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Chapter 8. Reviewing Travel Tales of Pre... > Organizational Management Positions

Organizational Management Positions

Managers are well suited for systematic self-leadership practice. Organizational research, as well as personal experience and observation, has made us acutely aware of the difficult challenges that require managers to be especially good self-managers. If not, then managers can easily become poor managers of others and of organizational resources. For many, the fast-paced, multifaceted demands of a management position can become overwhelming. As phones ring off the hook, subordinates wait for their attention, multiple deadlines stare them in the face, a seemingly endless onslaught of meetings compete for their time, and they are snowed under by a mountain of information and “urgent” demands, the manager's potential for ineffectiveness and inefficiency is enormous. Peter Drucker has described effectiveness as “doing the right thing,” and efficiency as “doing things right.”[13] In essence, a manager—despite typically being in a sizable organization that imposes guidelines, constraints, and offers various incentives—must largely choose among his vast demands, what to spend time on, and how to expend effort on the tasks chosen. Self-leadership practices of managers can be instrumental in determining if they are doing the right things and doing them correctly.

Mental Self-Leadership Training: Teaching Employees to Lead Themselves[a]

An example of how self-leadership can be taught occurred at America West Airlines. America West, an international commercial airline, employs approximately 12,100 people and is based in Phoenix, Arizona. We recently attempted to teach various employees of America West to utilize mental self-leadership strategies to enhance their work lives. An interesting aspect of the training situation was that just prior to beginning the training, the airline had declared bankruptcy. As a result of this critical financial situation, America West management laid off 2,000 workers and reduced its fleet of aircraft from 115 to 100 planes. Consequently, many of the employees of America West were fearful of losing their jobs.

Exactly what does self-leadership of thought training involve? Let's take a closer look at this training program. Trainees received instruction on the utilization of the following mental strategies to enhance their performance: (1) self-talk, (2) mental imagery, (3) managing beliefs and assumptions, (4) thought patterns, and (5) relapse prevention. The training program consisted of six, two-hour sessions. Within each session, the focus included the following: (1) definition of the mental self-leadership strategies, (2) examples of real-life applications, (3) specific/relevant on-the-job applications, and (4) relapse prevention (to ensure maintenance of the learned skills). Multiple training media designed to reinforce the learning of the mental self-leadership strategies were utilized including instructor lectures, video presentations, and individual and group exercises.

The first session served as an introduction to establish rapport and create interest with the trainees and to provide a general overview of the principles of thought self-leadership. The second session was directed toward describing the link between an individual's distorted thoughts and his or her beliefs and assumptions. Trainees were taught to identify their cognitive distortions and to replace these distortions with more functional forms of thought.

The third session focused on self-dialogue. The primary thrust of this session was replacing negative self-talk with that of a more constructive and positive nature. The fourth session involved the concept of mental imagery. In this session, trainees were taught to follow specific mental imagery steps to more effectively complete assignments on the job and outside of work.

In the fifth session, the training focused on the concept of thought patterns. The basis of the thought pattern training involved individuals examining their patterns of habitual thinking and then attempting to alter these negative thinking habits to more constructive ones. Finally, relapse prevention was the central theme of the sixth session. Trainees received instruction on a process designed to prevent them from forgetting to practice the mental self-leadership techniques learned when faced with a threatening situation. At the conclusion of each of the training sessions, the employees were instructed to apply the skills that they learned to situations on their job (specific application is one of the topics in each training session). Additionally, throughout the training, the employees were frequently reminded that they must practice these newly learned self-leadership strategies to enjoy the full benefits of using these mental skills.

The training was quite successful. An assessment of the employees following the training indicated that they liked the program, experienced enhanced mental performance, utilized the principles in their daily lives, demonstrated enhanced thoughts under simulated conditions, and that the training significantly improved trainees' job satisfaction, self-efficacy, and mood. Additionally, the assessment indicated that the training enhanced employees' bankruptcy perceptions. After the training, the employees viewed the bankruptcy situation at America West in a more opportunistic manner. In sum, we feel this example from America West shows that employees can truly be taught to lead themselves.

[a] Adapted from C. P. Neck, “Mental Self-Leadership Training: Teaching Employees To Be Opportunity Thinkers” in H. Sims and C. Manz, Company of Heroes: Unleashing The Power of Self-Leadership (New York: Wiley, 1996): 103–104; and C. P. Neck and C. C. Manz, “Thought Self-Leadership: The Impact of Mental Strategies Training on Employee Cognition, Behavior, and Affect,” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 17 (1996), 445–467.



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