Tag Archives: behavior change

Taking Personal Responsibility – Creating the Line of Choice

Taking Personal Responsibility - Creating the Line of Choice

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described how people’s personal power is diminished when they don’t take personal responsibility for the impact of their behaviors and actions and the results they cause. Where many people are feeling minimized and marginalized, anxious as a result of being isolated and lonely, worrying about losing their security and freedom, and dealing with the instability in their working environments.  Resulting in many people disengaging from the important conversations, job functions, key relationships, workplaces, and in some instances, even from society. Where managers and leaders lack the basic self-awareness and self-regulation skills to control the only controllable in uncertain and unstable times, is to choose how to respond, rather than react to it.

We have a unique moment in time to shift their defensiveness through being compassionate, creative, and courageous towards helping managers and leaders unfreeze and mobilize to exit our comfort zones.  To take intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

Why do people avoid taking personal responsibility?

People typically avoid taking personal responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness, risk adversity, or a fear of failure, to feeling change fatigued, overwhelmed, or even victimized by the scale of a problem or a situation.

Resulting in a range of different automatic defensive, and a range of non-productive reactive responses including:

  • Avoidant behavior, where feel victimized and targeted, people passively “wriggle” and the buck gets passed onto others, and the real problem or issue does not get addressed or resolved.
  • Controlling behavior, where people ignore their role in causing or resolving the real problem or issue, and aggressively push others towards their mandate or solution, denying others any agency.
  • Argumentative behavior, where people play the binary “right-wrong” game, and self-righteously, triggered by their own values, oppose other people’s perspectives in order to be right and make the other person wrong.

Creating the line of choice

At Corporate Vision, we added a thick line of “choice” between “personal responsibility” and “blame, justification and denial” to intentionally create space for people to consider taking more emotionally hygienic options rather than:

  • Dumping their “emotional boats” inappropriately onto others, even those they may deeply care about,
  • Sinking into their habitual, and largely unconscious default patterns when facing complex problems, which results in the delivery of the same results they always have.
  • Not regulating their automatic reactive responses to challenging situations, and not creating the vital space to pause and reflect to think about what to do next.

To enable them to shift towards taking response-ability (an ability to respond) and introducing more useful options for responding in emotionally agile, considered, constructive, inclusive, and creative ways to the problem or the challenge.

Noticing that when we, or others we interact with, do slip below the line to notice whether to “camp” there for the long term or to simply choose to make the “visit” a short one!

Doing this demonstrates the self-awareness and self-regulation skills enabling people to take personal responsibility. Which initiates ownership and a willingness to be proactive, solutions, and achievement orientated – all of which are essential qualities for 21st century conscious leadership that result in innovative outcomes that result in success, growth, and sustainability.

Shifting your location – from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us”

Developing the foundations for transformational and conscious leadership involves:

  • Supporting people to acknowledge and accept that the problem or challenge is not “out there” and is within their locus of control or influence.
  • Shifting the “Maturity Continuum” to enable leaders and managers to be both independent and interdependent.
  • Creating a line of choice to think, act and do things differently.
  • Calling out people when they slip below the line.

It involves supporting people to let go of their expectation that “they” or someone else, from the outside, will fix it, and supporting them to adopt a stance where:

  • “I” or “we” can and are empowered to do it,
  • “I” or “we” are responsible for getting above the line,
  • “I” or “we” can choose a different way of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in this situation.

Developing conscious leadership

At any time, everyone is either above or below the line because it is elemental to the type of conscious leadership we all need to survive and thrive, in a world where people are seeking leaders, managers, and working environments that require interdependence.

To operate in the paradigm of “we” – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.

We cooperate together by creating the line of choice where we call out to ourselves and others when we slip below it, to get above the line as quickly as possible.

Where interdependent people and communities combine their efforts, and their self-awareness and self-regulation skills with the efforts of others to achieve their growth and greatest success by increasing:

  • Transparency and trust,
  • Achievement and accountability,
  • Diversity and inclusion,
  • Experimentation and collaboration.

All of these are founded on the core principle of taking personal responsibility, which is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation.

Bravely calling out self and others

When we take responsibility for managing our own, “below the line” reactive responses, by habitually creating the line of choice, we can bravely call out ourselves and others when we slip below it.

Because when we don’t call ourselves and others we interact with, we are unconsciously colluding with their emotional boats, default patterns, and automatic reactive responses, which inhibit their ability to effect positive change.

When we safely awaken ourselves and others, we can get back above the line quickly and choose different ways of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in the situation.

Alternately, people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders.

In fact, developing a habitual practice of emotionally intelligent and conscious leadership by safely and bravely disrupting ourselves and our people, in the face of ongoing uncertainty, accelerating change, and continuous disruption.

This is the second in a series of three blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.

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The Pyramid of Results, Motivation and Ability

Changing Outcomes, Changing Behavior

Pyramid of Results, Motivation and Ability

by Braden Kelley

When engaging in a change effort it is important to focus not on outputs but on outcomes. The difference is sometimes subtle for people, but the biggest difference is that outputs are usually activity-based where outcomes are behavior-based.

There are several good behavior modification frameworks out there including the Six Boxes framework from Carl Binder, the Six Sources of Influence framework from VitalSmarts, and the Results Pyramid® from Partners in Leadership that start with the desired performance changes, results or outcome shifts and work backwards.

