Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Passion

July 22nd, 2014 · Comments Off on Passion · Uncategorized

I had one of THOSE moments over the weekend.  With a title such as passion, this likely requires significant qualification.

As an academic, I have the enormous privilege of attending conferences and speaking with thought leaders in my field.  Last week, the Canadian Positive Psychology Association hosted a conference in Ottawa where leading researchers and practitioners in positive psychology gathered to share ideas.  It was a monumental success.  I had inspiring experience after inspiring experience.  Our keynote speakers were particularly motivating – Sonja Lyubormirsky talked about the myth of happiness; Tim Kasser discussed materialism;  Michael Stegar presented on the meaning of life; and Robert Vallerand spoke about passion.  While I found all talks to be inspiring and insightful, I was particularly moved by Bob’s work on harmonious versus obsessive passion.

Across a large volume of studies, Bob has found that individuals who are harmoniously passionate about something (e.g., a sport, music, their work) enjoy outcomes such as positive emotion, achievement, quality relationships, and better health.  Individuals who are obsessively passionate suffer with psychological burn out, negative emotion, and poor connectedness to others.  In fact, he has found that obsessive passion can be the result of suffering in other domains of life.  In other words, we become obsessively passionate in order to compensate for things that are not going ‘right’ in our world.  I was fascinated by connections Bob made to job performance, activism, and general life satisfaction.  At the core of Bob’s model is the notion that in order to enjoy ‘optimal life functioning’ it is useful to have a passion that complements our lives rather than takes it over.

This conference sent me thinking and reading in a new direction.  I am completely jazzed by the experience.  There is a lot in this work that connects to some of my interests in motivation, self-efficacy, and strength based performance.  I already have a few research ideas percolating.  Stay tuned…

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Neuroscience meets social science

June 4th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

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I have been reading Matthew D. Lieberman‘s book, Social: Why our brains are wired to connect.  It is incredibly interesting. Lieberman describes scientific studies that use brain imaging technology to observe the neural pathways in the brain that are active as individuals perform certain tasks.  This type of work gives us great insight into how our social selves connect to more fundamental biological needs.  Neuroscience can help us to answer questions such as – what is important to us? what do we find pleasurable? and what do we find painful?

One of the questions that Lieberman examines is what does one ‘get’ out of altruistic behaviour.  Social scientists have been asking this question for some time.  In that literature, there is a theory that describes altruistic behaviour as having a number of outcomes for the ‘giver.’  This includes (1) feeling good because one is morally correct, (2) improving one’s self-concept because one can view oneself as a giver, and (3) enjoying the response or gratitude received after one gives.  In other words, we are not exactly altruistic.  We don’t give blindly with nothing in return.  We give because it feels good and because it makes us feel good about ourselves.

In neuroscience, the findings are quite similar.  When an individual behaves in altruistic ways, the part of the brain centre that lights up is the centre associated with ‘reward.’  This affirms the idea that doing something for others provides us with significant personal reward.  Amazing.

I find this exciting because it shows that neuroscience and social science can work together to explain and confirm social phenomenon.  This is what we would call methodologically a multi-method approach.  A theory has been developed and we can use many different approaches to find supporting evidence for the theory.  We can observe individual behaviour and we can also observe brain function.  So cool.  Now where can I find an MRI machine for my next study?

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Finding meaning at work when suffering loss

May 15th, 2014 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

This is a call for volunteers more than a Blog post.  My co-author, Kate Rowbotham and I are at the very beginning of a research project around how workers deal with personal loss.  As an initial step, I am looking to speak with one or two people who have suffered the loss of a friend or loved one while continuing to work.  This is not for participation in a formal study, it will be a semi-structured interview mainly centred on how you managed work and employment during that time.  It will help us to develop ideas around how to structure the research.  We recognize that it might be difficult to  participate in this discussion as it deals with highly personal content.

