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Leadership Nudge® 270 – The ABCs of Human Behavior

Fundamentally, humans will respond more consistently to positive, immediate, and certain recognition for behavior and ultimately continue that behavior. The circumstances leading up to the behavior are not as important as the consequence of the behavior. Focus on immediate recognition for best results.


Today I’m going to talk about the ABCs of human behavior. And it comes from this book by Dr. Aubrey Daniels, Bringing Out the Best in People. Now the way Dr. Daniels describes the behavior sequence, there’s a trigger, an antecedent, that comes before the behavior itself, and then the consequence. So I feel hungry in my belly, I eat, the bad feeling goes away. Now, it turns out that only the consequence matters in the long run.  

Antecedents in the form of asking, controlling, manipulating, only have a short-term impact on achieving a behavior. And if I don’t focus on the consequences afterwards, then the behavior will likely tend towards extinction and go away. This matters to us at work because when we see the behaviors that we want, those positive things that people are doing, we want to create a consequence that is positive, immediate and certain.  

When Dr. Daniels looked at two types of consequences, he classified them along these three dimensions. It’s either positive or negative. It’s immediate or future. And it’s either certain or uncertain. So this explains why giving up cigarette smoking is so hard, positive nicotine high. That happens immediately and happens every single time, and it’s weighed against a negative getting cancer in the future, that may or may not happen to me. And the way the body processes that is it gives weight to these three, which is why that’s so difficult.  

So in the workplace, when you see those things that people are doing, that are right, you’re catching them doing it, right. You want to make the consequences of that behavior, positive, immediate and certain, and then you’ll see more of that behavior. I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge®. 



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