Sunday, 14 August 2011

Benefit - Understand how people think and behave!

In the last Blog post I looked at the need to get into the grass-root thinking of employees so as to understand what it really takes to engage with them - in the context of the linked HR Magazine article about employee migration - and I gave a wider outline based upon my own behaviour profiling insight, as to what drives it and how it is created and manifested.

This post continues to look at behaviour, this time I aim to help readers to start to see it as it is - an outcome that people produce from their conscious and unconscious minds, driven by their internal representations of the world around them and how they have created these representations as their Reality of their life.  

Information Filtering System and The Unconscious Mind
As we continually experience life's events around us, we filter them through our 5-senses (sound, sight, taste, touch and smell) into our brain, in doing so we also add additional sub-modalities to each sense giving them; adjustable volume, tone, colour, texture, bitter/sweet, etc. There we create either conscious or unconscious storage. 93% of what we store-away and then re-access in life, comes from deep in the unconscious mind and all this activity occurs without us even being aware. It is this deep, unconscious storage - and how we have constructed and labelled/deleted it - that drives behaviour.  The unconscious mind works as follows:
  1. It Stores our memories, temporal (in relationship to time) and atemporal (not in relationship to time)
  2. It is where we keep emotions and it organises all memories - using a Time Line.
  3. It represses memories with unresolved negative emotion, resents repressed memories for resolution (to make rational and to release emotions) and keeps the repressed emotions repressed for protection.
  4. It runs the body (breathing, healing, digesting, etc) and has a blueprint of the body at perfect health to preserve the body, always striving to maintain the integrity of the body.
  5. It enjoys serving us, needing clear orders to follow (it responds to our thoughts good or bad and is affected by conflicting thoughts)
  6. It controls and maintains all our perceptions and receives and transmits perceptions to the conscious mind which become verbal and non-verbal communication.
  7. It creates, stores, distributes and transmits “energy”.
  8. It maintains instincts and generates habits - needing repetition until a habit is installed and becomes instinctive (learning to ride a bike/swim or drive a car)
  9. It continually seeks more and more information/stimulus, there is always more to discover.
  10. It uses and responds to symbols.
  11. It takes everything personally.
  12. It works on the principle of least effort, is the path of least resistance and does not process negatives.
The way that a person has constructed and stored their Reality - decisions, prejudices, emotions and physiology - is individual and very unique. The old saying "don't tar me with the same brush" holds true. We all look upon life; people, relations, activities and events, firstly by recalling from the unconscious previously created Reality and then projecting onto what is out there NOW. This way, it is not possible for any two people to think and act the same, in the same situation. The Reality that is created from the unconscious determines the behaviour and it is this insight that is key to understanding, modelling and changing it.

What Drives Behaviour.
Behaviour is simply an expression of how the person is seeing the world from their unconscious mind - without being aware of doing so - and is determined in context (to their state of mind at that time). By beginning to understand behaviour shown by a given person, we can determine how that person will react or behave/can be helped to behave, in certain situations or circumstances. For example a person who is usually described as "calm, warm and friendly" might become "tense and explosive" in a stressful situation and be seen as "out of character" or "out of their comfort zone". Another person appearing to have the same personality traits may thrive in the same situation and do amazing things....the former therefore creating a dilemma for superiors who find that they are now ignorant as to events unfolding and how to remedy the the situation to help the individual and the organisational impact. So by simply understanding the dynamics - through specific language pattern elicitation - provides everyone much more value in improving the effectiveness of the human interaction in any environment.

Typical behavioural findings that I find, work around and ask Clients to consider :
  • Fear of Change (cannot imagine new, worried about unknown)
  • Conflict (existing, newly created)
  • Blockers (a cannot, will not attitude)
  • Emotion (passion - positive/negative)
  • Insecurity (vulnerable, out-of comfort zone)
  • Pre-suppositions (generalisations, prejudices)
From An Organisational Perspective.
A created Reality determines how a person will see their workplace and its targets, their colleagues and relationships, the workplace and wider culture, their job security and stability, etc. It is important to consider that any organisation that employs people is then directly affected by behaviour, in terms of; direct and indirect costs, internal and external service, operating processes continuity and overall Change Management initiatives and ongoing strategically planned growth and targets. It is an employees' created Reality which really does drive their behaviour and it is directly based upon how they have created and then view their world. Therefore, to better understand and include the dynamics of why people behave as they do within local and central organisational strategy as well as the daily considerations of communications and interaction, is to obtain truly valuable and effective People Intelligence that rivals the type of marketplace customer research (customer intelligence) many organisations spend millions gathering. Understanding the dynamics of employees - at any level - is to begin to know how to design and truly influence positively the way they operate and engage within an organisation, therefore ensuring nothing is left to assumption and can be guided and maintained in accordance to the overall goals and objectives.

