Bring out the best in your pet

This post by Cissy Sumner originally appeared in TCPalm.

BOB petVERO BEACH — I read a great quote the other day from a book titled Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels. Here he is talking about positive and negative reinforcement: “It is important to know the difference, because the characteristics of performance generated by each are very different. Negative reinforcement generates enough behavior to escape or avoid punishment. The improvement is usually described as ‘just enough to get by.’ Positive reinforcement (watch video) generates more behavior than is minimally required. We call this discretionary effort,…”

In the world of behavior, negative reinforcement involves the removal of an unpleasant stimulus when a desired behavior occurs. That is kind of like to old joke, the beatings will continue until morale improves, right? You or an animal can learn this way, but you get a minimal effort. Just enough to avoid having the punishment return.

In the world of behavior, positive reinforcement occurs when a reward, sometimes called a reinforcer, is given for a specific desired behavior. Positive reinforcement creates a bigger effort on the part of the learner. Better efforts bring bigger, better and more frequent rewards. Who doesn’t like that? —read more

Certainly, both these methods work. It is up to the individual to make a choice about training methods.

My personal choice for training is positive reinforcement. I’m all about creating a relationship with my dog based on trust and understanding. —read more

Training using positive reinforcers does take a bit more thought on the part of the trainer. You have to understand what is rewarding to your dog. It can be food, toys, pets and attention. Sadly dogs can be reinforced by the removal of attention too. It is difficult for us to understand, but human contact can be unpleasant for some animals.

I have had several conversations recently where people are using punishment for behavior problems. If punishment worked, prisons would be empty!

Dog training is both a science and an art. If you hire a trainer or “behaviorist,” check their credentials. They should understand how behavior can be changed and modified without coercion. —read more

Cissy Sumner of Best Behavior Dog Training is Vero’s first Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed and Certified Behavior Counselor Canine-Knowledge Assessed as well as a Consulting Trainer and Behavior Counselor for the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County. If you have a training or behavior question, email Cissy at or visit for additional information.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material was reposted with permission of TCPalm.

The Problem with Banks’ Results-Driven Culture

By David Uhl

positive business chart or stock quotation on white

ADI senior vice president, David Uhl, helps clients in a variety of industries maximize the Discretionary Effort™ of their employees. In a recently published article [American Banker (8-20-14)] David discusses the pitfalls of managing to results. Read the article in its entirety at American Banker.



Electronic Performance Monitoring: When good intentions turn to digital hammers

Guest post by Cloyd Hyten, Ph.D.

brake-coachElectronic performance monitoring tools (let’s call them EPMs) are becoming more prevalent in the workplace.  The transportation sector seems to be leading the pack at the moment.  Dr. Ron Knipling and I discussed these tools several years ago in a PM e-zine article. In the last year alone I have encountered these systems in railroads, trucking and bus transit companies. They range from blackbox technologies storing several parameters of performance, to devices that store GPS and performance data, and record photographs or videos of operators engaged in work tasks when some pre-designated trigger occurs (such as hard braking by a vehicle driver). Positive improvements to driver behavior are often touted as one of the benefits, as in this quote from a vendor website describing one such system: “Improved driver behavior can be immediate, as the system emits an audio beep to alert the operator of a harsh braking or rapid acceleration event.”

At first glance, it seems to be great news to all of us interested in shaping behaviors key to business safety and success, particularly given that so much performance data can be stored or even examined in real-time.  But there is a huge caveat: how are the data used?  Here are two contrasting examples based on what I have witnessed as well as experienced:

Example 1: An EPM in a transportation company was established to record driver behaviors when driver errors occur, such as harsh acceleration, high-G turns and hard stops.  Digital data on the event as well as video of the event are captured and sent for scoring for the severity of the error. Reports are then sent to the manager of the offending drivers who in turn is required to meet with the driver and give feedback to them regarding the offense. How do the drivers feel about the EPM and its use? Here’s how:  A maintenance manager at one location told me that 90% of the EPMs were rendered inoperable through driver sabotage! The system designed to report offending drivers is so offending to the drivers themselves that they attack the monitoring devices.

