Tag Archives: behavior

Required Behaviors

“But, what if a person doesn’t like the work in the role? What if they have a behavioral tendency against that type of work? Wouldn’t we want to know that in advance of hiring?” Marlena asked.

“Marlena, you are a manager?” I replied with a question. “Do you really like administrative work, you know, the paperwork behind the real work?”

“You mean like approving productivity reports, writing expense reports, reviewing time sheets?” Marlena chuckled. “No, I am more interested in improving productivity, reducing expenses and making sure the time we spend working together is meaningful.”

“So, if you showed me your personality profile, it might show that you are not particularly interested in paperwork?”

“I suppose not,” Marlena responded. “But, that’s just a small part of what I do. Administrative work comes with the territory.”

“Yet, the paperwork is detailed, even tedious at times. Why don’t you just stop doing it?” I asked.

“You can’t just NOT do the paperwork,” she said. “If you don’t look at the productivity reports, how do you know you are improving productivity? If you don’t review expense budgets, how do you know you are reducing expenses? I have to do those things.”

“Are you telling me there is a set of required behaviors associated with your role, that you may not like, that you may not show a behavioral tendency toward, nevertheless, you have to do them to be effective in your role?”

Marlena was silent, but her head nodded up and down.

Given the Circumstance

“You used the word reasonably several times, reasonably analytical, reasonably organized. In hiring, what do you mean reasonably?” Marlena asked.

“Most people have a reasonable range of behaviors,” I replied. “Most roles require a reasonable range of behaviors.”

“But, don’t we all have behavioral tendencies, where we would likely behave more one way than another?”

“Behavioral tendencies compared to what?” I prodded.

“Given a circumstance. Given a circumstance, we would likely behave more one way than another?” she asked again.

“You are absolutely correct, given a circumstance. Often our behavior or our behavioral tendencies depend on the circumstance.” I stopped to describe a series of questions. “Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that required attention to detail? What was the project? How long was the project? What was your role on the project? What was special about that project that required attention to detail? What were the details that required your attention? How did you track (pay attention) to those details? How many details? What was unusual about the details that required your attention?”

“So, don’t we want someone who is detail oriented, who has a general behavioral tendency toward details?” Marlena wanted to know.

“No, I want someone who specifically pays attention to detail when the circumstance (context) requires it. That’s why I always want to know – What’s the work? It’s all about the work.”

Change the Context

“And, to promote the social good for the team employed by my company,” Pablo said, “I have to believe in the good inside each person. I have to create managerial systems that support that belief.”

“What you say is counter to many managerial practices,” I said. “In my travels, I see compensation systems, bonus and incentive programs that rely on greed and competition over compensation. I see team members with a narrow focus only on the next promotion, hidden agendas, backdoor politics, even backstabbing. I see a general mistrust of authority inside the company.”

“Yes, often that is what you see,” Pablo replied. “And, it is through no fault of employees. They engage in behavior to survive inside the system in which they live. If we create a system that relies on greed, we will get greedy behavior. If the only way we acknowledge contribution is by status, if the only thing that feeds a person’s self concept is a promotion, then you will get politics based on power. If you want to change the behavior, change the context in which they live.”

COVID-19 is Shattering Your Culture

Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behavior, in the work that we do together. If it was written rules, that would be your standard operating procedures. Culture is largely unwritten.

It’s all about behavior. Of course there are ideals, beliefs and assumptions we hold that drive those behaviors, but culture is all about behavior.

Culture (ideals, beliefs and assumptions) are reinforced through customs and rituals. COVID-19 is shattering your culture, throwing you out of your rhythm. Look at your customs and rituals. Perhaps, now is the time to double-down on your customs, examine your rituals. What are you doing to hold your team together?

Looks Like a Personality Conflict

The situation may look like a personality conflict, but the symptom leads us astray. When two people are at cross-purposes, locked in disagreement, it is because we, as managers, created the conditions for the behavior we see.

Still looks like a personality conflict?

If you are in a place of worship, a temple, synagogue, sanctuary, are you likely to be loud and boisterous or quiet and reflective? If you are at a sporting event and your team just scored a goal, are you likely to be loud and boisterous or quiet and reflective? Your behavior in those two circumstances is quite different, but did your personality change?

Your behavior changed because the context changed.

Change the context, behavior follows.

Structure is the way we define the working relationships between people in our organization. Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behaviors in the work that we do together. Structure is culture. Culture is context. Change the context, behavior follows.

Be careful how you define the working relationships in your organization. Structure creates the conditions for things that look like personality conflicts.
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Change the context, behavior follows, first taught to me by Gustavo Grodnitzky.

Who Do You Have in Mind?

The ball lifted off the tee with a wobble before moving sideways from right to left, arching into moderate grass off the fairway. Harvey’s next shot went vertical, over his head, then smack into the turf at his feet.

“Who were you thinking of?” I asked.

“No one. What do you mean? It was just a lousy shot.”

“I mean your second swing. Who were you thinking of?”

