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The Behavior Equation


Can you change an individual’s personality? The short answer is no. As a Leader (or as a human), you do not have the ability to alter someone’s personality. If you can’t change who they are, how do you adjust performance? How do you get your employees to do what you want them to do? How do you modify your team’s efficiency and effectiveness?


Kurt Lewin, often known as “the founder of social psychology,” came up with a simple equation to explain why people behave the way that they do. The equation is as follows:


B = f (P * E)

Behavior is the function of person (or personality) times environment.


Essentially, this means that a person’s behavior is affected by who and where they are. Personality is the individual at their core, their truest self, their inherent characteristics and tendencies. Environment, then, is anything outside of that. Environment can indicate a physical space, but it also refers to situations, conversations, and interactions.


Using this equation, we see that in a leadership role, we can influence a person’s behavior by changing their environment. Leaders cannot change personality (though we sometimes wish we could), and we cannot mandate different behavior. Rather, by transforming the situation or surroundings, we can encourage a shift in response or action. For example, you cannot force a team member to show up to work on time. You can, however, provide feedback, hold them accountable, and discipline, if necessary.


While this equation may seem straightforward, it’s more complicated than it looks. Two people holding the same job role in the same situation may act very differently. Some employees take a change of environment in stride; others react strongly. As part of the leadership journey, we must determine how to influence behavior in the proper way for each member of the team. Each employee is unique based on their personality and experiences, and a Leader must adjust their direction based on the needs of each staff member. Lead the person, not the position. You can’t change who they are. Through motivation, consistency, and coaching, you can influence positive behavior. The question of the day is this: how will you transform your team’s working environment today?



mind behavior vector


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