flowing motion

3 channels of initiative for the recession

Posted on: February 3, 2009

A financial earthquake

For five years, I lived in New Zealand – earthquake country.  Every household was asked to keep sufficient food and basic supplies for a week.  I religiously rotated tinned food and bottled water (yep that too!).   And next to the food and water store was a medical aid kit, matches and candles.

The so-called ‘recession’ is not unlike living in earthquake country.  We don’t quite know what will happen.  But we know the worst could happen at any time.   And it makes sense to be prepared.

Some people are so spooked, though, they are doing the equivalent of retreating indoors and not coming out!  My colleague in the next office at work had taken some elementary surgery lessons.  When I lectured on intiative, I used to quip that a sensible person should buy a house next door to him!

So what is initiative?

What is an adequate response to the unpredictable and unknown?  What is a sufficient response to prepare us for whatever might happen?

Michael Frese of Giessen University breaks initiative into three parts.

Self-starting

Self-starters get going quickly.  When they are given a task, they dive in, explore, and make it their own.  Gen Y are self-starters, and they confuse Gen X and Baby Boomers who don’t expect young people to step up and own their work.

Self-starters also like feedback.  They continuously monitor what is working and adjust quickly.  Gen Y, too, are notorious, of course, for asking for feedback!  They are results-oriented.

Self-starters aren’t likely to be phased by a recession.  They’ve tightened up their finances already, and they are keeping an eagle-eye on their cash flow and credit lines.

They’ve already started exploring what their customers want in cash-distressed times.  And they are experimenting with new lines.

Above all, self-starters are asking their customers for feedback about their tweaked services.  Self-starters are quick to action and they are continuously monitoring whether their activities are taking them towards their goal.

Proactivity

Proactive people are not just quick to action, they think ahead.  They are the planners of the world.  Because they are so good at thinking ahead and planning for various alternatives, sometimes they seem lazy.  They are those quiet people who don’t have to run around.  They’ve played through so many scenarios in their heads, they are ready for whatever comes up!

The proactives among us have already talked to everyone who remembers past recessions and they are able to run foward-cashflows for several scenarios.   They are on the look out for opportunities and they are busy working out how to arrive at the end of the recession in style & ready for the upturn.  They may even be organizing people and resources to exploit new opportunities!

Persistence

Persistent people are not stubborn.  They are quite flexible!  When distractions come up, they give them full attention, and then return to their work.  German psychologists have shown, for example, that expert computer programmers don’t make fewer errors than novices.  They just solve errors faster.  Getting back to our goals is important.

Persistent people know how to ‘conduct their blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind‘.  They know their strengths and their purpose in life.  For them the recession is not a distraction.  It is another context in which to make their special contribution to the world.

What’s your pattern?

I was always a bit of a self-starter – I always started an exercise before the teacher finished explaining!  I certainly feel alive when I am out-and-about the town talking to traders and the people I am inviting to my community site, Olney100.

With age, I’ve become less proactive.  I’ve come to believe the world is less predictable than I thought in my younger years.  And I would like to have better economic and financial knowledge!  Until I do, I’m working on two principles. We will find salvation by looking after each other and developing new industries which have the potential to sustain our standard of living.

Though I am a completer-finisher, with all the turmoil I’ve seen in the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that positive psychology is key.  It’s important to focus on what really matters in life.  If something makes me unhappy, I consider getting rid of it!  If a mortgage is keeps me awake at night, maybe I should lose it or radically restructure.  I am a work psychologist and I live in a town of 8000 souls.  A company of 8000 employees is small for me – so this is not the best place to live!  Nonetheless, I like it, and the best thing I ever did was to write down on a piece of paper 6 months ago this question: how can I bring my work to Olney?

Positive theorists estimate we can radically change our lives in one to two years by focusing on those things that are deeply important to us and simultaneously important to the well-being of others.

If you are being pulled in several directions at once, maybe you need the courage to write your direction down on a piece of paper and trust to your persistent instincts to work out an answer?

Come with me!

I don’t want to be over prepared for the recession.  Nor do I want to be frozen in fear.  If I were to sum up the work on initiative in three words, they would be : mindfulness, solidarity and self-compassion!

  • Have you done what needs to be done and have you made your work-routines your own?
  • Are you working with other people and sharing know-how about how to do business in a recession?
  • Are you being kind to yourself (and others)?  Do you recognize what you want out of life and what you uniquely contribute?  Are you allowing your special contribution to this world to work its way to the top-of-the-pile?

[MSC : Mice Seek Cheese]

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