Example 2: I recently rented a Ford Fusion Hybrid (gasoline/electric) to get around town at a client site.  I had never driven a hybrid and knew little about their operation. This car recorded data on my braking and fed it back to me via a digital dial and score on the dashboard called brake coach. Being new to the vehicle, I had no clue how the brake coach worked at first, but within 2 days of driving it became clear that if I braked more smoothly, I got a higher score on the brake coach indicator. And it seemed to be suggesting that such a braking pattern returned electricity to the battery, thus reducing my gasoline consumption. It quickly became reinforcing as I tried to brake more smoothly to beat my previous score.  It was fun, and I used very little gas that week.  I came away wishing that my personal car had this system to help me drive safer and more efficiently, not to mention save on fuel and wear and tear.

In both of the above examples, the EPMs recorded driver behavior, so why would one inspire hatred and sabotage, and the other is seen as helpful and fun? Because in Example 1, the data was only used to point out what you did wrong—even if 99.9% of the time your driving was acceptable: all punishment and no opportunity for positive reinforcement.  In Example 2, you could see when you scored low and when you scored high, providing valuable feedback that would likely lead you to try to beat your best score: plenty of opportunity for positive reinforcement.  Example 2 provided positive reinforcement in multiple forms—seeing a high score immediately, which led to spending less money on gasoline. I didn’t even need a manager there to give me feedback.

Right now, as more EPMs are coming online, employers have a choice in how to use them—as digital hammers to beat up your employees, or as tools for optimizing desired behavior that includes engaging your employees. If you’re interested in the former, expect disengagement, disgruntlement or even sabotage.  If you’re interested in the latter, you must tie the systems to positive reinforcement.  Be sure to use the data for positive and constructive feedback, pointing out when the operator is doing something right and providing feedback when something is wrong.  Since most of the time operators are performing correctly, more of the feedback will be on what’s right, and they will see the systems as fair and helpful. They will be interested in the data, stay engaged, and work towards improving their scores.  Isn’t that what you’re looking for?

  • ADI client M&T Bank realized a complete transformation and has created a new way of managing its people by adding behavioral tools, for optimizing desired behavior, to the employee engagement process—watch
  • How to positively engage your employees for the long haul—read more

4 Secrets to Leading Change When Your Company Is Already Successful

Coaching-for-Rapid-ChangeIt’s no secret: Many successful businesses are slow to change. There are hundreds of examples in which corporations have rejected ideas and products that have been left to entrepreneurs to make successful. However, those most affected by this seeming resistance to change are successful organizations; the resistance stems from the fact that what they are doing works.

Read my post at Chief Executive.

We are all the same and different

DisneyI saw an ad for a webinar titled, Customizing feedback: The 9 different personality types. This kind of stuff drives me crazy. The Meyers Briggs people told us it was 16. Someone is always coming up with a new box to put people into. I would suggest that you don’t fit any of them. I talked with a man recently who is working on how people metabolize drugs depending on their DNA. Guess what? No two people do it the same. This is why some drugs work just fine on some people and not on others who have the same disease. I suggest that because there are over 7 billion people in the world, there are over 7 billion personality types. That is because no one has the same experiences you have had and that is why we are all unique. That means that people can’t figure you out or put you into some box with millions of others. With only 9 personality types that would mean that there are about 777,777,778 people in the world with a personality just like yours. How unique does that make you feel?

Surprising to many is the fact that the science of behavior, behavior analysis, has shown that there can be laws of behavior that can accommodate 7 billion unique types and many more. In other words, we are all the same and different. Unless you understand how that can happen, you will have problems in relationships at home and at work.

For more read What Box Fits You? on my Performance Reset Blog at Talent Management Magazine.

Life Hacking with Behavioral Science

Guest post by Francisco Gomez

AppWallMany of us are in the deliberate search for better, easier, faster, more effective ways of getting things done.  We look for optimization in all sorts of pursuits; fitness, cooking, business travel, finances, technology, and so on.   The explosive business of Apps is, in great part, driven by our desire to optimize how we manage our lives. Some might say we are in search of the best and greatest “life hack.” What is a life hack, you ask?  Wikipedia provides this succinct summary:

Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way….Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.*

If you explore the term “life hacking” on the internet, you will find that it covers a lot of ground. There are blogs, e-books, articles and entire websites dedicated to life hacking.  Not surprisingly, these sources vary a great deal in content and quality.  From them, you might gather information ranging from the fastest way to peel a banana (it models what chimpanzees do, in case you’re wondering) to tips on boosting your confidence and learning foreign languages at maximum speeds. You can learn how to decrease your anxiety, get the most out of meditation and make Barista quality coffee from your own home.  And, as is generally the case with online sources, it’s a buyer beware world.  Some of them are important behavioral practices that can genuinely enhance our lives, and others will make you wish you’d invested your time elsewhere.

