It is quite likely that even the best MBA programs are failing to prepare 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 what you know technically about the business, but it's your ability to leverage your knowledge through the actions of others.
Most of the time the methods used to motivate others are 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 100 people walking down Peachtree 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. Is it possible that media reporting of terrorist actions actually increases them? Yes. There are many everyday examples where actions or decisions intended to solve a problem have the opposite effect or have “unintended consequences” because they were designed or implemented without a solid scientific understanding of human behavior. Serious time and money gets wasted using management techniques that have been validated only in the field of common sense.
I can assure you that performance management, as I have defined it in my books and in previous blog entries here, is grounded in a science of behavior that goes back almost 100 years. I encourage you to become acquainted with the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) where between 1,500 and 2,000 research studies are presented each year for the express purpose of extending the knowledge of human behavior. There are other sources as well. 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 past editions of Performance Management Magazine.
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 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 bring out the best in yourself and those around you and your organization will thrive as a result.