The One Thing Managers MUST Know to be Effective

It is quite likely that even the best MBA programs in the world are missing out on preparing their candidates with the one thing that will ensure they enter the real world with proven, effective leadership skills; the one thing that guarantees, if applied correctly and consistently, sustainable, positive results. That one thing is a clear understanding of the science of human behavior and how to apply its principles and methods successfully in the workplace. To be clear, this doesn’t just apply to MBA candidates; it extends to anyone in a management position. Once you reach the level of manager, your primary value to the business is not in your technical knowledge of the organization and its industry, but it is in your ability to leverage your knowledge through the actions of others.

Most of the time the methods used to motivate others is drawn from common sense or personal experience. But as Benjamin Franklin said, “Experience is a dear school and fools will learn in no other.”  It would be great if experience taught us perfect lessons but I would suggest that most of the problems of getting along in the world today are caused by well-meaning people whose experience taught them the wrong things about behavior. 

For example, if you were to ask the next one hundred people walking down the street, “Is it possible that yelling and screaming at someone for making a mistake could be a positive reinforcer?” I would not be surprised if everyone said, “No.”  However, the science of behavior (behavior analysis) tells us that it certainly could. There are many everyday examples where actions or decisions intended to solve a problem have the opposite effect or have “unintended consequences” (media reporting of riots may actually increase them) because they were designed or implemented without a solid scientific understanding of human behavior. Serious time and money are wasted using management techniques that have been validated only on the "field" of common sense.

I can assure you that Performance Management, as I have defined it in my books and in previous articles and blogs, is grounded in the science of behavior that goes back more than 100 years. I encourage you to become acquainted with the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) where between 1500 and 2000 research studies are presented each year for the express purpose of extending the knowledge of human behavior. Do a Google search and you will find resources that validate this proven science. For specific workplace examples and success stories of organizations that have applied the science, browse through some of these case studies. For a deeper understanding of the application of these scientific principles on everything from performance pay to parenting, visit the ADI Store.

Behavior, like gravity, is lawful. And the laws apply wherever there are people—irrespective of nationality, occupation, or social circumstances. Time spent learning those laws will be time well spent because no matter how things change in the business world and in the outside world, the laws of behavior will remain the same.

I encourage all who are in business to start now and learn all they can about the science of behavior.  By doing so, you will positively motivate yourself and those around you and your organization will thrive as a result.

ADI offers two skill-building workshops centered around the science of behavior; Applications of Behavioral Leadership and Bringing Out the Best in People

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.