We are concerned with the interface between meaning of work and experiences with death and dying. At some point in an individual’s career, they are likely to experience the loss of a significant personal relationship through the death of the ‘other.’ It is precisely in these significant life events that individuals begin to question the importance of every aspect of their life, including work. Meaning is a tool used by the individual to impose stability in life. As life unfolds, individuals seek to fulfill needs for purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. Various lines of research are concerned with the salience of work relative to the rest of one’s life.  Our long term plan is to explore how the experience of loss effects the individuals’ experience of working and their commitment to their jobs, organizations, and careers.

If you have any comments about the project, feel free to comment below.  If you are willing and able to speak with me briefly, please email me directly at budworth@yorku.ca.

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Overdoing your strengths

April 29th, 2014 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Last week, the School of HRM hosted an event where Glain Roberts-McCabe of the Executive Roundtable shared her ideas about leadership – and she has a lot of them!  As the president and founder of this leadership development firm, Glain has worked with all kinds of leaders from a range of firms.  I asked Glain to comment on the ‘big errors’ otherwise smart leaders made regularly.  I found one of her answers particularly interesting.

Glain has observed that many leaders overplay their strengths!  This was interesting to me because of my focus on strength based interventions.  However, you can have too much of a good thing.  If we rely too much on our strengths, we can develop blind spots.  While on the surface this might seem obvious, it does lead to questions around striking the balance between leading through our strengths and developing our weaknesses.  

Strength based performance management interventions should complement existing feedback systems.  With these two structures in place, individuals will develop an understanding of what they do well while gaining insight into areas where they lack skills will have the best chance for success.  

Have you observed leaders overdoing their strengths?  I would like to collect examples of this phenomenon.  

 

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The future of HRM

April 2nd, 2014 · 9 Comments · Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago, I served as a judge for a case competition hosted by McMaster University.  The competition, Focus 2040, asked students to consider one simple question – what does HR look like in the future?  A larger field of competitors had been narrowed down to a group of 10 finalists.  Over the course of the day I viewed 10 separate presentations on this question.  It was an exciting and inspiring experience.  Exciting because of the energy and creativity demonstrated by the participants and inspiring due to the intelligence and consideration that each presenter infused in to their work.

We saw presentations with innovations such as work histories contained in biometric fingerprints, payments in cryto-currency, and remote working arrangements (even for factory workers) via the use of remote controlled  arms.  Some of these advancements are difficult to wrap our minds around but who would have predicted video-conferencing at the turn of the last century?  

One of my favourite presentations admitted that it would be impossible to predict the future and instead focussed on skills and organizational structures that would see us through a chaotic and fast paced business environment.  I appreciated this perspective and viewed it as the only plausible view to the question of predicting the future.  

What do you believe will guide the future of HRM?  Undoubtedly the two major forces in human capital management will continue to loom large, technology and globalization, simultaneously allowing us to be farther apart while bringing us together in new and unpredictable ways.  But what else?  I’m interested in hearing your views on HRM 2040.  

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Positive Psychology

February 27th, 2014 · 9 Comments · Uncategorized

Yesterday, I gave a talk on positive psychology.  The aim was to create a buzz about the topic at York University and to get people excited about the upcoming Canadian Positive Psychology conference to be held in Ottawa.  As a Board member for the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, I have been anxiously looking forward to this conference.  We have an amazing program lined up with excellent keynote speakers and wonderful presentations.  Here is my plug to invite anyone reading this to consider attending!  

In case there are folks out there who are not yet familiar with Positive Psychology as a discipline, here is a short overview.  The term positive psychology originated with Maslow in his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality.  At the time, it did not catch on.  It was in 1999, when Martin Seligman as President of the American Psychological Association, lamented that psychology focussed almost entirely on dysfunction.  His aim was to reorient the discipline so that we could understand how to take people who were functioning well and make them even better.  He also wanted to understand ‘high talent’ or genius.  His message caught on and many researchers have spent a great deal of time studying individuals strengths, well-being, and optimal human functioning.  

