Where Are You Investing Your Behavioral Capital?

Just like any investement portfolio, how we invest our behavioral capital will determine our returns: short term and long term.  How are you allocated?

It is very easy to become depressed and negative given the nature of the news. One day last week I borrowed a research tool from my old boss John Naisbitt and figured out that about 80% of what was on the cover of the Wall Street Journal that day dealt with financial distress, fraud, political skullduggery or dysfunction over how to deal with them. I am no Pollyanna but I think it is critical not to get lost in the overflow of such reporting at the risk of sustaining it.

My colleague Scott Eblin wrote about this in his blog this week in a post entitled What Are You Thinking?, connecting our point of view with our actions. We all have behavioral capital to invest every day.  How we allocate that focus of energy and attention is often impacted by what information we are using to make our decisions.My own practice is to watch for positive signs. Most these days come in the form of processes rather than outcomes. But if thought drives behavior and it was bad behavior that got us into this pickle- then positive, well thought out process is an indication of clearer, more mature thinking. I will take them as a good sign. Here are a few from the recent couple of days:


  • When fed back his comments about Barak Obama being unready to lead from the campaign, John McCain did not take the bait. He responded by saying that the team (American people) had made a decision and it is time for us to help execute that decision. A classic great behavior on high performance teams. Rough and tumble, disagree, debate hard, but when the decision is made, let all that go and get it done.
  • One of my clients- a large global manufacturer put together a 3 day summit meeting for unit heads and their directs to quickly reforecast and re-budget. Everyone came in with trepidation since most of their industry is making draconian cuts from the HQ level, insisting that local units comply. The CEO stood in front of the group on the first day and talked for about 10 minutes, providing the charge for the work to be done. His themes were: 1) You make the decisions. You know best what will win in your markets. 2) Make your cuts for value, not volume. 3) When making your decisions, think about bonuses in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
  • I may not agree with many of the decisions that the Obama team is making, I am in awe of the way that they are managing the transition. It is a textbook case in communicating to stakeholders (multiple channels, coordinated message and highly transparent). I wrote this article for Arkansas Business on forging a team out of a group of rivals and anticipate watching a textbook case of that as well.
  • While many companies are running around with their hair on fire, I had a call from one organization who is interested in putting together a coaching program for their executive team and senior managers. The SVP of HR indicated that it was a directive from the CEO. “We are going to have to skinny down in the leadership ranks to survive this. I want everyone here to show up with their best game every day. If we are going to give up bench strength, I need to support everyone on the front line as best I can.”

Times will be tough in the coming quarters- no doubt about it. But if that is what we are focused on we sustain the atmosphere which created the mess to begin with. I intend to continue looking for positive stories and invest my behavioral capital in ways that I think contribute to our recovery.  How about you?  How will you allocate your behavioral capital and what research will you read to inform that decision?