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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 5, 201112:00 PM EST

Are you in control - or a victim of circumstances?


by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Do you think the world is against you? Or do you take on the world?

Your answer determines your future, or at least your satisfaction with life.

Leadership development auth-or, trainer and consultant Hal Resnick will talk tonight about how human emotions affect personal and organizational success.

His presentation is part of the University of North Florida Distinguished Voices Lecture series. It starts at 7 p.m. at the UNF University Center. It’s free, but tickets are required and are available at

Resnick spent 30 years in organizational development and training. Major clients included EverBank, Wachovia, The Haskell Co., Lockheed Martin and Shell Oil, among others.

Resnick wants to talk about the answers to the question: What causes us to go in one psychological direction or another?

He calls it “the locus of control,” which was put forth in 1954 by American psychologist Julian Rotter.

Resnick contends such a locus, or center, of control offers two possibilities to people.

On one end, “there are people with an external orientation toward life.”

“They say they do not have control over their lives. They are victims of things that happen to them. When bad things happen, they call it fate. When good things happen, they call it luck. They are not responsible for what happens to them,” he said.

On the other end are those with an “internal locus of control.”

“They believe they have the ability to control or to significantly influence what happens to them in their lives. They take responsibility for themselves, their actions and the consequences of those actions,” said Resnick.

As an example, Resnick talks about the student who receives a poor test grade.

If externally oriented, the student blames the teacher for not liking him or her, blames the parents, and says other factors led to the performance.

“They take no responsibility,” he said.

However, the student with an internal focus responds differently.

“The student says, ‘I need to study harder. I need to pay more attention. I didn’t prepare properly for that test,’” he said.

The ultimate grade, said Resnick, is that externally focused people tend to more pessimistic over the long haul.

“They tend to accomplish less in life and they tend to be much less happy with what they do and do not have,” he said.

The internally focused people are the opposite.

“They tend to be more optimistic. They set higher goals. They accomplish more and they tend to be happier with who they are and what they have,” he said.

Resnick said he will talk about how to motivate the two groups, especially in the work force.

Externally focused people respond more to the carrot-or-stick approach he said, while the internally focused respond more to recognition and opportunities.

“You want to recognize them for their contributions,” he said.

Managers might be interested to know that most people are internally oriented. However, supervisors must deal with the externally oriented workers.

“It is important that we have the courage with those who are externally oriented to be clear about the consequences of an external orientation, to help those people understand they are responsible for their own actions and to address the consequences,” said Resnick.

Don’t ignore them, he said.

“I have seen people who are clearly underperforming and whose attitude creates a negative work environment for others around them, generating ill will and resentment by those who are performing,” he said, including against the managers “who lack the courage to address the issue.”

“We have to both address the poor-performance issue directly and continue to recognize and encourage the vast majority of folks who want to achieve, in spite of difficult conditions,” he said.

Resnick, citing Rotter, said that research in the area of internality versus externality, with 0 being completely internal and 23 being completely external, found that the average range among Americans is 7-9.

Resnick said people are not “genetically wired” one way or the other, but develop an external versus internal focus in the environment in which they grow up.

Resnick’s experience includes having been a university professor, including serving at Boston University, Temple University and Wayne State University.

He also was the director of organizational development for the Raytheon Data Systems Co. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Ponte Vedra Beach.

In 2009, he started a partnership with the UNF Division of Continuing Education to offer executive development programs.

Resnick said he wants to leave people with a twofold message at the UNF lecture tonight.

One, when motivating people, it is important to know their focus, internal or external, and to manage accordingly.

Two, it is important to help externally oriented people “to develop more of an understanding that they are, in fact, responsible for their own lives and can empower themselves.”

Doing so, he said, will help them achieve more and “become more optimistic and be happier with their lives.”

He likened it to a batter’s slump.

“The batter who is in a slump has no less talent than before the slump, but something has happened and he has convinced himself he can’t hit,” said Resnick.

“You take that batter and you start to pitch easy balls so he hits them over the fence time and time again. You start pitching harder, he keeps hitting. You are building competence and confidence,” he said.

Yet, he said there are also people who are “professional victims.”

“At a certain point, you throw up your hands and walk away. They go through life unhappy and pessimistic. They achieve less and complain about it,” he said.

And, he said, “you hope these people never become your boss.”

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