Understanding Behavior: A Critical Leadership Function

July 2, 2013

I published my first blog post on March 29, 2009. It was butt ugly, but in it I expressed my foundational belief that observed behavior is always a function of both person and environment factors. Our explanation for the behavior we observe in ourselves and others is critical, because that attribution drives our subsequent behavioral response.

Too many leaders are habitual victims of the fundamental attribution error – blaming others and thereby truncating the learning process about the real systemic drivers of behavior. When these same leaders look in the mirror at their own behavior, the delusion is provided by the self-serving bias.

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 11.35.18 AMOne of the most important functions of leadership is to help others interpret the meaning of events. Events don’t occur in a vacuum; they are the result of behavioral choices or decisions that people make. I think W.E. Deming appreciated this when he identified psychology as one of the four pillars of his System of Profound Knowledge.

The video above is a small part of a larger training session I gave on understanding and changing employee behavior at work. It’s not the best job I’ve ever done explaining this concept to a group, but if you take the time to watch it I believe you will find it helpful. I learned my core belief systems about employee behavior from others, but it’s a unique perspective that you will not often find in the conversation about leadership.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Related Posts:

Attributions: The Fundamental Attribution Error And The Self-Serving Bias

The Easy Way Out Usually Leads Back In

The World’s Most Underdeveloped Nation


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Comments (4)

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  1. Fantastic presentation Bret, I can relate to your views on behaviors and attitudes regarding the management of employees. The responsibilities of managers as well as supervisors to ensure appropriate methods of process improvements involves more than just looking at numbers and changing processes. It involves an understanding of how you can achieve goals through employee interaction and personal interactive development that shapes the culture of success.

    Thanks for sharing…

    Chadwick Buchanan

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Chad! Hope you are well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Bret

  2. Mark Behl says:

    Absolutely agree. I have personally seen many “leaders” shy away from the responsibility of mistakes. Own it, take responsibility, and then try and do better next time. That is what earns the respect of those they are supposed to be leading.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I don’t understand why this is such a scare behavior in people that want to call themselves leaders. I think it destroys their integrity and certainly limits their performance potential. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark. Bret