Thursday, August 1, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Sarah Lewis

Title: Positive Psychology at Work: How Positive Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Create Inspiring Organizations
Author: Sarah Lewis
Image result for Positive Psychology at Work: How Positive Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Create Inspiring Organizations
via Amazon
First good news: I have finished my graduate program.  I now, officially, have a Master of Education degree.  The relevance to this post: this is one of the books I read for my last class.

Sarah Lewis devotes much of her first chapter to establishing the difference between positive psychology and positive thinking.  Positive thinking is basically the concept that, simply through believing it so, all will work out fine.  If it doesn't, it's because you weren't positive enough.  Positive psych is the more scientific study of the positive aspects of human life, those things which make life most worth living.  The differences are subtle but crucial.  As the title implies, the book applies positive psych to the world of work.  As with many such books, much of Lewis's material is related to "business" but applications to the teaching industry are clear.

I would not say Posistive Psychology at Work is particularly readable but the material is useful.  I especially appreciated an idea submitted by contributor Clive Hutchinson regarding giving feedback with a playing card model:  "Clubs was just telling people they had done badly, with no reasons.  Spades was negative feedback but with specific information on what was bad.  Hearts was praise, but without saying specifically what was good.  And Diamonds was praise with specific information about what was good."  Diamonds, in this case, represent the ideal.  Teaching students to give meaningful feedback to each other has been a major focus for me recently and I may well adapt this metaphor.

I also like this perspective on leadership: "Increasingly, it is being recognized that the best leaders don't work to become perfect.  Rather, they focus on honing their strengths and finding others to make up their limitations."  Strengths is an idea I have explored in depth personally and professionally (see here, for instance) and it's good to see it reinforced here. 

In addition to appraising my own situation, Lewis's thoughts on work in general and leadership in particular have also shed new light for me on a certain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise he captains.  Stay tuned on this.  It is likely to come up in future posts.



  1. Congratulation for your success to complete your master degree....

    sound good book to read.....

  2. That is quite an accomplishment! Huzzah.

    I'll check the book out. Positive attitude and thinking is a life saver for many, incl. me.

    1. Actually, it's about more than just a positive attitude. It's thinking about what is already good and how to preserve it.

  3. First: Congrats!
    Second: Positive psychology is bunk. Seriously. It has no scientific basis. This is true and a paraphrasing of a quote from one of the top guys in positive psychology: We hope that one day the science shows us to be correct.

    1. Well okay. But I'm at a point in my career where I'm really tired of listening to people simply complain, then admire the problem over and over again. It's emotionally exhausting. It's well past time to try a new approach and appreciative inquiry seems a good place to start.

      The book also touches on emphasizing strengths - an approach I've come to believe in quite strongly. More about that on Monday.

    2. I can understand not wanting to listen to people complain, but I don't think positive psychology is the response to that. It was literally made up with no science behind it, and the backers of it have been trying, unsuccessfully, for decades to fabricate some science to support it. I did some digging after reading the book Bright-Sided. This is the kind of thing that
      1. gives people a distrust of science.
      2. gets psychology dismissed as "hardly science" from people in the "hard" sciences.
      As someone who has a degree in psychology, this is one of those things that really pushes my buttons, especially because it's become such a popular thing because it sounds so nice.

    3. Fair enough. I'm still likely to try some of her ideas.