Two Things You Cannot Manage or Measure

People don’t do what they do because you tell them to do it.  They do what they do because of what happens to them when they do it.  If, when they do it,  reinforcements are positive, they will do it again or more often.  If, when they do it, reinforcements are negative, they will do it less often, or never again.  The important thing to keep in mind is that they are the ones who decide what is a positive or negative reinforcement, not you.

Your job as a leader is to create an environment that will reinforce the right behaviors.  So, the question becomes. “What kind of environment are you creating?”  A thermostat and a thermometer both record heat.  However, one is passive, it only records the temperature.  The other is active, it determines what the environment will be.  What type of a leader are you?  Passively recording the temperature, or actively managing the “atmosphere.”

As you try to manage behavior, keep in mind that there are two things that you cannot manage (or measure):

You Cannot Manage Attitude

You can’t see attitude.  You can’t measure attitude.  So what makes you think you can manage attitude?   The only thing we can see and measure is behavior.  So, next time you are ready to judge someone’s attitude ask yourself, “What is the behavior?”  What is this person doing?”  “Does it help?  “Does it hurt?”  “Is it against the rule?”  If the behavior helps, doesn’t hurt, or isn’t against the rule, get over it.  It is not the problem.  Stop trying to manage it.

If you are not sure if it is a behavior, give it “the dead-man’s test.”  If a dead man can do it, it isn’t a behavior, and you shouldn’t waste your time trying to produce it.  Perfect attendance?  A dead man can do that.  Quiet and submissive in meetings?  A dead man can do that.  Stop evaluating your team on things a dead man can do.

A final word on attitude.  I can guarantee you, your attitude will always be the good one and the other person’s attitude will always be the bad one.  None of this is to say the attitude is not important.  It is very important, but it is an inside job.  It is your personal “habit of thinking.”  You just can’t see it in others—what you see is behavior.

You Cannot Manage Motivation

You not only can you not manage motivation, you don’t need to.  People are already motivated.  They are motivated into getting their needs met in ways that make sense to them.  Motivation is a word invented to describe what we don’t know is causing people to do what they do.

A consultant was asked by the vice president of human resources to “motivate the troops.”

The consultant said, “Tell me about your troops.”  “What do they do?  “How do they do it?’ etc.”  Finally he asked, “And how do they know when it is time to quit?”

“Well, a whistle sounds,” said the VP.

“And then what happens?” he asked.

“You won’t want to stand in their way because you’d get run over as they head to the parking lot.”

“So, they are already motivated.”

These “troops” didn’t need motivation.  They simply needed meaningful work that was both noticed and appreciated.  They will bring the motivation.