As a researcher, I feel it is important to note that positive psychology is a science.  It is rooted in empirical research that utilize the principles and methods of the underlying discipline – psychology.  And there any many positive things that are not positive psychology.  When you stand in the self-help section of Chapters, you are not looking at positive psychology texts!  Research tells us that well-being is linked to all kinds positive acts, but not to everything represented in the media and popular books.  For example, self-affirmations had a popular moment in the self-help world, however, research tells us that affirmations are not always helpful, in fact, under some conditions they can make people feel worse about themselves.  Conversely, there are some circumstances that are inherently negative, challenging, or displeasing and are clearly supportive of the development of individual strength building and resilience.  Therefore, negative things can be part of positive psychology.  

At this summer’s Positive Psychology conference, I will be giving a talk on assessing the effectiveness of positive psychology interventions.  The methods I propose will be drawn from the organizational psychology literature and our knowledge of assessment of developmental tools.  I am hoping that by sharing between disciplines within psychology, we can begin to develop common systems for evaluation of psychological interventions.  It is notoriously difficult to demonstrate the utility of psychologically based interventions, however, researchers have made incredible advancements in this area.  I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities!  

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Olympic fever!

February 11th, 2014 · Comments Off on Olympic fever! · Uncategorized

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I am completed addicted to watching the Olympics!  I watch them every time – winter, summer whatever. They allow me to experience a full range of emotions – anticipation, excitement, pride, and even tears.  This year’s Olympics have not disappointed; the win by the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, the repeat performance by Bilodeau – amazing moments.  

At one point when Mikael Kingsbury (the skiers who took the silver next to Bilodeau’s gold) was in the middle of a run, the announcer noted that Kingsbury does not work with a sports psychologist.  His ability to deal with the pressure is so strong that his coach doesn’t want to ‘mess him up.’  That is an interesting example of self-efficacy, resilience, and cognitive framing in itself but I was struck by the implication.  In contrast, most other athletes work closely with sports psychologists as part of their training team.  Many of the athletes brought their psychologists to Sochi!  

The practice of sport psychology has become an integral part of top level performance among athletes.  If you have had any experience with sport, it is clear that once your body has learned the skills, a large part of the game is mental.  This is a clear example of the power of cognitions.  The way in which you frame an event has a significant impact on whether you will be successful.  We see this time and time again in sport psychology, and we see it in organizational psychology. 

Many of the principles used in the practice of social psychology overlap directly with issues studies and examined in organizational psych.  For example, my work on Verbal Self Guidance examines how altering one’s own cognitions can change performance in career relevant situations.  The same technique, under the same time and with a slight rebranding, has been used both in the research and practice of sport psychology.  There is also heavy use of goal setting, mental imagery, and stress management work in both areas.  We are also seeing some of the language from sports making its way into offices – coaching anyone?

In both disciplines, we are looking at maximizing performance events.  So the next time you are talking to your team, think broadly about the tools that you have at your disposal.  What would Bilodeau do?

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What have I been up to?

January 29th, 2014 · Comments Off on What have I been up to? · Uncategorized

It has been a while friends!  Please forgive my absence.  It has been a busy semester but I am about to start a new MHRM course so I thought it was time to restart this Blog.  I really enjoy having this here to engage students between classes.  Due to the structure of the MHRM course, 1 day of class each month, it is easy to become disconnected in the weeks when we are all working independently.  I hope that this Blog provides a space for engagement outside of the classroom environment.  And I hope that others might join us here as well!  It is wonderful to have many people commenting on the posts.  

So, what has been happening in the last few months?  Well, I took over as Director of the School of Human Resource Management here at York University on July 1, 2013.  While I followed my incredibly gifted and very well organized colleague, Dr. Parbudyal Singh, into this role I still found that I was running on a treadmill during first few months.  Despite the fact that I had been in an academic leadership role in the past, there was a lot to learn.  At this point, I feel as though I have my feet back under me and I am even ready to push forward a few new initiatives – more on these as they progress.

