James Dykstra

The Beauty of Behavior: Know More and Struggle Less


Most of us have heard of these types of instruments before: Myers-Briggs (MBTI), Social Styles, DISC, Colors, etc. There are many of these type tools available. And most of us have taken at least one of these over the years –perhaps as a part of a college course, or in our jobs at work.

Usually our response is something like, “yea, that’s pretty much like me” and then we leave the experience thinking, "That was nice to know, but so what? What do I DO with that knowledge?"

Like anything else in our lives, if we want to get better at something, we have to practice. I play golf for fun. I’ll never be a great golfer, because I don’t have the time it would take (and patience) to be really good. But I do enjoy going out with my buddies and playing several times during the year. And I pick up a tip here and there, and try it out. I have even opted for a private lesson from time to time.

And yes, I am a better golfer today than I was a few years back. But it’s not my passion. I have a good friend who took up golf in her mid fifties. She is passionate about the game, and invests a lot of time and energy into it. And she is becoming an exceptional golfer.

I am however passionate about behavioral styles. I have found them to be my road map for dealing with people in almost every situation, even on the golf course!

Over the years, I have studied and learned various models of behavior, personality and so on. One of the things I find fascinating is the more I learn, the easier it is to navigate relationships, sales situations, conflict and overall communication.

What if you could find a way to understand what motivates a person, what their main goals, fears and blind spots are? Wouldn’t that be helpful in dealing with them both personally and professionally? Zig Ziglar (and others) said “you can get anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”.

As a leader and manager, I have found this to be true. By understanding behavior I can create a win-win situation in most instances. Are you thinking to yourself, "Isn’t that manipulation?" The often-used definition of manipulation is the following: “to control or influence someone or something cleverly and unscrupulously, especially to one's own advantage.”

When we are practicing people-reading and doing as Zig Ziglar suggests, we are not manipulating. We are helping others get what they want, which in turn helps us get the outcome we desire. The key is in being sincere and ethical and wanting the best for both parties involved. Isn’t that what leadership and influence is all about? Isn’t that what good negotiators strive to do?

What I have found is that behavior is highly predictable. Let me give you a quick overview of one of the most popular models out there, the DISC model. It has been used by over 40 million people and is available in numerous languages. Here are the four quadrants of behavior:

Dominance Characteristics: Fast-paced, quick to make decisions, intense, bottom-line orientation. Key Goal: Results, accomplishment. Key Fear: Being taken advantage of, losing control. Blind Spot: Insensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Influence Characteristics: Fast-paced, communicative, likes people and relationships. Key Goal: Being able to influence others, being competent, looking good. Key Fear: Losing their influence, social rejection. Blind Spot: Disorganized, lack of follow through.

Steadiness Characteristics: Slower paced, team player, loyal, good listener, kind, sensitive. Key Goal: Acceptance, appreciation, stability. Key Fear: Loss of stability, sudden change. Blind Spot: Putting their own needs last, overly possessive.

Conscientiousness Characteristics: Slower paced, deliberate, methodical, analytical, high standards. Key Goal: Accuracy, quality. Key Fear: Criticism of their work. Blind Spot: Overly critical of self and others.

If I just learn these things and start doing some basic people reading, I can start to observe behavior and practice adapting my style to meet the needs of others. Once you start to ask yourself, what am I seeing right now, you can start to unlock the pieces to the behavioral puzzle. If you are picking up a lot of fear about an upcoming change, you may be observing some “Steadiness” or “S” behavior. Stop and figure out how to be a better listener to their concerns, slow down and offer support and acceptance for their feelings. If they feel listened to and appreciated, you can work through the anxiety and help them adjust to the change. It really can be that simple.

The problem is that most of us stay stuck in our own preferred behavior, and expect everyone else to respond as we do. This only leads to miscommunication, conflict and disappointment.

Behavior is really pretty predictable, and with a little knowledge and practice, we can become students of behavior and get what we want by helping others get what they want. What a concept!

Creating an Environment That Works

James Dykstra

Creating an Environment That Works

Rensis Likert, one of the pioneers in the field of motivation theory, and after which the Likert Scale is named, said this: "The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals."

