Magazine excerpt: Behave!

What you say and do influences your effectiveness in business, says Ally Yates.

The learning and development curriculum of most organisations offers a wide range of skills-based courses. For example, you can learn about behaviour-based safety or assertiveness, negotiation or collaboration. The purpose of each programme is to build individual and corporate capability in order to deliver enhanced results.

Individual, targeted, skillsoriented programmes are where most organisations spend the 10% of their 70-20-10 allowance. The investment can be useful, with initiatives providing a square in the patchwork quilt of skill development. What’s often missing, though, is the thread which holds the various pieces together.

Rarely do you see a programme focusing on general interaction skills – those behaviours which are the bedrock of interpersonal effectiveness, equipping the learner to become more skilful and successful by applying learning to diverse situations.

As teamwork and collaboration is now a central block in many training patchworks, these general interaction skills are enjoying a dramatic, timely and profitable renaissance. Where they aren’t prioritised, you can quickly see the evidence. For example – poorly managed meetings; domineering voices; stunted creativity; unhealthy competition among team members; isolated colleagues; disengagement; a tendency to judge, and a lack of shared clarity.

One of the most powerful ways to develop these much-needed skills is through using behaviour analysis, or BA for short. BA is a research-based tool which allows you to capture everything that’s said in any interaction in real time and to then use that data as feedback to develop future verbal behaviour.

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It’s a powerful tool that helps individuals and teams to understand how they behave, the impact of their behaviour and the (more constructive) alternatives open to them.

James Evans, the head of IT enterprise architecture for a global mining business described BA as: “An indispensable set of proven techniques for effective and productive interpersonal and team work.”

The good news about BA is that most of the time you have control over your behaviour and can exercise choice about what you say and how you say it. Your behaviours influence the impact you have and whether you’re seen as the ideas person, a collaborator, the best talker or the wallflower, to cite just a few workplace stereotypes.

When people build behavioural flexibility early in their career, it helps set them apart from the crowd and they become a role model for their peers. As people transition from an individual contributor role to being a supervisor and then a manager, so their behavioural repertoire needs to extend.

The more senior someone is in an organisation, the greater their need for behavioural flexibility and the ability to shift their focus to myriad tasks – strategic direction, leadership, influencing, decision-making, building commitment to change. So, the evidence for sewing these behavioural threads is compelling.

BA provides individuals, groups and teams with a shared lexicon for improving individual and collective performance. Remote teams, multi-cultural teams and local teams can all benefit. It’s not where you come from that matters, it’s how you use the time together and how you achieve your outcomes.

There are 13 types, or categories, of behaviours that are used in our day-to-day interactions. The first step in creating a quilt that will endure is understanding each of the categories.

Proposing procedure
This category involves the suggesting of a new course of action. It relates to the way in which a pair or group is working – or could work. For example, “Why don’t we start by discussing the graduate scheme, then we can come on to the HR plan for the year?”

Proposing content
This involves suggesting a new concept or idea which is actionable, which relates to the topic being discussed: “Let’s create some opportunities for our graduates to work-shadow.”

This category covers eff orts to  extend or develop a proposal already made by another person: “Yes, and we could have them rotate through the different departments.”

Seeking proposals
Asking other people for their ideas or suggestions. For example, “Which departments would be most valuable for graduates?”

Making a clear statement of agreement with, or support for, a person or their statement, opinion, idea or approach. For example: “That’s a great suggestion.”

Making a clear statement of disagreement with someone else’s statement, opinion, idea or approach, or raising objections to such a contribution, as in: “I don’t think that will work.”

Attacking another person (as distinct from an issue) directly, or defending  yourself against such attacks. Such behaviour is usually judgmental and emotional. For example: “That sounds like just another way to get someone to do your donkey work, lazy-bones.” 

Giving information
Making a statement of fact, opinion or reason to another person: “We have five graduates joining IT this year.”

Seeking information
Seeking facts, opinions or reasons from others: “Are all five joining at the same time?”

Testing understanding
Checking out an assumption or checking whether a previous contribution has been correctly understood: “Did you say five?” 

Repeating, accurately and in a condensed form (with nothing new) the content of all or part of the preceding discussion: “We are discussing the graduate scheme. We’ve had an idea about rotating the graduates through the departments that has had a mixed reception and we know that we have five graduates joining IT.”

Shutting out
Behaving in a way that prevents or shortens another’s contribution – most typically, cutting across a speaker by interrupting and/or answering a question posed to someone else: “Can I just make a point?”

Bringing in
Seeking a contribution from a person who has not contributed for some time, or at all. For example, “Ian, what do you think?”


About the author

Ally Yates is an independent consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach. Find out more at and follow @Allyyates_UC


This is an abridged version of a feature from January’s TJ magazine. To get the full insight subscribe to the magazine here.


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