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In the short term, I wanted to share with you a publication produced by the School this year under the leadership of Dr. Len Karakowsky.  The HR Edge has just arrived in hard copy in our offices.  You can read it online in PDF format.  Len did a wonderful job of collecting and publishing the work of our colleagues, students, and business partners. I hope you will enjoy reading about the research activities of the school as well as the interesting career paths of our students.  

For updates on what is happening in our school and in my own research, stay tuned to this Blog or follow me on Twitter @budworth. 

 

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Can you spot the taker?

July 19th, 2013 · Comments Off on Can you spot the taker? · Uncategorized

Reciprocity

I just started reading Adam Grant‘s first book called Give and Take.  It is quite well done.  When reading non-fiction written by an academic, it can sometimes be inaccessible and at other times overly simplified, Grant does a really nice job of representing the complexity of the research while using rich and entertaining storytelling devices.  My review aside, I love the idea that we can provide scientific evidence for the benefit of giving – and that is giving not to receive but giving for the sake of giving.

Grant makes the point that in the world of Google and Facebook, our reputations are publicly and available to anyone willing to type our name into a search engine.  In today’s world, being generous and helpful is more important than ever as there is often a permanent record of our deeds.  I have taught social networks as part of my learning and development course for years.  Admittedly, social networks are not an area where I do any direct research.  I have typically thought about the value one extracts from one’s network as reciprocity on a karmic scale – you put value in by doing something for one person and it comes out of your network in some unexpected way somewhere else.  It is a bit of a wishy washy way of explaining the inter-connectedness between individuals within a socials structure.  

In truth, injecting value into your social network by helping others creates a reputation for the giver. You become someone who is known for being available, assistive, and helpful.  In the long term, this reputation is what benefits the giver.  We want to be of service to someone who we know is generous to others.  Or the converse, we do not want to be of service to individuals who ‘take’ or who give only with the expectation of receiving.  

So there is karma through the lens of social science.  Awesome. 

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Trudeau – Reframing the attack ad

April 24th, 2013 · Comments Off on Trudeau – Reframing the attack ad · Uncategorized

There is something really interesting happening in Canadian politics at the moment.  The Liberal party who, for decades, held great power in this country has been struggling.  There was a need for some kind of reinvigoration.  As you will be aware, this came in the form of Justin Trudeau, the newly elected Liberal leader.  I think it is fair to say that he is getting a great deal of attention largely because of his family history.  As the son of Pierre Trudeau, a leader for whom most Canadians over 30 have strong feelings – both good and bad, he carries a legacy.  It is a romantic idea – the son of our last ‘celebrity’ Prime Minister seeks the office himself.  I love it. I plan on following this thing like its a Kardashian.  What is yet to be seen is whether Justin has substance and can hold his own on a national stage.  

This week he was put to his first test.  His opponents released what is known in the business as an ‘attack ad.’  It raised the obvious concern – does Mr. Trudeau have enough experience to be Prime Minister?  But in the spirit of the attack ad, it did so in an underhanded way.  The ad pokes fun at Mr. Trudeau’s involvement in a charity event where he walked a cat walk and it undermines his experience indicating that it is no more than that of a camp counsellor.  Ouch.  Unfriendly and implausible but the ad, nevertheless, does make him look silly.  

What I really enjoyed was the Liberal campaign’s response.  Typically the response to an attack ad is another attack ad or an issue by issue rebuttal.  Instead, Mr. Trudeau prepared his own video where he reframed the issues.  He does not deny anything in the original ad but instead reorients the viewer on what is important – working together.  As my kids would say – boo yah!  It is charming and effective and makes the earlier attack ad seem silly.  

This series of videos made me think about messaging.  Clearly two things can be viewed quite differently based merely on how they are presented.  I will, however, be curious to which sets of videos form the majority opinion about Trudeau.  What images/ideas/videos will gain traction?   There is a case study in image formation in here somewhere.  I am looking forward to watching it play out.

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