“I was just letting off steam. Wasn’t thinking of anyone.”

“If you were thinking of someone, who would it be?”

“I don’t know. I was thinking about the guy who taught me how to play. He would have been a little disappointed.”

“Who is this guy? Do I know him?”

“No, he was a pretty old guy when I learned. And I was only nine years old.”

“I was just curious.”

Kurt Lewin tells us that individual action is a myth. Our behavior is always influenced by groups or individuals, even if they are not physically present. To gain insight into a person’s behavior, all you have to do is find out what group or person the individual has in mind.

Who do you have in mind, that is affecting your swing?

I Care What You Do

There are four pieces to the Culture Cycle

  • Beliefs, assumptions, values, way we see the world
  • Connected behaviors
  • Connected behaviors tested by the consequences of reality
  • Customs and rituals

Unfortunately, we often spend too much time attempting to define our beliefs, assumptions and values, and too little time defining connected behaviors. I don’t care what you know, don’t care how you feel. I care what you do.

Stuck in a Pattern

“I just do what comes naturally,” Morgan started. “I manage my team the way it feels right. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.”

“Sometimes not?” I asked.

“Sometimes, what feels natural, puts me right back in the same problem as before. What feels like progress is just staying stuck.”

“Staying stuck?”

“In the past, I made managerial moves that didn’t work out. Like delegating a project, then dissatisfied with the result, taking the project back. Next project, same thing, over and over.”

“Over and over?”

“Like a grooved, routine behavior. I got used to taking projects back. Almost like a habit, even if it didn’t work. Taking a project back was comfortable. The project got done (by me) and the quality was up to standard. Problem solved,” Morgan explained.

“Then, what’s the problem?”

“Just because we do something over and over, doesn’t make it the best move. I have to do something different to interrupt the pattern, when the pattern doesn’t get what I want.”

“What do you want?”

“I want my team to solve the problem, and I want the output up to standard,” Morgan replied.

“So, how are you going to interrupt the pattern?”

How We Get to Customs and Rituals

Some time ago, writing a role description, I added Culture as a Key Result Area. What is the accountability of a manager in the Key Result Area (KRA) of Company Culture?

There are several frames in which to look at company culture. The one I currently kick around is –
That unwritten set of rules that governs our required behavior in the work that we do together. It is an unwritten set of rules in contrast to our written set of rules, policies, procedures. And, culture is often more powerful than any policy we may write or attempt to officially enforce. Sometimes, culture even works against our stated policy.

What is the accountability of a manager in the Key Result Area (KRA) of Company Culture?

  • What is the source of culture, where does it start?
  • How is culture visible, how do we see it?
  • How is culture tested?
  • How is culture institutionalized, reinforced and perpetuated?

These are the four questions in the Culture Cycle.

Culture Starts
The source of culture is the way we see the world. It includes our bias, our experience, our interpretation of our experience. Culture is the story we carry into our experience that provides the lens, the frame, the tint, the brightness or darkness of that story.

Culture is Visible
Culture, the way we see the world drives our behavior. We cannot see the bias in others. We cannot see their interpretations of the world. We cannot see the story people carry in their minds, but, we can see behavior. Culture drives behavior. Behavior makes culture visible.

Tested
Behavior, driven by culture, is constantly tested against the reality of consequences. For better or worse, behaviors driven by culture are proven valid, or not. Our culture stands for what we tolerate. This is counter to the notion of the lofty intentions of honesty and integrity. Our culture stands for the behaviors we tolerate.

Customs and Rituals
Behaviors that survive, for better or worse, are institutionalized in our rituals and customs. This ranges from the peer lunch on a team member’s first day at work (for better), to the hazing in a fraternity house (for worse). But, it all starts with the way we see the world. -Tom Foster

Defining Culture as Behavior

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
When you described culture as a Key Result Area, you said the manager should be an effective model for behaviors that support the company’s culture. I am looking at our company’s mission, vision, values and it’s not really clear what those behaviors are.

Response:
The reason it’s not clear is that most mission, vision, values placards are not user friendly. There is no clarity because the company (the CEO, executive managers, managers and supervisors) have not made it clear. If you want clear behaviors, you have to define them.

For example, if teamwork is an agreed-upon value. “Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making.” What are the behaviors connected with teamwork? Spell it out.

Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making. Given a problem to solve, each team member, using their full commitment and capability is required to give their supervisor or manager “best advice.” Given a problem to solve, each manager or supervisor is required to collect facts about the problem by listening to “best advice” from their team. Only after thorough discussion and consideration of the data, contributing factors, circumstances and alternatives, will the manager or supervisor make the decision about the course of action to solve the problem. Our company acknowledges that this may be cumbersome and slow down the problem solving process AND it acknowledges that this process will be a learning tool for each team member in problem solving. In the short term, this process may slow things down AND in the long run, this process will prepare each team member to solve more complicated problems. This is not a suggestion, this is a requirement. -Tom
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You may recognize “best advice” from Nick Forrest in How Dare You Manage?