Change Leadership — Secret # 32
Understand The Jack In The Box
Horse sense is what keeps horses from betting on what people will do.
What I Need to Know
I don’t know about you, but people seem to have so many different ways of thinking that I have completely given up the practice of assuming. I no longer “assume” anything about anyone. Once I see someone do something once, I know they are capable of doing it again. If I see them do it twice, then I know they are likely to do it again in the future. However, if the circumstances are slightly different in the future, then they might do something else in the future.
The process of characterizing how a person behaves under various conditions is similar to the scientific notion of characterizing a “black box.” The idea of a black box is that it is completely opaque and therefore, you have no ability to see inside. The only way to determine its contents is to make inferences based on how it responds to various stimuli.
People are black boxes, also. It is impossible to see inside people’s minds and souls. As a change leader, you can only observe how people respond under various conditions.
When a new force or change confronts a person, you would like to have an idea of how that person will respond. Is the black box suddenly going to pop open in your face, like a jack-in-the-box, with a strong response? Who is the “Jack” in the box?
What I Need to Do
Determine the characteristics of the “Jack” in the box.
Be sure to characterize people by their behaviors and actions, rather than their words.
Be aware of the common biases that could cloud your observations and lead to inaccurate characterizations.
Remember that people’s behavior is situational. Next time, they may not react the same way because something might be slightly different. So, take careful note of all the variables in the situation.
Every interaction is an opportunity to characterize the person. Be cognizant of the situation and how the person responded.
Before each interaction, form a hypothesis about how the person will react and test your hypothesis. Sometimes you may be able to plainly ask, “If [some event] were to happen, what would you do?”