Breakthrough Leadership Development Conversations Through Science

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A few weeks ago, I received a call from a leader who was concerned about one of his team members. The employee was usually a high performer, but lately, his work had been subpar. The leader sensed that something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure how to broach the subject. As someone who has had many breakthrough conversations with leaders over the years, I suggested a simple but effective approach.

First, I recommended setting up a one-on-one development meeting with the employee. In prep for their 1:1 meeting, I suggested they both take assessments in three behavioral sciences. I recommended using the DISC behavioral science, which defines a person’s natural wiring or how people naturally work and lead. Your natural behavioral style/DISC also informs us on how each person wants to be communicated with leading to very effective communication in your 1:1 meeting.

The second science was to understand the employee’s motivators. What drives their actions and decisions at work? “Why” do they come to work? Understanding their “why” informs us how to engage and motivate each team member. A person’s performance will definitely drop if their “why” is not being fed/met when they come to work.

Lastly, the third science was the Soft Skills Indicator to understand the employee’s clarity of themselves and the world around them. It’s a game-changer because it helps identify the top development priorities that will have the greatest impact on their life, both personally and professionally.

Behavioral science sets the foundation for having breakthrough conversations. It creates a raw and vulnerable discussion about who we are, where we are at and most importantly where we want to go. Using science helps objectively identify the real issues limiting performance and overall life satisfaction. It is not someone’s opinion of what the issues are but real science helping identify the real issues which is the first step in solving them.

Science goes beyond just understanding what the problem is, but how to communicate and work with that person to solve it. Understanding their dos and don’ts of communication enables you to approach the problem in a way they will receive it.

That is why we not only recommend behavioral science for 1:1 development meetings but to use it across your organization to facilitate candid and vulnerable discussions. Whether you use science to have a breakthrough team development exercise or use it in the hiring process to make sure you make the right hire the first time.

The irony of behavioral science is that we go through school learning all the other sciences like Chemistry, Biology, and Physics but we are not taught the one science that impacts all of us. Every one of us has a natural behavioral style.

We are seeing more and more organizations use the power of behavioral science. When I started using science 24 years ago to help our clients make the most informed talent planning software & decisions, I would estimate 20% of companies used science consistently. Now I would estimate that number to be over 50% and we will continue to see that number go up. Because once a leader first experiences that breakthrough conversation with one of their direct reports or their team they will never make another important talent decision without it. They recognize that using behavioral science helps them win the battle for talent and when they do that, they will dominate their industry.

I am always excited to check back in with a leader after using behavioral science in their 1:1 meetings for the first time because usually, they are ecstatic. He described the breakthrough that he had while coaching his direct report to a breakthrough as well. The leader recognized that behavioral science creates the opportunity to talk through things you normally would not be able to talk about without it. It creates an environment (and culture) where all team members are comfortable talking about the challenges they are facing.

The employee opened up, and it turned out that he was going through a tough time in his personal life. The approach helped the employee feel comfortable enough to share what was going on, and he and his leader were able to create a plan to help him get back on track. Together they identified the top development priorities and created a leadership development plan that will have the greatest impact on his professional and personal life.

Without science, this situation might have led to letting, what was once a high-performing team member, go from the organization. But with science, the real issue was identified and through development was resolved and now is a high-performing team member once again.

As a leader, there is no science that will bring more return on investment to you than behavioral science. Why? Because behavioral science helps you proactively resolve people-related issues before they impact the business. To build the team to achieve your dream.

Steve Van Remortel is the Founder/CEO of MyTalentPlanner, Chief Strategist & Talent Advisor at Stop the Vanilla, LLC and is a speaker, trainer, advisor, and 3x author. 

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