Archive for month: June, 2013

Intention versus Impact

Categories: Behavior change, Employee Engagement, Feedback, Leadership, ReinforcementAuthor:

We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions; others judge us by the impact of our behavior.  This makes sense, I don’t know anyone who can read minds so it’s difficult for others to know our intentions but it is easy for them to observe our behavior.  And, if our behavior and intentions don’t seem to match, people are going to believe the behavior no matter what intentions we state.

This means that we can’t just tune into what we hope to accomplish, we need to be good at observing the downstream impact of our behavior.  I have seen numerous examples of managers with good intentions having a negative downstream impact.

For example, many managers intend to make it clear that “safety is a value” but the paperwork and meetings they add to reflect that intention just cause frustration.  Other managers may work hard to avoid micromanaging but come across as not caring.

Here are some simple situations for you to try:

Intention: Positively reinforce behavior                                             
Behavior:  Publicly praise the person 
Impact: ?????

Intention: Give spouse a great gift                                             
Behavior:  Give spouse a fancy new vacuum
Impact: ?????

Intention: Write a thoughtful response to an email
Behavior:  Respond to the email three days later
Impact: ?????

In each of those situations, the impact may have been positive or it may have been negative depending on the person and context.

It is a good idea to articulate your intention along with the behavior so people know what you hope to accomplish and consider giving you some feedback on whether you are over the target.  This might not always be possible, which is why it is important to also get really good at observing what happens after you behave.  The only way to know if you did well is to pay attention to the way others respond, ask, and create the conditions where people will be honest when you do ask.

It’s Not My Fault… Is It? Part 2

Categories: Behavior change, Leadership, ReinforcementAuthor:

How many attempts do the kids make before they stop nagging you about buying the next latest and greatest Apple I Pod-Padooozle? If the answer is “a lot” look to yourself before you blame the little devil child. The kids are playing the slot machine of parenthood and over time, we’re providing the “payout” just enough to keep the nagging going. The long term result is an environment where TWO people are unhappy. As parents, we’re unhappy because of the constant battle going on between us and our kids; our kids are unhappy because they’re becoming a bit of a handful and their relationships with others begin to suffer.

In part one of this blog I said that as parents and leaders, we are the consequence providers. If you’re a leader in business, you’re also responsible for managing the behaviors of the people who report to you and it’s not uncommon to find yourself unhappy with those results too. Getting better at delivering consistent consequences is a step in the right direction. In behavioral terms this is known as building stimulus control. It’s setting an expectation (antecedent) and then delivering appropriate consequences following the behavior(s). Plainly speaking, we develop stimulus control when we’re vigilant to always do what we say we will do. This sounds really simple but the truth is it’s quite challenging. Getting better at being a consistent consequence provider is like losing weight: unless we have data we don’t notice improvements.

If you’re getting something you don’t want from somebody look for the “payout” that they receive and work to eliminate it. If you want more of something, remember to be consistent with consequences. Keep track by counting how often you follow through and how often you don’t. Get better at this and people will respect you for it, even the kids.