Beliefs create the Behaviors that Drive Performance

By Larry Taylor

The formula yields higher, more sustainable performance.

B-B-P is the secret formula to the Orange recipe. It is the cornerstone belief that supports the entire Orange approach to improving performance. Virtually everything in the Orange philosophy evolves from this one formula. Performance is an outcome of a decision (Behavior) that was made. The person made that decision based on what he thought (Belief) was the right thing to do. So, the Performance you get is directly tied to the Beliefs you create and the Behaviors you reward and recognize.

Utilizing the B-B-P formula to improve performance is where the Oranges gain a major advantage over the Apples. The Apple belief is that to improve performance, define the performance you want, and then create a financial incentive program that rewards people who achieve the requisite performance measures.

Apples believe money (rewards) is the only ingredient required for success. So, they ignore the normative Beliefs and Behaviors (culture) of the organization and focus solely on Performance incentives.

Apples don’t understand that the only permanent way to improve performance is to change the culture to align with the desired performance improvement.

Culture is defined as the normalized Beliefs and Behaviors of an organization. The culture defines how we do things, how we make decisions, and how we expect people to act. It also is the moral compass of an organization.

Now, consider the Orange process to improving sustained performance:

  • Begin by defining the Performance outcomes you want.
  • Secondly, conduct a Culture Assessment to understand and identify the core Beliefs and Behaviors that are yielding the current Performance.
  • Once you have identified what is driving current performance, determine which Beliefs and Behaviors will deliver the desired improved performance.
  • Develop a plan to eliminate the Behaviors that do not yield the desired performance, and identify the new Behaviors that will be required to get people to make the right decision to get the company to the new destination.

The Culture Assessment is the part that just about all Apples leave out. I’m convinced a Culture Assessment is so powerful that I will not begin a performance improvement initiative without first completing one.

For the assessment, I conduct confidential one-on-one interviews with all members of the management team and a few key employees. I begin the interview by telling them that I am not looking for the truth; I only want their opinion, and to answer my questions based solely on what they believe. There will be no attribution of what they share with me, and no names will ever appear in any report. (Trust must be established quickly or the interviews are worthless).

The power of the Culture Assessment is I can hear and see the Beliefs and Behaviors in action. And just as important, I can identify the barriers to change, and get a good sense of those that will oppose the change as well as a potential candidate to lead the change process.

Here’s the second fatal mistake Apples tend to make.
They just throw money at the solution. Rather than develop a Rewards and Recognition program that supports the desired new Performance, they develop an elaborate financial incentive program that ties compensation to achieving the desired new performance.

Rewards typically involve money or compensation-related awards for reaching specific metrics. Money is unquestionably a valuable component of the new performance program. But money tends to have a short-term affect, and most often, financial incentives are usually offered only to management in the belief that managers will micromanage their direct reports to ensure performance milestones are achieved. 

To sustain improved performance, you must continually raise the rewards. And if you eliminate or lower the rewards, performance will rapidly decline.

Money can impact short-term Behaviors, but it often has unintended consequences. After more than a quarter-century of working with an organization, I unequivocally and with absolute confidence have concluded:

  • Money yields compliance; not commitment.
  • When money incentives are announced, a large portion of the people immediately begin trying to decide how they can “game” the program. Sadly, I’ve never encountered a financial reward program that smart, surreptitious people cannot game.
  • Money works as long as you keep giving more money.
  • Money attracts and retains people, but does not motivate them to excel. It motivates them to hit a target any way they can (and sometimes with negative and damaging behaviors).
  • Money motivates individuals, not groups.
  • Money can create greed and self-serving behaviors.
  • Money quickly becomes an entitlement.

People may work for money, but they strive for recognition. Recognition typically involves awarding non-monetary elements and public accolades to a person who demonstrates a core behavior.

Recognition shines the spotlight on the behaviors that generate the desired performance. It is the behaviors that create the right decisions for the right performance outcomes.