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Leadership, Performance and the Big-Fish-Little-Pond phenomenon (English version 2013)

M&O Congress 2011 (Kluwer Academic Press/SIOO)
by

Freda Vasse

on 22 March 2015

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Transcript of Leadership, Performance and the Big-Fish-Little-Pond phenomenon (English version 2013)

Team performance and/or achievement
Leadership, Performance and the Big-Fish-Little-Pond phenomenon
SELF-CONCEPT, LEARNING AND ENABLING HUMAN POTENTIAL
Social interactions give rise to social comparisons between individuals; it is a fundamental process that affects the self-concept, as the individual is observed by others and identifies with others (Fiske & Taylor, 2008; Marsh, Craven & McInerney, 2008).
SOCIAL COMPARISON THEORY AND UNDERSTANDING THE ‘SELF’ IN SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
An individual experiences an emotion about his personal characteristics and how others perceive him.

Mutual expectations are adjusted to match this experience. An individual gains an impression of his personal qualities and the things that are ascribed to those qualities.

These mental representations of the ‘self’, a collection of impressions and beliefs in the ‘self’, make up the self-concept (Fiske & Taylor, 2008).
SOCIAL COMPARISON AND THE IMPACT OF THE SELF-CONCEPT
Social Interaction
Self-concept and attitude
‘Who we are’ and ‘what we do’ in relation to ‘who the others are’ and ‘what others do’.
(‘In comparison to the other person, I’m more intelligent’), other people inspire us (‘I would like to be like that other person’) and other people discourage us (‘I will never be like that other person’).
There is a reciprocal relationship between the self-concept and the individual's own (academic) abilities.
SELF-CONCEPT
ACHIEVEMENT
MOTIVATION
There is mutual effect between the self-concept and achievement: when the self-concept is lower, the individual will be less inclined to perform well.

When the self-concept is higher, the individual will be more inclined to perform well. To perform well, you need - in addition to a belief in yourself - self-regulation, self-supervision and motivation. A positive professional perception of yourself and a belief in your own abilities gives you the motivation to be able to, and/or to want to, achieve.

This mutual effect is relevant to leaders: when motivating or maintaining motivation, it is important that the leader focuses on the development of the academic self-concept, on individual interest and on the achieved performance. By concentrating on those areas, a leader can achieve long-term results.
The self-concept is dynamic and develops in different domains
(Marsh, Craven & McInerney, 2008).
THE SELF CONCEPT DEPENDS ON THE GROUP TO WHICH INDIVIDUAL BELONGS/WORKS
The individual appraises his own abilities and his own behaviour when the individual compares himself to other people and when he is aware of the other people’s opinions.

Who those other people are depends on the group to which the individual belongs. In an organisation or company, the group could be the department team of which the individual is a member.
The team might not be representative. If an employee performed badly in a team, it does not mean to say that this person performed badly in general; perhaps the employee was accidently assigned to a team with a high level of performance.
PREFERENCES FOR COMPARISON
An individual prefers to associate with others whose abilities are similar to, or slightly better than, those of himself.

This kind of social comparison produces a positive self-concept effect, due to the upwards comparison towards the average instead of a downwards movement resulting in a negative self-concept (Seaton et al., 2008).
If an individual has many abilities - a ‘big fish’ - the upwards comparison is less pronounced because there is always a group average.
UPWARDS AND DOWNWARDS COMPARISONS
If the social comparison is upwards, the self-concept is compared to individuals who are considered to be better than the individual in question.
If the social comparison is downwards, the comparison is made in the opposite direction (Fiske & Taylor, 2008).
SELF - DETERMINATION THEORY
‘Self-determination theory’ focuses on self-reflection.

Individuals who have a better capacity for ‘self-determination’, concentrating on their own actions instead of those of other people experience more freedom to do what they find interesting, important or vital and are less inclined to allow themselves to be influenced by social comparison (Fiske & Taylor, 2008; Marsh, Craven & McInerney, 2008).
A MOMENT OF SELF-REFLECTION……...
People who make comparisons versus against those who don’t?
Employees, leaders and yourself?
A METAPHORE ……
To explain the BFLP, Marsh uses the metaphor of fish in a pond: the fish are only aware of their relative size, and of course, the largest fish thinks it is a very big fish.

When this fish is moved to a pond in which it is one of the smallest fish, it will be forced to adjust its self-concept because it realises that it is not actually a very big fish.

Marsh and colleagues can be regarded as the founders of the BFLP theory (2005).
individual
skills
individual
self-concept
group average
The beneficial effects of (academic) skills on the self-concept
The detrimental effects of (academic) skills on the self-concept
SCHEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF THE
EFFECT
BFLP
A
The Big Fish Little Pond (BFLP) effect
The theory of the BFLP effect assumes that a group always achieves an average performance.

The individuals who are above average benefit from the average because of the beneficial effect on the self-concept, while the individuals who are below the average are at a disadvantage because they experience a detrimental BFLP effect on the self-concept.

When a group that is below the average because the individuals have formed negative self-concepts is split up, a dichotomy of positive and negative self-concepts will, once again, become apparent in the two new groups.