Like most, I have interests in maximizing performance for personal reasons but it is also an important aspect of my career as a behavior-based business consultant.  One of my favorite aspects of the job is helping the best organizations get even better. Rarely do our clients call us to fix something “broken.” Certainly, behavioral science is a powerful and proven approach to mitigating problem behavior at the individual and organizational level. However, it is also an optimization mechanism, capable of producing the highest levels of creativity, quality, productivity and efficiency in what might already be high performance. It gives you the framework to target and systematically improve behaviors that are significant to you.  So, when it comes to managing the behavior of self and others, even just a basic understanding of behavioral science can be the ultimate life hack.  An understanding of a few core principles from behavioral science will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the jumble of life hacks and personal improvement strategies out there while giving you the tools to build your own for your many ventures.

The behavioral science tools and principles that can help you increase your productivity, creativity and expedite learning and fluency are many.  The creative and effective use of reinforcement alone is one of the most powerful life hacks I can think of.  To assess or develop your own behavior-influencing life hacks, consider this starter set of tools and concepts:

  • Shaping: This might be the most obvious source for a life hack and it is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to learn. Adopting a new skill-especially a complex one such as learning a new language- can have its share of frustrations. We might feel like achieving fluency is distant and the road there too difficult. Often we give up on our goal because it took too much effort to reach the target. This is where shaping comes in. It’s defined by breaking down a skill into achievable and reinforceable baby steps and systematically teaching (or learning) each one. This allows the learner to progress and build a solid foundation on the skill. It also allows them to contact plenty of reinforcement along the way which keeps them fully engaged and motivated to learn. You want your employees to use that complicated new accounting software? Learn how to separate and reinforce those baby steps and shape their behavior. You want to learn how to play an instrument? Learn how to shape your own behavior.
  • Behavioral Cusps: These consist of identifying behaviors or skill sets that once learned will accelerate exponential growth into completely different learning areas. One good example of a cusp might be learning how to read. Once that skill is acquired, a person’s ability to develop in other diverse areas grows exponentially. Now they can read and learn about history, natural science, current events, etc… I see this as a particularly powerful and efficient way to help a new employee transition into their role; identify and then teach the most critical skills that once learned, will expedite growth in other areas that are important to their function. In essence, you could map out and lead them from one cusp to another- expanding the branches of their learning tree and truly maximizing the value they bring to themselves and your organization.
  • PIC/NIC Analysis®: This proprietary troubleshooting tool can help you figure out why people make certain choices. It’s a great way to get into somebody else’s shoes and figure out what variables might be motivating them. If your objective is to change behavior, it’s important to know with precision what the influencing variables are that you need to change.
  • Minimizing Response Cost: This is all about strategically decreasing the amount of effort for the desired behavior to occur. If you want the performer to engage in a certain behavior, it’s much more effective to decrease the amount of effort they need to invest in doing what you want them to do.   Although easily derived from behavioral literature, I first learned this hack from reading Ernest Hemingway’s tips on avoiding writer’s block (and yes…I used his tip to write this blog).  To quote him directly; 

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”

Hemingway decreased the amount of effort for getting into the flow of writing by always leaving a partially full page to begin with the next day. Although I use this for my writing, an understanding of behavior has helped me generalize this approach to several other tasks. For example, I get my workout clothes and equipment sorted, next to my bed and ready to put on for those much too early 5:30am workouts. If I need to get up and start a search for my workout clothes, fitness tracker and water bottle, I may end up slapping that snooze button instead. That additional effort might be too much to sustain the desired behavior. The point is to never start on a blank page. Set yourself up with a head start and increase the likelihood you will engage in the desired behavior.

Think of behavioral interventions (including life hacks) as recipes for improvement. Behavioral principles are the ingredients that will produce the optimization you are looking for in your own as well as other people’s behavior. A solid understanding of a few behavioral principles will give you the ingredients to build your own recipes for behavior change. These days it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the limitless amount of information pitching us different approaches to improving our physical and mental health, relationships, and management styles, to name a few.  It’s a challenge to choose the most effective method in the face of so many options. Before we undergo medical treatment most of us expect for the methodology to have been tested through the rigor of the scientific method.  The above tools and concepts are derived from the systematic study and application of behavioral principles supported by over a century of research. When investing in a life hack intended to influence your behavior and that of others, why wouldn’t you rely on scientifically proven tools and principles to lead your way?

