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Model behaviour


It doesn’t really matter that you may think someone else’s behaviour is out of the ordinary, to them it is perfectly valid.
What you are trying to ascertain is what influences a particular behaviour.

Remember that the antecedent sets up the circumstances for some sort of behaviour.
The individual has a choice of responses depending on how he or she views the consequences.
The consequences drive how frequently and at what rate a particular behaviour is carried out.
The consequence is what happens to the person carrying out the behaviour once it is completed.

A few simple examples of the principle of ‘ABC’ might be:

Example 1

Antecedent: You hear a knock at the door.

Behaviour: You get up and open it.

Consequence: The postman gives you a parcel.

Clearly, if the consequence was ‘the postman hits you in the nose’ you would be less inclined to open the door a second time. In other words, it would affect your behaviour the second and subsequent times.

Example 2

Antecedent: You just see something fall from your partners pocket.

Behaviour: You walk over to investigate and find your car keys on the floor.

Consequence: You can still drive your car.

Again, if you decide to ignore it or do not walk over to investigate properly you would have lost your keys to the car.
This would have affected your behaviour so that next time you would go over and find out what had fallen on the floor.

You can analyse any behaviour in this manner.
You would thus record the antecedent (sets the scene), the behaviour (performance) and the consequence (positive or negative re-inforcer or punishment or penalty)


The main idea is to try to ascertain which consequence will drive the desired behaviour. You do have to be a little careful here.
If the person is incapable of carrying out the behaviour it may not be through a lack of desire but from a lack of ability.
That is, is training required?

Have they been trained in the past but are too proud to admit they have forgotten?
When was the last time they carried out this task?
Of course, knowing that the person is competent to carry out the behaviour, whilst observing a poor performance in practice, is almost certainly a motivation issue.

It is generally considered that if the person is unable to carry out the required behaviour under the threat of imminent death then it is a training issue!
However, it is clearly not practical to use this sort of analysis.

Immediate, future and uncertain behaviour

We know that if a behaviour is happening it must be being reinforced, either in a:

Positive way: Get something you want, or a Negative way: Avoid something you don’t want

Let us look at the another example. This is looked at from the point of view of the person carrying out the behaviour and how they might think as opposed to how you would react under the same circumstances.

Your car tyres need replacing will you do it or not?

We want the desirable behaviour to be ‘go to a garage and have your tyres replaced’.
Conversely, the behaviour we don’t want is ‘delay replacing the tyres’.

Let’s take the desired behaviour first.
‘Go to a garage and have your tyres replaced.’

The letters in brackets will be explained below.


  1. The tyres are badly worn
  2. A neighbour tells you they need replacing
  3. A policeman speaks to you about the state of your tyres
  4. Tyres are relatively expensive


  1. Avoids a serious accident that could have resulted in your death or that of someone else. (P, F, U)
  2. Needed a neighbour to prompt you and you lose face (N, I, C)
  3. You feel guilty at being caught and embarrassed (N, I, C)
  4. It costs you money (N, I, C)

Let’s take the poor behaviour second.
‘Delay replacing the tyres.’


  1. The tyres are not too worn
  2. A neighbour says his tyres are similar and has had no problems
  3. A policeman speaks to you about a minor offence but doesn’t mention the state of your tyres
  4. Tyres are relatively expensive


  1. Less likely to have a serious accident (P, F, U)
  2. Your don’t want to show lack of experience with your neighbour so you happily agree with his assessment (P, I, C)
  3. The law appears to give your tyres clearance which eases your conscience (P, I, C)
  4. It costs you money (P, I, C)

This simple example indicates that it is logical to make an effort to replace your tyres in order to avoid the possibility of an accident. However, some people would still find circumstances (antecedents) that would encourage them to delay the tyre change.

Again, the presence of the antecedents create a choice which you take based upon you own assessment of the consequences.

The letters in brackets refer to either:

P = positive consequence for the person as they see it (that is, something they want)
N = negative consequence for the person as they see it (that is, something they don’t want)

I = immediate impact
F = future impact

U = uncertain to occur (less probable)
C = certain to occur (greater probability)

A strong part of motivation is trust, which is dealt with in more detail in (see The Complete Leadership package).
If you tell people they will gain in some fashion if they exhibit a particular behaviour and they don’t then your credibility will drop.

Getting people to ‘behave’ in the right manner is not just a matter of communication as too much can confuse and irritate, especially if your communication is not reflected in your actions.

Reasons for poor motivation

There are many reasons for poor performance:

  • Fear of failure
  • A company blame culture might exist creating intimidation
  • Documentation, red tape and systems
  • Pressures of deadlines (see The Complete Project Management package)
  • Poor communication affording conflicts
  • Lack of training
  • Management and worker disputes
  • Conflicts of short term and long term goals
  • Poor leadership giving weak direction
  • General business uncertainty
  • Poor clarification of objectives
  • Too busy, with possibly poor time management training (see The Complete Time Management package)
  • Lack of respect and valuation of your efforts

There will be many more big and small all contributing to poor performance.
All of these can create anxiety and stress.

People will react differently to exactly the same situations.
Where ever you go you will find a mixture of highly motivated individuals and very poorly motivated people.
However, as a manager you can make the situation far better or far worse if you are not aware of your influence on others.

Reasons for improved motivation

There are many ways in which your actions can influence motivation and improve it.

  • Don’t get angry
  • Show a personal interest in the person as well as their work
  • Look for opportunities to raise their self worth by providing compliments as necessary
  • Get them involved in work processes and decision making
  • Communicate what’s happening, in particular the company and team vision
  • Keep people informed
  • Treat everyone the same
  • Encourage self reliance in your training methods
  • Look for movement that can develop the individual
  • Make any reward system fit their personal performance
  • Encourage ideas and develop problem solving skills
  • Show people how their efforts make a difference
  • Walk about and talk to people
  • Show that you have personal drive, enthusiasm and lead by example

There will be many more ways discussed here.

Eventually, no matter how hard you try some people will not shift from their current poor behaviour.
Even when you have tried all of the coaching techniques (see Coaching – part 1).
In this case, you could try moving them to another position or getting rid of them.
Some people will go of their own accord if not satisfied with the situation.

If you can convince people that as the organisation improves they will benefit then motivation will naturally increase.