Monday, May 30, 2011
Part of my management training over many years in business included interviewing, assessing, and performance evaluation. We were taught to “cite behavior” when making observations or giving feedback. We were always reminded (and reminded each other) that the purpose was to solve problems by improving behavior. It was not about the person, but what the person said or did. You don’t get good customer service by lecturing on attitude or motivation. You get it by describing specific words and actions either as good examples (recognition) or as weak examples (correction) and contrasting them with what is desired. Similarly in parenting training you are taught to criticize the behavior and not the child. Done right, it works.
I propose to use this same approach to address the larger problems Americans face today to show how most of those problems are behavior-based. By design this behavioral approach bans name-calling and accusing and the other unproductive behaviors we see from our politicians and interest groups. No wonder nothing is getting fixed! By using this model, we take the solution out of the hands of the government and put it back into the hands of the people. Thus, I am taking no political sides – the only reason government gets involved is a broad lack of understanding this new model provides.
What we have in America today is not a food safety problem or a childhood obesity epidemic or a healthcare crisis or financial meltdown or retirement security crisis, or run-away litigation, or a failed educational system, or a drug problem, or too many guns or not enough guns, etc. What we have are faulty behaviors that can be divided into 5 key dimensions. Changing certain behaviors would take us a long way toward solving or beginning to solve nearly all these issues.
Remember, the assumption is that the majority of our biggest societal problems stem from these core behavioral issues. I will supply positive or negative examples each week from the local or national news, advertising, or from personal experience, not to criticize, but to develop an understanding of how to use this approach to effectively understand, address and deal with these so-called “crises.”
Here are the dimensions with a brief description of each.
Understanding the Economic Process: We are all connected economically. As the economy expands everyone benefits to some extent. When there is waste everyone pays. There is no magic money tree to provide benefits with no future payment due. Eventually we are all on the hook, and the burden is usually greater on those who can least afford it.
Discipline: Many things in life are simple to understand but not easy to do. Dieting is the prime example – eat less, exercise more – but how many keep looking for the easy answer, one that promise big results for little effort?
Responsibility: Admit my failures, pay my debts and don’t look for others to blame. It’s about doing the job I signed up for. Sometimes life in America seems like a buffet line where people fill their own plates and then sit down at the table to complain about the meal. They claim to be victims and look for someone else to bail them out.
Critical Thinking: Use logic, not feelings to solve problems. There is difference between facts/evidence on one hand and endorsements /stories on the other. We waste a lot of time and money on unproven remedies or by following our gut reactions.
Perspective: When I have perspective, I separate the important from the trivial, the substantial from the artificial. I don’t profess one set of values and live my life differently. I put proper emphasis on possessions/events and practice moderation.
Strong behavior (words, actions, choices) in these categories leads to positive outcomes. Overall weak performance will cause the problems and crises to continue to pile up. Simple, everyday examples show symptoms of problems that build over time into major failures. Not recognizing the underlying behavioral factors has led us to ineffective solutions, more controversy and increasingly uncivil discourse.
Look for new examples and discussion every Monday and Friday.