I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational ‘clean-ups’ over the years. Unlike coaching, where the premise is that you are making a good thing better, Organizational Behavior Management is usually called in to solve a specific problem. Sometimes the problem is that a sales team is not able to achieve the top line revenue goal, other times the sales are there but there are efficiency or waste issues in the fulfillment side, affecting profit. Alternatively, there are times when the impetus behind the call isn’t either of those things, but an increase in good people quitting, or a general sense that employees are not doing their best and it’s beginning to affect business. The reason I (or any consultant) is called is because the business owner has tried everything they know how to do, the problem is still there, and they are convinced they don’t have the answer.
A major reason I started my business was that I realized that business owners DO have the answer but they don’t know that they do, and they don’t necessarily know what to do with that information! If this is you, don’t worry, by the time you finish reading this article you will begin to understand the process for identifying what needs to happen in your organization and where things are getting derailed. This first step is the key to opening a door leading to peace of mind, financial well-being and the business you always dreamed of owning.
The process is very simple and you will need two tools – a triangle and a square. The first tool is the Behavior Management Triangle and it is…a triangle. The beauty of the Behavior Management Triangle is it can often clarify your most important processes and what is actually required to get to your goal. In OBM we call this ‘Targeting’ and it can take up to a day with key decision makers to really go through all the processes and work flow but at the end of it all you will have absolute clarity on your revenue and profitability goals, what key accomplishments and metrics are involved in getting there and, most importantly, what behaviors each person in your company needs to be doing, in what order, and at what frequency, to get there. I’ve never worked with an executive who hasn’t found this incredibly valuable. Often, this exercise alone leads to huge innovations in how companies accomplish things, because it can challenge the ‘that’s just the way we do it’ mindset.
But as anyone who’s ever paid $10,000 for a training intervention, or any parent who has demonstrated how to make a bed, can tell you, just knowing what to do does NOT ensure the actual doing! This is where your square come in. Draw a square on a piece of paper and then divide it into 4 equal quadrants. Over the top left quadrant, write ‘Desirable Consequences” and over the top right write ‘Undesirable Consequences. Beside the top left write ‘Desirable Behaviors’ and beside the bottom left write ‘Undesirable Behaviors’. We will be using this to determine whether your company is set up currently to reinforce the right things happening or not.
Now, I’ll let you in on a secret; the fact that you’re talking to me usually means your balance of consequences is out of whack (a highly scientific term meaning, ‘not supporting your desired objectives’). I can walk through any organization (and so can you, for that matter) and tell you exactly which behaviors are being reinforced the most…it’s the ones that are occurring!!
Now, you may say to yourself, ‘This is dumb. If my employee is doing a good thing, I reward her. I would never punish someone for doing the right thing.’ I will argue back that companies do it all the time and I’ve never encountered one that didn’t. Every time you give more work to the employee you know can handle it without any positive associated (and this doesn’t always mean a tangible) you are in effect setting up a balance of consequence to eliminate that good behavior.
I invite you to take one of the key behaviors you have identified as leading to organizational success – whether it’s cold calling, or building widgets, or what have you, and take a thorough and honest inventory of the good and the bad consequences for both performing that behavior and NOT performing that behavior. I’ll give you a couple ideas; some very common positive consequences for NOT performing are, less work, less stress, low likelihood of discovery, and some common negative consequences FOR performing are more work without more pay, more stress, chance of criticism if not done correctly, and so on. Think about what is in place in your company as well as any positive consequences for doing the right things and any negative consequences for doing the wrong thing. Think money, bonuses, positive recognition, preferred tasks, autonomy, social interaction…any and everything that can be a ‘motivator’ should go on the balance of consequences. When you’ve finished, you should be easily able to see whether the balance of consequences supports performing the desired behavior or suppresses it and now you’re off to the races!
So to summarize; first we identify the required behaviors using the triangle, and then we use the square to determine if the work environment is rewarding or actually punishing the desired behaviors. You now have laid the groundwork to begin changing your company’s trajectory, rewarding the employees who are doing the best work and achieving your goals!
Yes, there’s a little more involved, but if your company is not where you’d like it to be, I invite you to try these two exercises. Please reach out if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to walk you through this!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org