Six Boxes Approach - Carl Binder

Six Boxes Approach – Carl Binder

Potential Benefits of Using the Six Sources of Influence

The Six Sources of Influence framework from VitalSmarts, a framework designed for personal change has some usefulness as we look at organizational change. Here are some of my thoughts on how this personal change framework is relevant, centered on the fact that successful change happens one individual at a time. The Six Sources of Influence framework looks at motivation and ability on one axis, and how they are affected across three other variables, which include:

  1. Personal
  2. Social
  3. Structural

Taken together they form the Six Sources of Influence (see the Motivation Ability Worksheet in Figure 1) and can be used to change behavior one individual at a time. And it is from these changes in behavior that the transitions towards the new way of doing things begin to happen.

Motivation Ability Worksheet

Figure 1

To utilize personal ability to influence the change will require teaching people the new skills to be successful at the new way of doing things. Consider breaking up the learning into short intervals where you can give people immediate feedback and prepare for people to have regressions back to the status quo. Work to identify those moments where people will be most tempted to regress to the status quo and create strategies that reinforce the new way of doing things.

To influence the change through personal motivation will require visualizing the change for people and utilizing physical and other cues (including vivid storytelling) to help reinforce that the change is desirable. Help people see, feel and believe in the new way of doing things (the desired state).

Social motivation can be used to influence change adoption by turning accomplices (status quo advocates) into friends (people practicing and supporting the new way of doing things), while any attempt to use social ability as an influencer for change adoption will require open and honest conversations to transform people from accomplices into friends .

Finally, utilizing structural motivation will require selling the problem in a way that people are influenced to abandon the status quo (visualize it, prototype it, etc.) and structural ability can be used to motivate people by changing the physical environment to reinforce the change. Instead of using a stick to motivate people to change, consider using carrots and the threat of losing carrots. It’s a slight twist away from using a stick, but it’s a powerful one. Finally, reward small wins and use incentives (carrots) in combination and in moderation.

Devotees of the Six Sources of Influence may find the free Motivation Ability Worksheet useful.

Using the Results Pyramid® to Create New Results

The Results Pyramid® framework from Tom Smith and Roger Connors’ book titled Change the Culture, Change the Game focuses on the importance of building a culture of accountability. Leaders can accelerate the change and results that they seek by working with the bottom half of the pyramid (“beliefs” and “experiences”). The Results Pyramid® has four main components that I would love to show below in Figure 2 but can’t:

Figure 2 would have gone here

Transformational change is most often lasting and sustainable in achieving the desired new results when leaders work to change the beliefs and experiences that people have and ensuring that people begin having new experiences that lead to new beliefs that lead to new actions that ultimately support the desired new results.

I was trying to help bring additional readers to the authors via the Results Pyramid® Worksheet, but it didn’t quite work out, so you’ll have to do without the visuals and imagine how the tool from Change the Culture, Change the Game could be used to:

  1. First focus on identifying the new results that the group wants to achieve after making the change.
  2. Second, ask employees and partners what new experiences they think that people will need to have in order to not only begin to leave the old way of doing things behind, but to both support the new results you want to achieve AND to help them believe the organization is serious and committed to the new results and that the leadership can be trusted.
  3. Third, ask what new beliefs they think that people will need to have in order to commit to leaving the old way of doing things behind and prepare them to take new actions.
  4. Finally, ask what new actions they think that people will need to take in order to achieve the new results that you are hoping to have in the desired state.

In most cases you will find that your current set of experiences, beliefs, actions, and results have achieved a sort of equilibrium or alignment and that one of the keys to achieving successful change is to move from your current state of equilibrium or alignment to a new set of experiences, beliefs, and actions that create a new state of equilibrium centered around your new results. By identifying where you want to move the top of the pyramid, your can start moving the base of the pyramid followed sequentially be the layers above it, and in doing so, prevent the pyramid from toppling over.

Potential Benefits of Using the Results Pyramid®

The Results Pyramid® is based on the idea that too many organizations focus on the results they want to achieve in the shift from the current state to the desired state and that just by communicating the desired results that the organization will see these new results manifest. But, the reality that the Results Pyramid® captures is that in order to achieve a shift from the current state to the desired state, and to achieve a new set of results, you must do more than define the new results you want to achieve. And you must provide a new set of experiences, beliefs, and actions that will help you achieve those results. The other key component of the Results Pyramid® theory is that too often companies demand new actions to get new results, but the truth is that these four things (results, actions, beliefs, and experiences) are organized like a pyramid and you can’t just move the top of the pyramid without also moving the supporting layers as well.

Meaning, that to create a shift in results (or outcomes), you must create a new set of experiences that lead to a new set of beliefs that lead to a new set of actions that result in the new results that you are hoping for as a result of your change effort. And of course by planning out consciously the shift in results that you’re trying to achieve, you can work as a change planning team to identify the new experiences, beliefs, and actions that you need to create in order to achieve the new results

I find this a useful tool to consider using as you analyze the desired behavior changes and new outcomes you are seeking to achieve with your change effort as you go through your change planning meetings or off-site.

Devotees of the Results Pyramid® would have found the Results Pyramid® Worksheet useful but, sigh, you can’t see it.


In this article we looked at the role of changing behaviors in achieving changed outcomes, and how we might use a couple personal behavior modification frameworks, the Six Sources of Influence and the Results Pyramid® to help us organize our conscious attempts to modify the behavior of individuals as part of our attempts to achieve our desired group behavior change and to ultimately to achieve the intended successful outcomes of our change effort.

So, check out the work of Carl Binder and grab yourself copies of Change the Culture, Change the Game and Change Anything and get started!

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