The dichotomy arises due to the new average within the group against which new comparisons can be made.

The BFLP theory argues that this phenomenon will occur even when the group is reduced to two people, of whom one person has more abilities than the other (Marsh, 2005).
The average pond 2
'big' fish
Fish size
The average pond 1
Pond 1
Pond 2
The BFLP effect in professional nursing practice. beroepspraktijk.
The average self-concept
cluster 'acute care' departments
NSCQ
The average self-concept
cluster 'normal care' departments
Cluster 'normal care' departments
Cluster 'acute care' departments
Group processes within employment organisations
The average group 2
self-concept 'big fish'
Self-concept
The average group 1
group 1
group 2
THE BIG-FISH-LITTLE-POND PHENOMENON
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON

TEAM DYNAMICS
Empirical research reveals that the BFLP effect is ‘cross-cultural’, ‘multidisciplinary’ and generalizable regarding a variety of domains.
Group composition and Team Dynamics
Homogeneous groups versus heterogeneous groups
The collective versus individual differences
Age has an effect on the professional self-concept
There is even more diversity.... regarding intelligence, education, background, work experience, work place, et cetera.
ADVANTAGE OR DISADVANTAGE?
Will the individual with a lower performance level benefit from a higher performance level or would the consequences be detrimental to him?
And will an individual with a higher performance level have an advantage or experience disadvantage if there is an individual with a lower performance level in his department?
LEADERSHIP BEHAVIOUR: THE LEADER AS MODERATOR
Team dynamics and the BFLP phenomenon:
Identification and appreciation of differences.
The effect of social comparison on motivation and attitude.
Intervention to reduce the BFLP effect and to reinforce the self-concept.
WHO IS THE BIG FISH?
A moment of reflection...
OBSERVATION AND
ENABLING OF HUMAN POTENTIAL
Leadership, performance and the BFLPE
Internal and external (I/E) frame of reference have a pivotal role in assessing and determining the individual’s own abilities.
External frame of reference at national and corporate/organisational levels.
External frame of reference at the leader’s level
External frame of reference at the team level
Internal frame of reference (within the individual)
Professional Self-concept
Measuring the professional self-concept can provide information about the motivation for learning and development (willingness to learn) so that workers/professionals (nurses) can improve their performance and/or achievement.
ACTION PERSPECTIVE FOR LEADERS
RECIPROCAL EFFECT BFLP PHENOMENON
Self-concept
Performance
Enhancement of the
Professional Self-concept
Focus on the Self-determination.
Appropriate frame of reference
Permanent Professional
Education for improvement and/or enhancement of performance
Increasing achievement motivation
Challenges
The appreciation of differences
URGENCY
ANTICIPATING LABOUR SHORTAGES

MAKING THE BEST USE OF THE AVAILABLE CAPACITY / LABOUR SUPPLY AND IMPROVING THE LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE
LEADERSHIP AND PERFORMANCE
The professional self-concept and the degree of performance are interrelated: positive professional self-awareness - a belief in your own abilities - provides the motivation to be able to, and to want to, achieve.

This mutual effect is relevant to leaders: for the development or maintenance of motivation, it is important that the leader focuses on the development of the academic self-concept, on individual interest and on the achieved performance.
By doing so, he/she can produce long-term results.


