s a gift, a tool, even a weapon with which they can better their struggle to fight for their rights.

 

I talked about my strengths of Empathic Connection, Rapport Builder and Narrator and how these strengths have come into play when I have designed this workshop to empower them to realize their own strengths. I asked a colleague from the NGO (who was present in the earlier session and knew about strengths and their use) to talk about his strengths and how that has helped him to achieve his goals in life.

 

Then I asked the participants to think about at least one strength that they possess. I added that in order to do so they need to use strengthspotting tips,(from Alex’s top 10 strengthspotting tips) like “be authentic, think of your childhood memories, the things you always loved doing as a child, and the things that you are best at, the things you do naturally”.

 

The first responses came from young people, a boy spoke first and said he is very good at communication and can make friends easily (Rapport Builder). Another boy said he likes to make people smile, he is good at cracking jokes, and the group laughed and agreed (Humour).

 

A girl said she likes to take responsibility and has always been the one in her family who has been responsible (Personal Responsibility). A woman said she never loses hope even in spite of abject poverty and believes in the benevolent power of God and believes that all wrongs will be righted one day (Optimism).

 

With that hopeful note I now asked  the group to sit together in three smaller sub-groups, and interact with each other, and find out one strength of their group members, and the group which will have the most members talking about each other’s strengths will be the winner. After 20 mins of discussion we held a demonstration where each group made a smallish performance of talking about each others strengths.

 

In most groups there were 3 to 4 people who were most vocal, but the opportunity to come up in front of an audience to talk about what they like doing sparked a lot of positive energy in the group. I was happy to see smiles, excited chatter and shining eyes replacing the anger, frowns, disappointment and boredom from before.

 

Time was up, so I decided to conclude the session by talking about my observation and reiterated once again that the power of strengths is such that it can bring in positive force within us and if we can utilize our strength to the fullest potential and wisely and better still complement with the strengths of others, it can help in chalking out a road map to fight for our rights.”

 

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Women in the Press

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Lord Justice Leveson’s report into press standards, published last Thursday, has generated a lot of debate on the role of the press in modern society.

 

Interestingly enough – and perhaps stirred into action by the controversy they generated when unable to find female experts to discuss breast cancer on Radio 4′s Today programme - the BBC has published a magazine article on the media representation of women in the press. Astute readers of The Capp Blog will know that this is a topic we have covered previously.

 

In this article, the BBC highlighted five of the most common complaints about how women are portrayed in the press:

 

1. Women as sex objects – Women are often portrayed as sex objects by the press, whether explicitly, such as in a Page Three photograph, or more implicitly, through the way in which they are presented and described.

 

2. My mother, my wife - Women are often portrayed as wives and mothers (or girlfriends) – that is, being defined by who they are in relation to someone else, rather than for who they are in their own right.

 

3. The passive woman - Rather than as people who are active and doing something, women are often portrayed in passive roles. This serves to create and perpetuate a stereotype of women as passive recipients, rather than active participants.

 

4. The invisible woman – As we have noted previously on The Capp Blog, where have all the women gone? The campaign group Women in Journalism reported earlier this year that 84% of lead articles in the press were about men, rather than women, and of these articles, 75% were written by men.

 

5. Women’s bodies, but men’s contributions - Far, far more than is ever the case for men, women are judged on the basis of their appearance, rather than their contribution.  Whereas commentary about men in sport, politics or business will almost exclusively be about their performance, for women, any commentary will almost always include a judgement on their appearance.

 

If this media representation was single, isolated, or unusual, one might argue that it was unfortunate. Yet the reality is that this is only too typical, rendering it not only unfortunate, but unacceptable.

 

With the influence of the media all around us, and the impression and impact that this has – deliberately or unwittingly – on young minds, we all share a responsibility to be mindful of how what we consider acceptable or unacceptable shapes the reality that will be faced by future generations.

 

As I contemplate my two daughters growing up, I hope they will find a world in which they are judged for what they have achieved and contributed, rather than for what they are wearing or what they look like. It’s time to change for the sake of these future generations.

 

Happy birthday, Sophie, 10 years old today.

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