After thinking about his statement, it begs the question: Can you truly motivate another human being? My belief is that you CANNOT MOTIVATE ANOTHER PERSON. That may sound rather pessimistic, but that's my story and I'm sticking with it! However, as managers and leaders within our organizations, I have an optimistic belief we can do much to create an environment where people will become self-motivated.

Let's look at the rationale for this belief. In our work with behavioral styles, we have discovered that behavior is almost always needs driven. Think of a newborn child. First the need occurs, then the feeling, then the behavior. The baby has a need for food, which triggers a feeling of intense hunger, which results in the baby crying. Most mothers and fathers can distinguish a cry for food from other sorts of cries.

As we grow older, we add other elements into our needs-driven behavior. In our DiSC model, we often talk about the whole person concept, which is sometimes referred to as the iceberg model.

Our behavior is above the surface, at the top of the model. Right underneath behavior, we have thoughts and feelings,

followed by values and beliefs, with needs at the bottom of

the iceberg.

Let's take an example of how this applies in our lives. Have you ever had an internal dialogue playing out in your head on a cold, dreary winter day, when you would rather stay in your warm bed, than get up and go in for that early morning meeting? Most of us have! Our feelings are telling us we want to stay in bed, while our thoughts are we "should" get into the office early today. Typically, our beliefs about being a team player or our work ethic value will aid us in getting out of bed. And certainly, our need to stay employed, and to provide for our family may be at the bottom of this internal dialogue. Thus, our behavior motivates us to leave our cozy bed and get into work.

Contrast that with an employee who's deepest need is to not be alone in this world, who has just had a major falling out with their significant other, and who has a belief system that this person will leave them if they don't do something to "fix" this problem immediately. On top of that, they may harbor the belief they are unlovable, and will never find another partner if this one leaves. They think they "should" go to work, but their feelings of fear and inadequacy win out, and they call in sick. Their “need” for their partner’s acceptance/approval is greater than the responsibility to the team or the organization. We may label their behavior as irresponsible, especially if it occurs more regularly than with most associates. And perhaps it is, but to them it makes total sense, and they can't fathom any other decision at this point.

In order for us to be effective, and to create an environment where people are self-motivated, we must understand what lies below the surface of the iceberg. By getting to know our associates, we can better understand what is driving their behavior. This is one of the keys to creating a high performing team.

A model such as DISC can assist us in understanding these needs. For example, someone with a high Dominance style of behavior has a need for results and achievement. A person with a high Influence style has a need for social recognition and competence. Someone with a high Steadiness style has a need for acceptance and stability. And someone with a high Conscientiousness style has a need for accuracy and correctness.

Obviously, as human beings, we are much more complicated than this, but it can be a start in looking below the surface of the iceberg. Many of us have a combination of at least two of these styles, and sometimes three. The behavior we see is only the tip of the iceberg. If each of these behavioral styles has different needs and goals, how can we begin to create an environment that works for most everyone? Here are five tips to get us moving in the right direction regardless of individual styles.

1. Be clear on expectations up front
Let people know what is important to you and what you expect from them. Share your own style and needs with your fellow associates and friends.

2. Walk the talk and lead by example
Step in to support your team at every opportunity. Maintain your own sense of personal integrity at all times.

3. Get to know your people and what makes them tick
Be a student of understanding differences, and adapt your style to meet their needs. Provide opportunities for people to operate from their strengths.

4. Provide honest feedback and continuous coaching
Encourage an environment where team members can learn from one another, including from you, and you from them. Tell the truth.

5. Encourage and reward accountability
Provide reinforcement when people take initiative. Be the poster child for personal accountability. Admit mistakes and learn from them.

I once attended an advanced facilitation skills class, where the facilitator said something that has stayed with me all these years. She said, "you can't take a group any further than you are". Think about that. If I have issues around control, or trust, or rigidity, it will almost certainly surface in our work as a group or a team.

If I can begin to work on myself first, things will begin to shift. I have to get honest with myself, and my own needs, to determine what is driving my own behavior. I have to slay my own dragons before I can create an environment where others can do the same. I must assess my own level of motivation and my own attitude, before I can support others in this endeavor. By working on my own self-management, I can create an environment where others are self-motivated, and where as a team we are more likely to achieve our goals. And who knows, we just might have some fun along the way as well.