Cowin, L.S., Johnson, M., Craven, R.G. & Marsh, H.W. (2008). Causal modeling of self-
concept, job satisfaction, and retention of nurses. International Journal of
Nursing Studies, 45, p. 1449-1459.
Fiske, S. T., Taylor, S. E. (2008). Social Cognition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Marsh, H. W. (2005). Big-Fish-Little-Pond effect on academic self-concept: Cross-
Cultural and Cross-Disciplinary Generalizability. SELF Research Centre,
University of Western Sydney,
Marsh, H.W., Craven, R.G. & McInerney, D.M. (2008). Self Processes, Learning and
Enabling Human Potential. Dynamic New Approaches. Montana
Information. Charlotte NC, IAP publishing, inc.
Marsh, H.W. & Hau, K. (2003). Big-Fish-Little-Pond-Effect on Academic Self-Concept.
A Cross-Cultural (26 country) Test of the Negative Effects of Academically
Selective Schools. American Psychologist, 58(5), p. 364-376.
Marsick, V. J. & Watkins, K. E. (2003). Demonstrating the Value of an Organization’s
Learning Culture: The Dimensions of the Learning Organization
Questionnaire. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 5, p. 132.
Seaton, M., Marsh, H.W., Dumas, F., Huguet, P., Monteil, J. M., Régner, I., et al., (2008).
In search of the big fish: Investigating the coexistence of the big-fish-little-
pond effect with the positive effects of upward comparisons. British Journal
of Social Psychology, 47, p. 73-103
Vasse, F.M.D., Beijer, J. & Vries, H., de (2009). Treedt het Big-Fish-Little-Pond effect in
de verpleegkundige beroepspraktijk onder verpleegkundigen op en wat is
daarvan de consequentie? Universiteit Utrecht: Thesis.
Vlist, R. van der, Steensma, H., Kamperman, A. & Gerrichhauzen, J. (red.) (1999).
Handboek Leiderschap in arbeidsorganisaties. Maarssen: Elsevier/De
Tijdstroom.
The metaphor of a large fish in a small pond.
The higher the level of the group’s performance, the higher the average achievement will be and, as a (logical) consequence, the frame of reference will adjust to that average. It is possible that the group’s culture dominates the individual’s internal frame of reference and that duality could arise from the previously determined collectivism, making it difficult for the individual employee to express his own abilities within the prevailing culture. It is crucial to avoid downwards comparison – under-achievement - in the interests of the team’s performance; however, formulating objective standards or criteria could reduce social comparison.
A positive self-concept is an important factor for achieving goals (Marsh, 1993). A positive self-concept is a prerequisite for making good use of the individual’s abilities, for planning new goals, for the boosting self-esteem by acquiring new knowledge and through personal growth. A positive self-concept predicts a better performance and more job satisfaction. A negative self-concept can influence the perception of the individual’s learning abilities and the prediction for the degree of willingness to learn. If a BFLP effect is apparent, options for influencing the self-concept may be sought to encourage the willingness to learn so that the individual’s abilities can be put to better use (Marsh, 2005).
Consequently, it is important for the leader to encourage individuals to educate themselves and then allow them to apply what they have learnt in practice by adjusting the reference framework. If what he has learnt is appreciated, the individual will be motivated to work on further personal growth. Marsick & Watkins (2003) point out to companies and organisations that it is not enough to hold individual employees responsible for permanent education if the company’s structure, culture and capacity are not designed to provide support, encouragement or do not allow the employees to apply what they have learnt.
For a company or organisation, it is important that the structure, culture and the educational programme focus on the development and application of the abilities of each individual to improve or maintain the professional self-concept and by doing so, to boost the individual’s motivation to want to, and to be able to, continue to grow within a profession setting (Vasse, Beijer & De Vries, 2009).
The BFLP effect has been tested to see whether it also occurs in professional nursing practice (Vasse, Beijer & De Vries, 2009).

The BFLP effect was measured by means of 'Nurse Self-Concept Questionnaire' (NSCQ), an instrument that has been specifically designed for measuring the professional nursing self-concept (Cowin et al., 2008). The six factors are: general nursing self-concept, care, relations with managers, communication, knowledge and leadership.

A separate component of the NSCQ is the ‘Nurses Retention Index’ (NRI). The NRI concentrates on the motivation regarding the individual’s nursing profession and nursing practice (to stay in nursing or to leave nursing and start another career).
The professional self-concept is closely related to a desire for personal improvement and growth, and using your own abilities to achieve a better performance in your present job or a ‘possible self’ in another position. The internal and external (I/E) frame of reference also have an effect on this. If the expectations of the external frame of reference are either too high or too low, or if the group performance average is too high or too low, it can affect the self-concept and performance. Education, position or performance of duties that match the individual’s abilities will have a beneficial effect of the self-concept (Vasse, Beijer & De Vries, 2009).
Copyright © 2011 F.M.D. Vasse

MSc in Educational Design & Consultancy;
Innovator in Health Care.

Email: vasse@frenetti.com
Web: www.frenetti.com
Blog: http://www.vasse.eu/wp
Twitter @FredaVasse
Medical Scientific Illustrator
www.scientific-art.nl
Animated cartoon (Vasse & Hamers, 2011) of the schematic representation of Marsh & Hau’s BFLP effect (2003).
Cowin et al (2008) argue that various studies conducted among nurses reveal that the self-concept has a large impact on other mediating factors such as dedication, work satisfaction, stress and burn-outs. Marsh et al (2005) suggest that the development of an academic self-concept is both cause and effect of the achieved performance. The professional self-concept and the degree of performance are interrelated.
In search of the BFLP phenomenon in a professional nursing context in an University Hospital
Vasse, F. M. D. (2011). Leadership and performance: A different approach to the deployment of employees in healthcare inescapable! In J.J. Boonstra, J. van Muijen & H. Tours (ed.), Leadership in organizations. Crisis in Leadership - in search of new ways, p. 135-155. Deventer: Kluwer - a Wolters Kluwer business.
Publication (Dutch):
References
More references are in the publication mentioned below
Design: Vasse, F.M.D. (Freda)
Illustration: Dana Hamers
Other people inform us about 'who we are' or 'where we stand'.
Dutch version 2011; English version 2013.
M&O congress 2011 Leadership in organisations. Crisis in Leadership - in search of new ways. Kluwer/SIOO, The Netherlands.
Figure 1. Handbook Leadership in Organisations (Van der Vlist, et. al. ,1999).
Van der Vlist et. al. (1999) list four factors that have an impact on the motivation of employees in companies or organisations that clarify the BFLP phenomenon at the level of the leader.
Support
Focus on the development of the academic self-concept
Focus on the achieved performance
Focus on the individual interest
Full transcript