How Do You Know You Can Do It?

Posted on September 21, 2011

215 Jessica and Gabe working in the Horticulture UnitPsychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations. People with high self-efficacy - that is, those who believe they can perform well - are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided.

Julius Lanoil
Consultant, Education and Wellness, Fountain House

This is the second in a three-part series about the working community practice of side-by-side work. Read the first part.

Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations. People with high self-efficacy - that is, those who believe they can perform well - are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided. Increasing self-efficacy is an important treatment objective in the working community, because it changes personal self-beliefs and affects the cognition, motivation, affective states and biology that underlies them. 

How Do We Build Self-Efficacy?

At Fountain House, building self-efficacy among the membership is facilitated by staff and members working side by side to accomplish the goals of the community. This seemingly simple practice actually has several components.

  1. Choose a needed task that a particular member is likely to succeed at. Realistic success in the task is the goal. This might mean that the worker will break down a task into sub tasks to find a task consistent with a particular member’s ability at the time.

  2. Assuming a significant relationship between the staff worker and the member exists, the worker is in a position to offer support, lower stress and correct fearful thoughts.

  3. There is usually more than one way to do a job. Working side by side allows the worker to explain the best way to do the task, relate to others who are part of the task, and maintain any equipment that is part of the task, all of which is important to the successful completion of the work.

  4. Members need to be clear as to the reasons for the task. Without a clear explanation for the purpose of the task in terms of community need and functioning or self-growth, motivation to persevere in the task is undermined.

  5. Working side by side permits the worker to regulate the amount of time the member is engaged in the task. This time issue can be the difference between a positive and negative experience, since fatigue and stress can negate the impact of what could be a successful task completion. In a similar circumstance expecting a member to participate in a task on their own without first achieving mastery of the task is a prescription for a failure. Also even when mastery has been achieved, expecting regular performance of the task day after day requires skills that are different from the skills required for occasional participation in a task.

  6. It can be useful to ask a member who has successfully mastered the task at hand to work alongside with the member in training as a way of offering the support of a role model whose similar member status can create the thought “if he can do it, so can I.”

  7. A staff skill in side-by-side work is to walk the line between positive feedback and realistic feedback. The member needs truthful feedback, but it should be communicated in a positive and constructive manner with less talk and more demonstration.

  8. Working side by side gives a worker the opportunity to teach the various ways the skills involved and mastered in a task can be utilized in other tasks or situations. This part of the process is called “generalization of work and interpersonal skills.”

  9. When the time is right, the worker must withdraw from the side-by-side helping process and let the member do the task alone. It is at this point in the process that successfully doing the task alone leads to the positive feeling that comes to all people, when they experience intrinsic reward, mastery, and the permanent increase in their personal sense of efficacy.

  10. At this point, staff and the member should discuss a new task that they could do side by side. This new task should be built on the previous success with added skill requirements in task complexity, increases in time necessary to do the task, amount of social interaction required, or a combination of all three.

  11. If regularity of task performance is an issue for this member, an important skill might be learned and accomplished if the member were to continue the previous mastered task on a regular basis.

    What other ways is self-effiicacy - or confidence in your ability to succeed - built in a working community?   

2014 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Winner

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