The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).

The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).

The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted October 1, 2012).

The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour.

This means that the values and culture (sum of the behaviours) that you create as a leader is significantly more important than any controls, policies and procedures or rules that you put in place for your team, whatever its size.

Managing behaviour is a moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day activity for a manager and not something that can be done occasionally, which is why formal performance reviews do not work, even if they are scheduled more often than just as an annual event.

Firstly you need to build a framework for the needed behaviour patterns to flourish by establishing a strong set of ethics based on a sense of integrity in the team, being “what we believe is what we say is what we do”. This is critical, as some managers seem to have a belief that “if I say it, so it shall be”, without understanding that their staff will mainly disregard their words but will watch their actions, and will ultimately copy their behaviour patterns, no matter what rhetoric they sprout, no matter how often they sprout it, and no matter what they write in their mission and vision statements.

You can continue to write and say “our customer is number 1” an infinite amount of times but, if you do not actively and personally live your management business life with this belief at the core of all your actions, no one will believe you and they will all tend to act the same way that you do.

One CEO I worked for never stopped talking about the importance of the customer, but went out of his way to avoid customer contact, and spent much of his time complaining to his executive team about how ungrateful the customers were about the “pearls” that we provided for them. As a result, the pervasive attitude in the company towards its customers was one of arrogance and general disdain. When I had the need one time to bring a customer issue to the attention of the VP Engineering, his response was that the problems the customer was facing with our products was due to the fact that they kept hiring “stupid people”, and that I should tell them that if they had smarter people in their team the problems would go away.

“Actions do speak louder than words …”, and as so ably added by Mark Twain “… but unfortunately not as often.”

Source:; Author: A.F. Bradley; via Wikimedia Commons

Secondly, you need to understand that every interaction you have with a member of your team is an opportunity to reinforce desired behaviour, remembering that positive reinforcement is a significantly more effective way to manage behaviour than telling someone where they went wrong (see “Teaching old dogs new tricks” posted June 20, 2010). The goal is to catch people doing something right, and to tell them that this is the case, that it pleases you and that it benefits the team and the company. This not only reinforces the behaviour that you want to see repeated, but also establishes the fact that you care about your people and are aware of what they are doing.

Author: Glen Bowman; via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0 license

As said by Keith Henson, American Space engineer and evolutionary psychologist “People repeat behaviour that leads to flooding their brains with pleasurable chemicals. The short-term reward loop acts over hours to years …”.

You also need to ensure that you dedicate a significant amount of time to spend managing the behaviour of people in your team who are struggling in their allocated role. Too many managers leave “strugglers” alone till the end of the year formal performance review, which for some subordinates will be the first time that they will learn that their performance during the previous year was not at an acceptable level. I believe strongly that if you have hired people for their strengths, you cannot fire them for their weaknesses if you, as their direct supervisor, have not made significant efforts to help them redress these (see “Move them up or move them out” posted August 23, 2010). The sooner you address performance issues the sooner you have a chance to correct them, and the sooner you are able to make a considered judgement on whether the underperformer will ever be able to meet the standards of required behaviour, and hence the performance needed, to be successful.

Annual performance reviews are at best only an analysis of historical activities and as such have little influence on effectively managing behaviour, which is best handled when it is first exhibited and noted, and not left to fester till many months later. Behaviour that is unacceptable, if left alone for too long, can become so ingrained in a person and/or a team that it becomes seen as being acceptable and becomes part of standard behaviour and hence much harder to change or eradicate.

The way that you and your people behave both internally to other departments and externally to your wider ecosystem is what defines you as a manager and leader, in the same way that your behaviour in the community defines you as a neighbour, a friend and ultimately a human being.

“When man learns to understand and control his own behaviour as well as he is learning to understand and control the behaviour of crop plants and domestic animals, he may be justified in believing that he has become civilized.” American author Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

Author: Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons



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