A Manager’s Guide to Interpreting Human Behavior
Your job as a manager is to get the very highest quality and quantity of human performance and output from the resources entrusted to you. As much as 80% of the operating costs of your business are represented by the wages, salaries, benefits and bonuses paid out to your people. Small, incremental increases in individual performance can have a substantial effect on your bottom line.
Human Behavior and Business Skills
To get the very most out of others, you must become something like an “amateur psychologist” as one of your many business skills. You have to develop a fairly good idea of human behavior, how people think, feel and react. You need to know why people do, or do not do, the things that they do and how you can influence them in a positive way.
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This is not easy. Individuals are incredibly complex. They have been formed and shaped mentally and emotionally by thousands of small and large experiences that go back to infancy, and even before that. You can imagine that each person is like a large ocean liner and the manager is like the tug boat who can nudge the liner in a particular way to assure that the ship goes in a specific direction. But the ship itself can only change direction if it is motivated to do so.
Imagine that each person that reports to you is like an iceberg. Only 10% of the iceberg is visible above the surface. The other 90%, which you cannot see, understand or influence is under the water, in the past experiences and subconscious of the person in front of you.
The rule is that you should never try to be a psychologist to your staff. You should understand in general how they think, feel and act the way they do, but you are not qualified to give them advice and counsel, and to try to help them become something that they are not. Besides, it doesn’t do any good, your job is to help build their business skills. People are the way they are as the result of a thousand influences over which you have had no control.
The basic rule is “People Don’t Change.” As the comedian Flip Wilson said, “What you sees is what you gets.”
Under stress, people not only do not change, they become even more of what they already are. If they are rigid, they become more rigid when things don’t work out the way they want. If they are weak or irresolute, they become weaker and even more irresolute in the face of adversity and setbacks. People don’t change.
Even if people offer to change, promise to change, agree to change, and try to change, they don’t change. They remain the way they are. It has taken the average person their entire life to get to become the person they are today, and they are not going to change, no matter how you try to impact or influence them.
Increasing Human Performance
Your job is not to find people and transform them into something that they are not already. Your job is to find good people and create an environment where they can perform at the highest levels possible for yourself and develop important business skills.
Eighty-five percent of all your problems in business and in life will be contained in the people with whom you interact. It will be the responses, reactions, and human behavior of other people that will cause you the most grief and misery. Choosing the wrong people in the first place often creates a situation that can never be happy or productive.
This is why it is said that, “The best time to fire a person is the first time it crosses your mind.” After that, it only gets worse. The person does not get better, they deteriorate. They cause more trouble and grief over time.
Sometimes, people confront me and argue with me against this rule, “people don’t change.”
They say, “If people don’t change, what is the purpose of education, motivations, team building and all the other things that we do to get people to perform better or differently?”
The explanation is simple. From about the age of sixteen or seventeen, basic personality of a person is fixed like concrete. Their temperament and personality style remains constant for the rest of their lives, in most cases.
What you can change are the physical factors, such as their talents, skills and abilities. You can teach them and encourage them to be even better than they have been in the past by helping them to develop along their own natural lines of talent and ability. But you cannot turn a basketball player into a musician or an angry person into a friendly person. These are largely fixed characteristics that do not alter in the course of time.
Large companies often hire people based on their personality, temperament and demonstrated abilities, and then invest many years in training and developing them into extremely valuable parts of the corporate team. They don’t try to turn ducks into eagles. The search for eagles and then teach them to fly in formation.
How do people become the way they are? What are the essential determinants of human performance and human behavior? Your ability to understand the foundation principles of human behavior can give you an edge in selecting people and molding them into a peak performance team for yourself and your business.
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