You may also want to check out The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs to Make Life Easier.

Overworked? Could Reducing Workloads be the Key to Improved Results?



Guest post by Judy Agnew

We may be at a tipping point.  It just might be that we have hit the limit on how much we can do on any given day, week or month.  Most of us have more work on our to-do lists than we can ever do.  There are simply not enough hours.  We haven’t stopped to eat lunch in years, we fill our commute time with calls or email, we work after we put the kids to bed, and we look forward to weekends, not because we get some well-deserved leisure time, but because we can do some uninterrupted work or catch up on the essential things we just didn’t have time to get to. Where does that leave us? Stressed. Very stressed!

Ironically, despite all the hours we work and all the sacrifices we make, there is often no clear indication that we are more productive.  We feel like we don’t do anything well because we don’t have the time to do it well; everything is done in a hurry, with constant interruptions.  Perhaps worst of all; we are taking the fun out of work.

It’s not the hours we are putting in that make it less fun.  Many of us put in long hours doing things we love. But it still brings us to a tipping point; the point at which our workload starts to undermine the natural reinforcers in the work we do.

Under the right conditions, most of us enjoy our work.  We enjoy the challenge of a new project, figuring out viable solutions to problems, helping a colleague succeed, successfully pitching a product or idea, mastering a new skill, completing a difficult task, helping customers.  In scientific terms these are natural reinforcers.  Unlike reinforcers such as praise from a manager or bonuses, natural reinforcers are inherent in the work.   Because natural reinforcers are produced by the work itself, they tend to be more immediate and certain than other reinforcers and thus are more powerful.  Natural reinforcers energize us, they fuel us—they create discretionary effort.

But reinforcers are conditional (even your favorite food isn’t reinforcing when you are full from Thanksgiving dinner), and natural reinforcers can lose their effectiveness when we are overloaded.  When we have more work to do than we have time for, we are less likely to experience natural reinforcers.  We are so focused on the next task, the e-mail that just came in, the next deadline; we don’t acknowledge and appreciate the task we just completed.  We don’t experience that sense of accomplishment.  Time constraints cause us to do our work faster and often with poorer quality so we don’t experience the same sense of pride.  Without those daily natural reinforcers, discretionary effort is compromised and we can become less satisfied with our work.

At ADI, all of our work is focused on helping our clients capture discretionary effort.  But oftentimes we find that people confuse discretionary effort with increasing the volume of work. Discretionary effort is about outcomes, not hours worked.  It is about achieving business results through fluency in critical behaviors.  It is about identifying and reducing the behaviors that don’t have business impact and focusing on the behaviors that do. The only way to get discretionary effort is through positive reinforcement and, as noted above, natural reinforcers are often the most effective.  So what can organizations do to ensure they aren’t inadvertently undermining natural reinforcers?

To borrow a phrase from anti-drug campaigns, the first step may be to “just say no”.  Most leaders reinforce saying “yes” to everything—yes I can take on the project, yes I can do without replacing that employee who retired, yes I can meet that tight deadline.  Employees that are seen arriving early, leaving late, and sending emails at all hours are positively reinforced for their hard work and dedication. But we should be careful what we reinforce. Long hours do not necessarily equate to better business results. Even if they do; what is the cost?  Poor quality work that causes re-work, high stress levels that impact healthcare costs and absenteeism, burn out and turnover.

But how do we break the cycle of “yes”?  Here are some ways managers can lead the change:

  • Be aware of the message your own behavior sends.  Long hours at the office and emails sent at midnight send a message (purposeful or inadvertent) that the same is expected of direct reports.
  • Model good time management by carving out chunks of time on your calendar for thinking, creative problem solving, uninterrupted project work, and something that is critically important—coaching direct reports.
  • Explicitly encourage your direct reports to disconnect in order to have quality time to devote to important tasks.
  • Insist that direct reports take time off. Tell direct reports you expect them to have time off with their families.  And be sure to positively reinforce them for doing so.  Encouraging time off and then grilling them about a missed deadline will send a clear message about your true priorities.

