The Power of Human Behavior
“Change your behavior!” “Stop doing that!” “You behave yourself!” “I wish he/she would stop acting like that!”
We’ve all heard these exclamations at some point. It seems so simple to just change our behaviors, but if that were true, we wouldn’t struggle with it so often.
Our behaviors can have a profound impact on productivity, attitudes, and engagement.
Human behavior has the power to either build trust or cause it to deteriorate. It affects our organizations, teams, families, and communities. The individual and collective actions of people can be the catalyst for inspiration and meaningful engagement or the very thing that causes us to question why we choose to engage at all.
In short, behaviors have a deep impact on our experiences. (No duh, right?!) It may seem intuitive to acknowledge the effects of behaviors on our experiences; so why do dysfunctional behaviors prevail in so many environments?
The root of a behavioral problem is a belief problem
A wise mentor of mine once told me, “If you observe a fruit problem, start by exploring a potential root problem.” Human behaviors are the fruit of something deeper. We behave based on what we believe. For example, if I believe that my ideas are not valuable or that I do not have the power to make a change in the environment around me, then I am more likely to be guarded and critical. The best way for me to behave differently is to believe differently.
If I believe that my behaviors can produce positive change in the people around me, then I am more likely to behave accordingly.
Or, to take it to another level, if I believe something is the right thing to do, then I will do it regardless of its popularity and adoption by others. When our belief is strong, our behaviors are meaningfully shaped.
The Bible says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; NKJV). It could also be said that a person’s character will influence a person’s actions. Or, to say it another way, a person’s belief will dictate a person’s behavior. This is why beliefs dictate and behaviors indicate. Mere behavior modification will only last so long. If we do not deeply root our beliefs in truth, growth-mindedness, and love, then how can we expect our behaviors to be good, helpful, and lasting? Whenever I behave in a manner that does not align with what I hope for, my most effective and lasting task is to explore what is going on inside of me. I have to ask myself, “What am I believing that is producing this toxic behavior?”
Solid roots will produce solid fruits
We rarely do what we don’t believe in. Now, this does not mean that we never behave in ways that contradict our beliefs. But I would argue that those are moments of disbelief. We trade what we desire for the long term for what we most want in the moment. When those moments come, we must refocus on believing what is true and discipline ourselves to align our behaviors. When we do that, we build our belief and reinforce our good and productive behaviors.
Start with Yourself
If you want to change the culture and environment around you, you have to change key behaviors. Other people cannot see your beliefs, but they will see your behaviors. This is why it’s important to work at building your own belief and aligning your behaviors with that belief to build legitimacy and trust with others.
3 Practices for Building Your Own Belief
Take your own thoughts captive
Mine your own heart and mind for thinking and beliefs that are not rooted in truth. Seek out where you need to challenge your current beliefs.
Ask people what behaviors they see in you. Toxic or unhelpful behaviors may indicate that new belief needs to be built. Begin building your own belief through consistent behaviors over time.
Give yourself some grace
You will fail. Every one of us could be discredited with a snapshot of our worst behaviors. But focus on the long game, not the momentary failures.
A Message to Leaders
3 Practices for Building Environments Where People Can Thrive
Define the behaviors you want for your team and the individual members to display. Behaviors are critical to establishing a healthy team and healthy relationships.
Model the behaviors that you want adopted and emulated throughout the team. Speaking and modeling these behaviors consistently will demonstrate that you are serious about the culture you want to build. Your consistent modeling will build belief in others.
Don’t just react to the behaviors (fruit). Dig into the root system and understand the beliefs that drive the behaviors of your team. Ask questions and empathetically listen to what your team members are feeling and thinking. Over time, this will build an environment where people can thrive.