Leaders, Shoppers and the ABC’s of Behavior

Whether you’re a leader with responsibilities for managing the performance of your employees, leading a major change initiative or marketing to seemingly fickle shoppers, you need an understanding of human behavior. While behavior can be very complex, the basics are as simple as ABC.

A – Antecedents
These are all the things we do to motivate behavior before it occurs. It can be setting annual goals with your employees, explaining the business case for change to those that will be affected, or advertising and merchandising to shoppers so they notice your products. Experts have learned that antecedents drive approximately 20% of behavior. Antecedents are important and necessary, but not sufficient.

B – Behavior
This is self-explanatory but it’s important to not gloss over a distinction between thinking and behaving. Performance management systems can and should be based on both cognitive and behavioral psychology. Change leaders can and should focus on how people think about the new way of doing things and on the new behaviors they want. Marketing should research consumer attitudes and behaviors.

C – Consequences
Every behavior has a consequence. Consequences are what occur after the behavior. Consequences can range from the very obvious (an employee gets a raise after meeting her goals) to the very subtle (a customer feels like a better person after buying a certain product). Consequences are very powerful motivators. While experts know behavior is driven 20% by antecedents, consequences drive 80% of all behavior: four times more effective!

So, leaders that want better employee performance should spend significant time on establishing and managing consequences for behaviors. Change agents that want their change adopted should spend ample time pinpointing the behaviors they want and determining how to reinforce those new behaviors with appropriate consequences. And marketers that want to drive more sales should focus not only on the antecedents to the desired behaviors along the path to purchase (e.g., merchandising) but on the consequences shoppers experience after buying (e.g., loyalty programs). Managing consequences will drive better results faster. It’s as simple as ABC.

(For more on how loyalty can transform your business, be sure to catch the keynote by Mike Hogan, SVP & CMO at GameStop, Inc. at the Shopper Insights in Action conference sponsored by IIR USA).

(And for those of you who would like to learn more, check out these books. Three by Aubrey Daniels – Bringing Out the Best in People; Performance Management; and Other People’s Habits. One by Leslie Wilk Braksick – Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits. One by Johnson, Dakens, Edwards and Morse – Switchpoints.)