14 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Complexities of Human Behaviour

My colleague, a human resources practitioner who claims to have over 20 years' experience in managing people, confessed to me one day that he still encounters challenges in dealing with managing professionals.

Being a young rookie in advisory issues I felt a bit undercut by that statement. I asked myself how could that be with someone who has held dozens and dozens of training sessions with professionals, both at individual and group level.

As a businessperson, you have to quickly learn the ropes of thinking on your feet, speaking with clarity with more effectiveness and more poise.

It dawned on me how complex the human mind and behaviour is such that each individual and group will behave in a different fashion from the next.

Dealing with human beings is the most challenging situation you will ever experience if you are in business. Research done a few years ago under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching uncovered a most important and significant fact - a fact later confirmed by additional studies made at the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

It was revealed that even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15 percent of one's financial success is due to one's technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering, to personality and the ability to lead people.

Have you observed that the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people is headed for higher earning power?

American industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller said: "The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun."

It has been proved that certain behaviours become more apparent for the person that has been placed in a group from when they are in a team.

A person's productivity could decrease when you place them in a group. In the groups, a hostile attitude could be developed towards people outside the group or members of other groups. This is usually the case when the group consist of bankers, engineers, accountants and or people of a certain profession or standing.

They perceive other people outside their professions as not very important or significant.

For instance, those that play golf are aware that people who play at Harare Royal Club are usually company directors or owners of the means of production while those that frequent Chapman Golf Club are referred to as senior managers or professionals.

As a result there is always a conflict of status when these groups of people interact. Due to the cohesion within the group, there may be lack of co-operation and support or opposition to non-members.

This resentment and inter-group conflict may damage the organisation as a whole as people lose direction or objectives of the organisation in pursuance of team loyalty. Finance teams/groups within organisations may not finance a project being done by a group of IT developers due to resentment of other groups which are not finance.

McGregor (1960) wrote of the need for a balance of roles within the managerial teams. The American social psychologist was concerned that the creative (Plant in Belbin terms) and dynamic (Shaper in Belbin terms) roles should be counter-balanced by critical thinking (Monitor Evaluator in Belbin terms) role within the team.

Managers within organisations can always reduce or minimise conflict through encouraging a high level of communication and interaction among the team members and between the groups to ensure that all are aware of the organisational and not group objectives.

Once people realise that they subscribe to the same principles and goals, productivity usually rises and this will lead to increased shareholder value through profits.

Till next week, may God richly bless you.

Shelter Chieza is an advisor in management issues.

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