If you commit to this, for a week or even a month, you might just find that you and your team are just as productive, if not more so, but more importantly, the natural reinforcement in what you do will be greater. Some work may fall through the cracks, but with a clear focus on critical behaviors that drive business results, what falls through the cracks shouldn’t be of import.  By focusing on the behaviors that matter and enabling focused time for those behaviors, you will protect and encourage the natural reinforcers that drive exemplary performance.   And chances are you will find you enjoy work again.



What Works Best Doesn’t Come Naturally: Leadership Actions for Preventing Loss

During my visit to ASSE 2014  for a talk earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Johnson,  Associate Publisher and Chief Editor of ISHN

leadership ishnISHN: You say in your proceedings paper, “It’s time that senior leaders recognize the key role they play in preventing Serious Injuries and Fatalities.” Isn’t it past time? OSHA, the modern safety movement, is 40+ years old. You cite widely publicized calamities. Why do many leaders continue to “not get it,” not step up to the plate for safety, to own up to their role and responsibilities?

Aubrey Daniels: One of the primary reasons is that safety is really all about behavior, it’s essential that managers and senior managers understand the science of behavior. Positive reinforcement is not simply patting someone on the back. When senior management doesn’t understand behavior, they can’t develop policies and procedures. Like you say in your question, when is someone going to realize what we’ve been doing for 40 years is not working? Read the rest of the interview at ISHN.

Talk Less and Deliver More Consequences To Effect Workplace Change

Talk Less and Deliver More Consequences To Effect Workplace ChangeWhy do businesses have so much trouble introducing change? Why do managers complain that they talk until they’re blue in the face but employees still resist adopting new methods?

The problem is that the managers are focusing on talking instead of delivering the necessary consequences for change. Most people, including parents, think that speaking louder, longer and meaner will get others to do what they want them to do. They apparently have forgotten that actions speak louder than words. These talkers tell their employees or children the same thing over and over, but they vary the message or its intensity in hopes that one alteration will bring about the desired action…

Read the entire post at Rescue A CEO.

Bullying; Unhealthy for Humankind

Bullying; Unhealthy for HumankindGuest post by
Darnell Lattal, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, bullying is a word heard all too often, with devastating effects on those who are bullied. Bullies take actions that harm physically or verbally and they justify their actions on the grounds that it was deserved, because of such things as the way the person looked, or membership in a particular group, or some individual perceived failing that the bully does not like. That justification is often reinforced by the bully’s friends—with nods, loud agreement, or slaps on the back.

The truth is, those who reinforce bullying do not necessarily agree with the bully—they operate under conditions of negative reinforcement, often doing what they are bullied to do because of fear of the bully. And let’s face it, speaking up is difficult. Worse is that sometimes they too are persuaded that beliefs, looks, group membership, or something else are indeed reasons to depersonalize and harm another. Social media has added to the epidemic by unleashing new degrees of harm often in anonymous ways.

People are not born to bully but are shaped to bully by the environments in which they are found. Our common responses to bully behavior often do the opposite of intended effect. In our forthcoming book, Aubrey and I have a chapter entitled Nature’s Dirty Trick where we write about how easy it is to use negative reinforcement to get our way with others. We discuss why punishment, threat and fear are all too often the management strategy of choice. Those who use them are highly reinforced for doing so. These methods accelerate behavior that a boss or a parent or a teacher or a bullying student might want, and reduce behavior she doesn’t. It’s easy. It’s quick. It works.

But how do we address this epidemic? The world is adapting quickly to how to master massive technology change, like driverless cars (sit still and enjoy the view), the 3D computer, house-cleaning robots, and body-adherent physiological devices to monitor and improve health. What we learn from the natural sciences is opening the door to amazing changes in how we interact with and what we know about the physical world around us. We have a growing faith in what science can do.

While we are finally getting the point about the science of technology, we should be getting the point about the science of behavior, as valid and potent as the technological sciences around us, a science that can help us make better choices about what we do with and to each other.

Until many more people are trained in what initiates, shapes and maintains behavior, have ways to evaluate what is happening, and learn techniques to sustain efforts toward positive personal change, bullying events—from the schoolyard to the workplace and to the larger world arena—will fester and grow.

This first article in a series describes evidence-based work in schools that demonstrate a clear reduction in bullying in schools that use this demonstrated strategy. A free curriculum is provided that helps teachers, students and parents learn how to handle bully behavior in ways that work. To read the article in its entirety, visit ADI’s PMeZine.