On occasion as professionals we observe what seems to be irrational behavior, something that seems to defy logic.

After years of seeing this “irrational” behavior in managers, co-workers and consultants I realized it is usually not irrational, just hard to comprehend.

Most decisions people make involve a complex array of factors, many of which are hidden from us, but clear to our co-worker, manager or customer. 

Three categories are particularly important to comprehend what’s going on:

1.- Personal goals. 
Decisions sometimes align with personal goals, not company goals. It may not be rational to you, but is rational to the decision maker. One example I saw once was how a Cloud Provider was selected based on the resume impact on the customer.

2.- Gut based Logic.
This is sometimes called “Emotional Intelligence” or Feeling based intelligence. You may call it what you want, but it’s a decision based on intuition, previous experience, and yes feelings!

That is why seldom a consulting sale is made to someone the customer does not like. Gut based decisions are often correct, do not under-estimate them.

3.- Fear or Lack of Knowledge
Unfortunately on occasion our co-worker, customer or even manager may have reasons to fear change, or simply not really know the benefits of an action that may seem very logical to us, but not to them.

It is our role in these situations to be understanding, and help them overcome the fear. We must build trust, and show that we are trustworthy, and that we truly care about the person we have in front of us.

A Deeper Lesson

Billy Graham once said “Confidentiality is the essence of being trusted.” That is a deep truth. Do you want to influence people, do you want to truly contribute to their companies or personal wellbeing? Earn their trust: BECOME TRUSTWORTHY.

Only then they will confide with you their personal goals, share their gut logic, or disclose their fears or lack of knowledge. When they do, be grateful, keep secrets, and share your advice. Not only will they listen to you, but one day as you gain their trust you will become a friend, and that has immense value.

Enterprise Agile Coach, Agile Program Manager, Software Engineering Manager & Developer who is a fan of Kanban, Scrum, and SAFe. I am constantly pursuing leading edge technologies, and nowadays those are Crypto, Blockchain and decentralized applications which represent the future of software. On the personal side I am a seeker of truth, who loves freedom, people and nations. I firmly believe we live once, and we must make it a better journey for ourselves, and for others. Two quotes I admire: “Who is wise? One who learns from every man… Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations… Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot… Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.” – Ben Zoma “Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it.” – Winston Churchill

1 comment on “Becoming Trustworthy

  1. Comments on Becoming Trustworthy

    After years of seeing this “irrational” behavior in managers, co-workers and consultants I realized it is usually not irrational, just hard to comprehend.

    I think that the primary thing to remember is that often people’s actions and decisions are guided by psychology rather than thoughtful deliberation and choosing the most sensible option (given that person’s desires). What this means is you can’t expect rational decision making to guide others decisions and actions. You are often better understanding common psychology and how that impacts decision making.

    If you are intending to understand them then this is often more useful. And if you are attempting to change behavior to improve results often you need to understand not the psychology that will help people change much more than the logic behind what is the most rational decision based on the facts in this case and the individual’s desires.

    There are times when you think a decision was irrational but you were mistaken. The person does have rational reasons that were responsible for the decision they made. Even in a case where a person has went through a rational decision making process but made an error and chose an alternative that did not result in what they imagined it would I think you can call that a rational choice.

    But I think much more often (even for business decisions) there was no rational decision making. They may have made the choice mainly out of fear (which I would see as different than taking into account the risks and deciding that they wanted to avoid the risk even if it meant the business would suffer because they personally would avoid risk). Or they may have just said no because they don’t like change (which again is different than choosing to say no because the costs of change when rationally weighed against the possible benefits are not worth it). Etc. There is a big difference I think in believing people are making rational choice and believing that most often people do not do so, they are guiding by unconscious decision making factors that they don’t understand and did not evaluate in coming to the decision they did).

    There are 2 reasons this is important: first you are likely making decisions this way and can improve your decision making by understanding how you are making decisions. And second if you are trying to influence others understanding how they make decisions is important.

    Thinking about these, and related ideas, is valuable. Even when people disagree I think this is a valuable process.

    I have several related blog posts
    https://management.curiouscatblog.net/2012/05/31/customers-are-often-irrational/
    https://management.curiouscatblog.net/2019/02/26/design-the-management-system-with-an-appreciation-for-confirmation-bias/
    https://management.curiouscatblog.net/2017/07/12/the-importance-of-critical-thinking-and-challenging-assumptions/

    Like

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