About 100 years ago, Ernest Shackleton was looking for a crew for a challenging project: to produce a map of the South Pole. It is said that he published an ad in the local newspaper looking for team members with creativity, a good sense of humor and technical skills.
Fast forward to the present day. Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, is the founder of positive psychology, which focuses on the study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character and healthy institutions.
Dr. Seligman theorizes that in order to choose people for success in a challenging job, you need to search for aptitude, motivation and optimism.
This “explanatory style” theory, which indicates how people explain to themselves why they experience a particular event, can be applied to teams, too, according to Dr. Seligman. He based his hypothesis in three basic predictions:
If everything else remains unchanged, the individual with a more optimistic explanatory style will succeed. This happens because he or she will try harder, particularly under bad circumstances.
The same thing should hold true for teams. If a team can be classified by its level of optimism, the more optimistic team should achieve its goals, and this will be more evident under pressure.
If you can change the style of the team members from pessimistic to optimistic, they will achieve more, particularly under pressure.
The next time you need to pick a project team member, consider their optimism in addition to his or her technical competencies.
How do you choose your team members? What characteristics do you take into account when integrating members to your team?
The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.
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