Using Unconventional Leadership Development Tools

Leaders need to understand the mechanism of action—the reason people do what they do.

In order to change something for the positive, we must first understand the “why.” Anyone can observe a behavior, but few can tell you why that person acted in such a way.

Let’s use conflict resolution as an example. Most executives have some capacity for resolving conflict, but when asked how they do it, few of them understand how behavioral dynamics shape their approach. There are five specific behavioral attributes that affect one’s ability to resolve conflict:

  1. Compromise
  2. Accommodation
  3. Avoidance
  4. Collaboration
  5. Competing

These behaviors are invoked in a specific order that defines one’s ability approach to resolving conflict.

Executives who have high compromise are very willing to explore new ideas and concepts and enter situations open-minded. High accommodation means people are willing to move in a new direction and meet the needs of others. If they also have high avoidance—well-developed to high collaboration—a desire to work with others, and low competing, then they are internally driven to be the best they can be but are not necessarily interested in competing against others and typically show little sense of urgency.

These people may be perceived as easy-going, easy to work with, and tending to provide minimal resistance, but helping to resolve conflict. But this would be an inaccurate assessment. The reality is that they do not like conflict. They do not engage well with others as they avoid, compromise, and accommodate; therefore, they do not have to be involved with making difficult discussions. Such people are not effective at conflict resolution.

What Are They Really Doing?

The first lesson is that things are not as they appear. By defining the objective “why,” we are able to understand what these people are really doing when faced with conflict. These people need to engage. They need to utilize other skills and abilities, such as reflectivity, well-developed expertise, good will, social skills, and communication. Be engaging, they provide a different perspective and contribute to the process, changing the dynamic. This does not mean they need to be confrontational. People with high reflectivity have creative minds and can use questions to solicit more insight and provide perspective in a nonthreatening way.

These same people also can understand that four of the behaviors that guide conflict resolution—compromise, collaboration, avoidance, and accommodation are learned behaviors—whereas competing is the only genetic trait that affects conflict resolution. By developing the four learned behaviors, people can adopt a more effective approach to resolving conflict. They will have to manage the competitive dynamic relative to conflict situations.

Holding People Accountable

The situation I described does several things that are unconventional. It first defines a concept such as conflict resolution into five behaviors that are genetic and learned. It then helps individuals understand how these five behaviors shape their interactions. This process helps people focus on actions that will affect change in a desired way, helping people to measurably improve.

Last but not least, this type of approach can be used to hold people accountable as it measurably defines the behaviors used in a given situation. This approach can be used for more than just conflict resolution. This approach can be used to help people understand motivational theory, what drives people to do what they do. It can be used to help people understand the concept of listening, interpersonal skills, attitude, selective perception, coachability, direct versus indirect operating styles, influence, implementation skills, and several other dynamics of leadership.

Knowing the “why” is critical as most programs focus only on the “what.” Until leaders can understand the mechanism of action—the reason people do what they do—it is difficult for them to understand and identify how effective they are, how effective they could be, and what they need to do to improve.

Curtis R. Sprouse is CEO and President of EurekaConnect. EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics (ECBD) is an approach that involves the assessment of an individual, team, or organization, via validated tests, to define 17 behavior traits, both genetic and learned, as well as 14 behavioral models. With this program, ECBD objectively identifies why individuals

and companies have not achieved optimal outcomes and identifies ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, driving revenue and profitability, as well as personal achievement. Along with its partners Giombetti Associates, EurekaConnect leverages data across multiple industries to define “what and why” people do what they do via their personalized behavioral dynamics assessment score. The approach uses three fundamental principles for life-long success:

  • Learn: Continuously striving to expand self-awareness and relevant business intellect.
  • Grow: Develop skills, refine strengths, apply proven methods to achieve objectives.
  • Lead: Use the knowledge and experience to innovate in order to reach new levels of success.