Tag Archives: behavior

How Does That Happen?

“So, what’s the solution?” Arnie was puzzled. “I pressed hard, we made our numbers. I lost seven good people in three months. Five technicians and two direct reports.”

“Let’s start with that,” I said.

“Start with what?” Arnie asked.

“Direct reports. Most managers think they are managers so people can report to them. That is not the purpose of a manager. Your role, as a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of your team members.”

Arnie pushed his glasses up. “Okay. I’ll bite. I even believe you. But how?”

“Remember, we talked about a shift? A shift in management behavior to get a different result?”

Arnie nodded, “Yes, a shift.”

“Here’s the shift. Do you bring value to a person’s problem solving and decision making by telling them what to do?”

Arnie looked crossways at me.

“Look,” I said. “I come in here to talk with you, as a manager. I really don’t know that much about how things get done around here, so do I tell you what to do, as a manager?”

“Not really,” Arnie replied.

“But, would you say, I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Well, yes. I mean, sometimes, you piss me off, but, yes, you bring value.”

“So, how does that happen? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, I bring value. How does that happen?”

“Well, you ask me questions.” Arnie stopped. “You ask me questions.”

Grooved Behaviors

To be more effective managers, we cannot change our entire psychological makeup. We are who we are. But we can engage in more effective behaviors, shifts in our behaviors. Arnie was hell bent on accountability. Two managers and five production people lost to turnover, he was finally looking inward.

“As a manager, what can you shift to be more effective?” I asked. “I know you are under a lot of pressure and that you want to maintain a high level of accountability. What can you shift?”

“We are under pressure, and that’s why accountability is so important to me. When one of my team members makes a mistake, it’s a reflection on me,” Arnie explained.

“It’s more than a reflection,” I replied. “As the manager, I hold you accountable for the output of your team. They make a mistake, it’s on you.”

“That’s why I am so hard on them about their mistakes,” he defended.

“I understand, and how has that been working?”

Now, Arnie had to step back. His head was nodding. “You’re right. It seems the harder I press, the more mistakes get made, or the person ends up quitting.”

“Understand, Arnie, that you are under pressure,” I reminded. “And when we are under pressure, we fall into old behavior patterns, comfortable, grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful in the past.”

No Escape

But there was no escape. “If I am the problem,” Arnie said slowly, “then what’s the solution?”

Calm settled. Arnie was no longer looking outside. There still might be a pang of defensiveness, a throwback of justification, but he was ready to explore the real reason for his turnover problem.

“Do you think you can totally remake your personality?” I exaggerated.

I got a chuckle. “No,” he replied.

“I didn’t think so,” I said, with a reciprocating smile. “But can you shift?”

“Shift?” Arnie asked.

“Shift,” I confirmed. “A subtle shift, that changes everything. You are who you are. That will not change. But can you shift?”

If We Paid Better Wages

Arnie was quiet. He made his budget for the quarter. Along the way, he lost two critical managers and five of his best production people. Over a period of three months, it didn’t seem like a frenzy, but in the lookback, the numbers stacked up.

“Well, if we paid more competitive wages, we could attract a higher caliber of people, and perhaps our turnover ratios wouldn’t look.” Arnie stopped mid-sentence. He knew it was a well articulated excuse, and he knew I wasn’t buying it.

“What do you think the problem is?” I asked.

Arnie dropped his face and looked directly at me. The silence was long. Finally, his eyes grabbed a thought from the top of the room. “You are not asking me to go through personnel records, or walk the floor, trying to figure out what the problem is,” he started slowly. “You are sitting in my office, looking at me. You think I’m the problem?”


His eyes went left, then right, up, left. “Outlast the panic,” I directed. “Be calm.” While his body was calm, his mind was racing, for escape, for avoidance, for denial.

In Conflict with an Official Rule?

“Why is culture important?” I asked.

“It’s the way things are,” Ryan explained. “It’s that unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior, that determines the way we work together.”

“And why is it important?” I repeated.

“Every company has a culture, whether they like or not. It’s an undercurrent, sometimes silent, sometimes outspoken.”

“And if there is an official rule that is in conflict with a cultural (unwritten) rule, which wins?”

“Culture always wins. For better or worse, culture always wins.”

You Can’t Interview for Attitude

“I get it,” Sara smiled. “I know, for someone to be a high performer, they have to value the work in the role. If they don’t place a high value on the work, it isn’t likely they will do a good job.”

“Not in the long run,” I confirmed. “In the short term, you can always bribe people with pizza, but once the pizza’s gone, you’re done.” (This is known as a diagnostic assessment.)

“I’m with you,” Sara nodded. “But how do you interview for values. I am afraid if I ask the question, straight up, I am going to get a textbook answer. The candidate is just going to agree with me.”

“Sara, when you are observing your team, watching them work, can you see their values?”

Sara stopped. “I think so, I mean, I can see enthusiasm. I can tell when someone is happy.”

“How can you tell?”

“I can just watch them,” she replied. “I can see it in their behavior.”

“Exactly. You cannot see a person’s values, you can only see their behavior. And that is what you interview for, their behavior. As a manager, just ask this question – How does a person with (this value) behave?”

Sara’s eyes narrowed. I continued.

“Let’s say that you have an accounting position and that accuracy, specifically with numbers is an important value.”

“You can’t ask them if they think accuracy is important. Of course, they will say – yes.”

I nodded. “As a manager, ask yourself this question. How does a person behave if they value accuracy in their work.”

“I know that one,” Sara jumped in. “I once asked our bookkeeper how she always balanced to the penny. She told me she always added things twice. People who value accuracy in their work always add things twice.”

“So, what question would you ask?” I pressed.

“Tell me about a time when accuracy was very important. How did you make sure you balanced to the penny?”
The next group in our Hiring Talent program starts next Monday. To join the group, follow this link to pre-register.