Albert Bandura has an article about self-efficacy that I have read over and over again. I’ll summarize my own take-aways from it with the hopes that you’ll be interested enough to go see what he REALLY said.
Self-efficacy is a sense of personal effectiveness, a belief that I have the power through my performance to affect the outcomes that matter to me. Self-efficacy beliefs have a big impact on how people think, feel, motivate themselves, behave, and thus perform in a given setting.
There are four ways that people grow in self-efficacy, arranged below from the most effective down to the least — but still effective.
- Personal mastery: Taking on something that is a little beyond your personal sense of what you can do and then succeeding at it. Personal comment: I was unhappy to discover when I left work temporarily after the birth of my first child that a sense of personal mastery starts to seep away without new experiences. I had thought you got it and then kept it. Not so.
- Vicarious mastery: Observing people like yourself achieving personal mastery. The more they are like you, the more self-efficacy you gain. Personal comment: Aha! This is the reason that role models matter so much for women in technical work places — and for under-represented minorities everywhere.
- Social persuasion: “Come on, you can do it. Yes you can.”
- Interpreting stress reactions in a positive way: self-efficacious people view performance stress as energizing; those without self-efficacy find performance stress debilitating and a sign that they will fail. Personal comment: I still get butterflies in my stomach when I’m about to give a talk. I no longer experience them as a sign that I am going to mess up. Now they are the signals that I’m getting excited about meeting an audience.
When you look for ways to make the people around you more masterful at what they do — your co-workers, employees, children, spouse, friends, etc. — remember Albert Bandura and self-efficacy.