Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Behavioral Differentiation is what I call the process of breaking down human performance into its many parts. Too often we generalize and judge individual behavior driven by only one statement or action, good or bad. In so doing, we miss opportunities to celebrate the good while also focusing on potential areas of improvement. Instead, let’s recognize human performance for what it is … complicated.
Performance management is one of the biggest challenges for operational leaders and in all of human relationships. Accurately evaluating the complete picture of an individual’s performance is critical. Unfortunately, many times we are influenced by only one piece of the complicated puzzle. The “halo effect” is in play when we draw conclusions of the whole from the perception of one aspect of performance or one moment in time. There are also situations where we actively choose to ignore components of behavior, concluding that they are not as important as others. I am most familiar with the healthcare and engineering industries, when too often technical high performers have been allowed to behave badly. This may come in the form of poor availability or weak team skills. Unfortunately, too often we may inappropriately focus on only the benefit while granting passes for necessary improvement opportunities.
Equally challenging are times where there is only attention or communication paid to what is not working. For example, children who throw temper tantrums … what to do? Break down the behavior. The “bad” may be in resistance to the parent’s authority or destructive actions. They are not to be ignored, but neither are the potentially good components. What good is there in this example? How about in the child’s intensity and persistence? Both are highly valued characteristics of successful individuals. Most of us are better at identifying what’s wrong rather than what’s right. Success comes in recognizing and communicating both. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to differentiate the behavior and not just conclude that the child is “bad!”
Lack of behavioral differentiation is not fair to the individual nor the others impacted. Break down communications and actions into their most basic components. Recognize and provide feedback related to the complexity of human performance. Capitalize on critical opportunities to reinforce the good and improve the bad. Be a part of the solution and take the time to differentiate behaviors.
Enjoy the journey!