• Scott McInnes

#30 | Ed Sheeran on self-efficacy

I went to see Ed Sheeran last Saturday in the Phoenix Park. One guy with a guitar and a loop pedal standing on a stage ON HIS OWN in front of 50,000 people. And he had us all in the palm of his hand - we loved every minute (one guy got so carried away he dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend during 'Shape of You'!).

Self-efficacy defined

I've been wanting to write a post about self-efficacy for a while and Ed's performance got me thinking. When I'm talking to teams about change and some of the ways they can support themselves during change, we spend a good bit of time discussing self-efficacy. Back in the 70's, Albert Bandura, defined it as 'one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task.’

About 2,000 years before that Virgil, the Roman poet summarised it when he said ‘They can conquer who believe they can’

Whichever way you look at it, on Saturday evening, Ed Sheeran's levels of self-efficacy and belief were off the Richter scale!

But it's not always like that for people. Many people I know wouldn't get on stage in front of five or 50 people, never mind 50,000 - they don't have that same belief in their own ability.

Luckily self-efficacy is something you can build.

Measuring your own self-efficacy

Before you seek to improve, it’s worth considering where you are today and how you react in situations. Bandura looked at self-efficacy from a number of different angles to see how people reacted when they came up against adversity or a difficult situation:

  • Approach – When the going gets tough, do you withdraw or focus even harder on achieving the goal?

  • Commitment to goals – In the face of adversity, does your resolve weaken or does it become stronger?

  • Performance – What happens to your performance? Do you perform poorly in the face of adversity or can you sustain yourself and 'drive on'

  • Focus – Do you focus on your limitations when things go badly or do you put the failure down to poor information?

  • Failure recovery – When you are knocked down, do you recover quickly or are you slow to get back up off the canvas?

So, some things to think about to identify your own levels of self-efficacy. There's also lots of reading out there and most of it is pretty accessible to the average non-psychologist (like me!).

Tools for change

But what are some of the things you can do if you identify that your self-efficacy levels are low? Here are the four things Albert Bandura said you should be thinking about.

So how do you build your own levels of efficacy? What more can you do? Bandura identified four things:

  • Mastery - 'Practice makes perfect' as they say and experiencing mastery is the most important factor in building self-efficacy. As we improve, so our levels of self-efficacy increase. So commit to getting better.

  • Modelling - My eight-year-old plays guitar and he loves his guitar teacher. As he's watching his teacher play, he's thinking "If he can do it, I can do it as well". The trick is to find someone who's good at what you're not and try and be more like them.

  • Social persuasion – Being told we're great at something and being encouraged to get better will also help to drive self-efficacy. Choose to work with people who are supportive and, in return, support them back.

  • Physiological factors – When we get into stressful situations, a number of physiological things happen - a dry mouth, 'butterflies', sweaty palms. Those things will always happen - what's important is how you choose to perceive them. Only you can decide what those signs mean to you - perhaps they might cause you think you 'can't do this'? Or perhaps they cause you to think 'my body is readying itself to help me through this'. That's your decision to make.

So that's self-efficacy 101 - courtesy of Albert Bandura and Ed Sheeran. 😊


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