Why do people do what they do? What drives our behaviour? Now this is a massive subject, but to begin answering these questions, let’s start with understanding the impact of our behaviour within the workplace and the interactions we have with our colleagues on a day-to-day basis.
Within an organisation, the way we behave is absolutely critical, and in turn the behaviour of our colleagues has a significant impact on us and our ability to succeed at work as well. But have you ever thought about the underlying factors that drive our behaviour?
Ultimately our behaviour is determined by two key factors: the situation we are in and the thoughts we have within that situation. Here at Corporate Edge, we have a formula to simplify this principle:
Situation + Thought = Response
Our formula helps to unpick why you might be having challenges at work or why you might be responding in a particular way to certain situations. The reality is, behaviour doesn’t happen in isolation. Behaviour is the end result and it is what we see. But what comes before that is far more important.
Walking through a practical example will help to illustrate how our formula works:
Imagine for a moment what would happen if you were due to give a presentation in a meeting and you arrived late.
Faced with your colleagues who have been kept waiting, and knowing that you have much less time to present than expected, you’re now thinking: “Oh no, I’m running late for this major presentation. What is everyone going to think about me?”
The way you interpret what’s going to happen will then impact your response. If that thought about your lateness made you feel flustered, the result would likely mean that you fumble through the presentation.
Contrast this response with another person who is running late but instead they are thinking, “It will be fine, I may be late but I can wrap it up a bit faster and still get the same result. My colleagues will understand.” They deliver their presentation without letting their nerves show, resulting in a completely different behavioural outcome. It all comes down to how you’re thinking about the situation.
Let’s look at the situation another way and imagine instead you are in the room waiting for the presentation to begin. Your colleague has arrived late and you observe that their manner is flustered.
Observing your colleague, you might be wondering: “What is going on? They look like they haven’t prepared. Clearly they don’t care enough or are not up to the task.”
“Clearly they don’t care enough and/or are not up to the task.” But if you were able to unpick what has happened in the lead-up to the situation, instead of thinking your colleague is uncaring or incapable, you might follow a different thought path: “Oh, clearly they are concerned about running late and they’re a bit flustered. I’ll help put them at ease by reassuring them it’s not a problem”. You have chosen to redirect your thought in a different way, resulting in another response entirely.
Situation + Thought = Response (S + T = R)
Our example shows how two separate responses have played out from the same situation, all because of two completely different thought processes. While behaviour is what we experience, it is what comes before that is far more important and why we need to understand what drives behaviour.
The S + T = R formula owes a lot to Sigmund Freud’s work in understanding human behaviour. Freud’s three levels of the mind, or the Freudian iceberg, is a well-used psychological approach for understanding what drives human behaviour good or bad, desired or undesired.
Freud’s three levels of the mind
Freud likened the mind to an iceberg: the top of the iceberg that you can see above the water represents the conscious mind. The part we can see, or the end results, are driven by our behaviour.
The bulk of the iceberg that lies unseen deep under the water represents the unconscious: the storehouse of your values, beliefs, assumptions, past experiences and relationships.
The Situation + Thought = Response model in practice
When we apply the iceberg model to S + T = R, we can then understand that it is really not the situation that creates a behaviour, it’s a person’s thoughts about that situation, all of which are beneath the surface. These values, assumptions and beliefs are what influence the way we think and respond.
With S + T = R in mind, we hope this formula gives you an insight into any given situation and empowers you to adjust your thought process and in turn have the space to consider how you really want to respond.
Our Culture and Leadership Partner Jodi Bush goes into the principles behind what drives our behaviour in the video below, take five minutes to watch and feel free to share this with colleagues or anyone you know who might get value from this.