When it comes to the many published views/tips/experts in relation to guiding Change Management and Employee Engagement initiatives, it is again critical to understand and to factor-in the individual Reality aspect that exists to relate to how an employee may be feeling or interpreting their "world at work" based upon their Reality as is it appears/feels to them, By ignoring this aspect in favour of traditional managerial based processes and text book theory, initiatives will FAIL:
In addition to the above insight I am sharing, behaviour within a changing environment or changed environment is another overlooked and deep impacting problem. Below I have outlined the typical responses one comes across when eliciting information from people in organisations that are failing, have failed or potentially will fail to create and absorb change:

This is characterised by a general lack of motivation and confusion. An individual is uncertain as to what the future holds and how they can fit into the future "world". Their representations seem inappropriate to them and the resultant undermining of their core sense of Reality leaves them adrift with no sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate.

This is the awareness that one's values, beliefs and goals - their Reality - seem incompatible with those of the organisation. Pitfalls associated with this are that the individual becomes unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied and then gradually withdraws, either mentally (by just "going through the motions", doing the bare minimum, actively undermining the change by criticising/complaining) or physically by resigning.


This appears as a continued effort to try and validate via the individual's Reality, the social predictions that have already proved to be a failure. The problem here is that as an individual continues to operate within a Reality that they perceive to have repeatedly failed to achieve a successful outcome, that they feel they are no longer part of the process or feel surplus to the new way of working. The State of mind therefore is one where the new processes are ignored at best and actively undermined at worst.


This is the awareness of an imminent incidental change to one's Reality as it has been constructed (rightly or wrongly). The individual feels that they will need to act in a different manner and this will have an impact on both their self-perception and on how others externally see them. 

This is defined by a lack of acceptance of any change and denial that there will be any impact upon them as an individual. Individuals in this mind state keep acting as if the change has not happened, using old practices and processes and ignoring evidence or information contrary to their belief systems. It can be seen from the transition curve that it is important for an individual to understand the impact that the change will have on their own personal Reality; and for them to be able to work through the implications for their self perception. Any change, no matter how small, has the potential to impact on an individual and may generate conflict between existing values and beliefs and anticipated altered ones. One danger for the individual, team and organisation occurs when an individual persists in operating a set of practices that have been consistently shown to fail (or result in an undesirable consequence) in the past and that do not help extend and elaborate their world-view. Another danger area is that of denial where people maintain operating as they always have denying that there is any change at all. Both of these can have detrimental impact on an organisation trying to change the culture and focus of its people.


This is the awareness that events lie outside one's range of understanding or control. The future and how this will look, feel, etc sits outside the individual's Reality where it seems impossible to adequately picture the future. The individual's perception is not to have enough information to allow them to anticipate behaving in a different way within the new organisation. They are unsure how to adequately construe acting in the new work and social situations.

Happiness - but beware!

The awareness that one's viewpoint is recognised and shared by others. 
The impact of this is two-fold. 
  1. At the basic level there is a feeling of relief that something is going to change, and not continue as before. Whether the past is perceived positively or negatively, there is still a feeling of anticipation, and possibly excitement, at the prospect of improvement. 
  2. On another level, the individual has the satisfaction of knowing that some of their thoughts about the old system were correct (generally no matter how well one likes the status quo, there is something that is unsatisfactory about it) and that something is going to be done about it. In this phase individuals generally expect the best and anticipate a bright future, projecting their own Reality onto the change and seeing success as the Outcome. One of the dangers is that to perceive more from the change, or believe more will occur from the change than is actually the case. The organisation needs to manage this to ensure unrealistic expectations are correctly installed as Well-Formed Outcomes and redefined in the organisation's terms, without alienating the individual.  
To Conclude Then.
There is so much more to behaviour and what drives it than many realise - in my experience. In my 25+ year career, I have seen many situations that have been avoidable, were the people dynamics taken seriously and the people intelligence gathering given adequate support and importance above more traditional priorities and focuses. During this time I have seen the evolution of the Internet and the change through it for organisations - rapidly. Linked to the automated and real-time activity through the Internet comes technology and management tools, e.g. technology to monitor and model customer behaviour. This was driven and lead by the Supermarkets and Retailers who wanted insight and trends so as to drive growth and customer experience. Today, they can tell you so much about your shopping behaviour and how they can manipulate such behaviour through habits and deploying specific rationale, that it is quite frightening!

I hope, having ploughed your way through this Blog post, that you see the value of behavioural research and it's inclusion into mainstream management thinking will create significant advantage, capability and flexibility- like market research for business modelling/strategy. This is not a dark art, simply an adoption of proven methods - going back some 37 years worldwide - to elicit real insight to help everyone create, install and maintain a working world that we can all understand and live within.

Next time I will be covering the types of environment that I see require this insight and how they would benefit, with later posts that will include tasters of how to begin to create powerful change through people, that aligns with individual needs and Reality, as well as those of the organisation they work within.  

Feel free to contact me with feedback, post it on here and perhaps Subscribe for more future postings direct to your inbox!

Thanks and until next time.... Jay

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