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WHO AM I? Who would I like to be? Engaged? Effective? Inspirational?


Points to Note about Human Behavior

Before we talk about these three specific areas in more detail, we should acknowledge some key behavior points about how people behave and think. Here are some of the various aspects of behavior that we can usually rely on:

Common sense is not common. Everyday we see examples of incredible stupidity that defy common sense.

We have to learn from experience. Regrettably, we have to experience things for ourselves and we do not always accept others’ experiences as being valuable or relevant. Personal experience is a powerful learning process, but it can take time, with a few mishaps along the way. Behavior usually has to be changed from experiential activity.

Telepathy does not exist. A conversation that I have had many times goes like this. Someone comes to complain about what someone else has or has not done. I usually ask, “Well, have you told them that?” They usually answer, “Well no, but they should know.” If you find yourself here—go talk to the other person. It normally works.

Plans usually do not work. We spend hours of time preparing plans, and while this is of course an essential part of business activity, the only absolute about most plans is that things will not happen as expected. Be prepared and always expect plans to change.

Do not rely on strangers. When faced with a problem or someone making a mistake, try to avoid the impulse to fire and then go hire someone else. This approach should be treated as a last resort. Remember, a new hire is usually someone you have not met before and have little or no real knowledge about; you will rely on a few hours of clever chat to make a hiring decision. Even some of the worst performers usually manage to get through this often-superficial interviewing process. Recruitment is expensive, very time consuming and usually disruptive. The success rate is at best just over 50%. The key role of a manager is to make sure that the team you have performs to its best ability.

People do not always listen. Most of us like the sound of our own voices and believe that the more eloquent our delivery, the more effective is the reception. This may be true; usually not. Try a little test to measure your effectiveness. After a communication event, ideally a one-on-one briefing, ask the other person two questions: What have I just said? What are you now going to do? The answers are often depressing.

Time is not infinite. The most common complaint from most people is, “If only I had time!” A whole industry is devoted to time management training. Amazing! Time management is, of course, impossible as no one can manage time. The truth lies in the ability to manage ourselves so we can use time effectively.

Self-interest is the absolute. In virtually every situation we face, the first thought going through our heads is, “What does this mean to me?” If you want to do virtually anything involving people, make sure you fully understand the answer to their secret question: “What’s in this for me?” People won’t actually say this—but they will think it. Try to anticipate how the other person will see the benefits to him. If it is not obvious what they are, then expect failure.

You may not totally agree with this analysis, but the evidence to support these views is pretty conclusive. It is important to understand how people think and behave as a basis for any work that requires personal improvement. Use these points as a reference; they can usually be relied upon.


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