How can I change my behaviour?

by Didier Marlier on Friday April 24th, 2015

Those of you who we work for, know that we use a lot the three levers of engagement (named after Aristotle famous “modes of persuasion” or rhetorical strategies):

  • Logos (the clarity/sanity test): The intellectual lever, absolutely vital, creator of energy. People will not follow nor engage behind a leader who lacks intellectual clarity.
  • Ethos (the credibility test): People don’t listen to what we say; They listen to what we do! Followers will scrutinize their leaders in order to decide whether or not these truly believe in what they say and if they “walk the talk”.
  • Pathos (the energy test): Following leading neuroscientists, we only move “from intention to action” when our emotions support or fuels energy behind our intellect. Tools such as stories, metaphors, gestures and symbols talk directly to our emotional brain without being hijacked by our rational thoughts.

We have understood the Losada Model (disputed by some for its mathematical side but not for its logic, observations or conclusions) to build on those blocks in the following manners:

  • Behaviours (Ethos) may be toxic (criticizing, mocking, rejecting, diminishing, segregating, trivializing, disrespecting, etc…) or positive (which we call in our book, Value Building Behaviours, after the work of ex IMD faculty, Chris Parker).
  • Those behaviours, will rapidly create an atmosphere, a culture, a “smell of the place”, which Losada calls “The emotional space” (our Pathos, or emotional agenda). The culture of a team may be self destructive, negative, anxious (which Losada calls “fixed point” as it is obsessional, positional or oppositional), or flat, boring, disengaged like a “Monday morning meeting”. People go and do “Presenteism” (called “limit cycle” by the Chilean Professor, we call it “neutrality”) or energetic, daring, audacious, creative, demanding and benevolent at the same time(“flourishing” for Losada).
  • These cultures, frankly destructive, neutral or constructive will strongly influence the quality of the intellectual (Logos) dialogue in a team or a whole organization.

This is how I see those two “models” combining.

It usually makes a lot of sense for the people we work with but, at times, comes a question which, to date, embarrassed me: How do I change my behaviours or is there something before the behaviours?

Not so long ago, when I was dispersing on the floor 300+ cards that we use to start an intimacy building seminar (classical exercise: People choose a picture and a quote that resonate with them and explain why to their team), a quote (that I didn’t know was there) from a Buddhist sacred book (the Dhammapada) caught my attention:

The thought manifests as the word;

The word manifests as the deed;

The deed develops into habit;

And habits hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,

And let it spring from love,

Born out of concern for all beings…

As the shadow follow the body,

As we think, so we become.

Sadly, I am still way behind in terms of developing my spiritual side. But this quote made a lot of sense to me: My behaviour will not authentically change, if my thoughts remain the same. In other terms, if I want to change my behaviours, I need to “watch my thoughts with care”.

I still have a long way to go, but found it helpful and wanted to share it with you.

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6 Responses to “How can I change my behaviour?”

  1. Didier, the Buddhist quote is very powerful and wonderful. Thank you for sharing it. I have an observation on the thought-action loop. I often encounter the phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ and the various behavioural practices which advocate that thinking and attitude can change as a result of behavioural modification. There are cognitive experiments which demonstrate that it is feasible. Assuming that this kind of behavioural change is coercive in nature (we or others want us to behave differently); I wonder how can one separate the coercive element from the independent element in the original thought? Like the average Joe, I am not at all advanced in my own mindfulness practice, and could mistake one element for the other.

    • Dear Osnat,

      I don’t know you personally and it is a pleasure to read your comments on this blog. Thank you!

      My team and I are strong believers in the “power of Behaviours”: Fake it until you make it or, as Richard Pascale used to write in a slightly more sophisticated manner: “We are more likely to ACT our way into a new way of thinking that THINK our way into a new way of acting”…

      The Losada model (even if disputed on its, uninteresting for me, mathematical formulas) also showed that Behaviours => Emotions => Rationale.

      So, I still believe in the Power of Behaviours. What this quote brought to me was: If I wish to change, then fine, I will amend my behaviours, my emotions and intellect will follow. But what if I do not wish to change my behaviour? What if I am blocked in a negative spiral against someone, a group or situation? That is where I found these wise words most helpful… I consider myself as way too negative, too judgmental, too hot tempered… This may certainly help me reconsider the way I build preconceived ideas about people and situations.

      Not sure to be clear and still exploring myself… Thank you for having allowed me to express some more. Have a good week


  2. Dear Didier
    The theme is very interesting and the conclusion you reach is quite important . Behaviour is a consequence our our thoughts which is in my view drived by our internal values we created and cultivated along our journey. Cultivate good values is keen to transform our behaviour .

    • Agreed dear Herberto. A lot to think of for me. And a lot to be adopted by our organizations…

  3. Dear Friend,
    Deep as always! Loved the Buddhist quote. I have used the Ethos, Logos, Pathos model for helping leaders in their story telling. A colleague of mine, Sam Perkins, added one more. Mythos! We humans love mythology. We love our kings & queens. We love our superstar athletes, screen stars and entrepreneurs. Especially the aura that surrounds them. In my view, there are a lot of “myths” in the area of management that we think as true. It is the role of the leaders to break those myths as well. Jay

    • Dear Jay,
      It is a sincere honour to read you on this blog. Thank you!
      I am truly delighted that Ethos, Pathos and Logos make sense in the context of what you are doing. When teaching Story telling, I usually show this amazing clip: MLK’s last speech ( shows a clear Logos Message (Whatever happens to me, keep on going), an Ethos (Behaviours, style) that matches the message and makes it credible and a strong metaphore (Pathos: Moses mountain top).
      Following neuroscientists Ledoux and Damasio, Stories, metaphores, gestures and symbols are tools that enable us to engage people at Pathos level.
      I hope it helps and supports Prof. Perkins reflections.
      Thank you for the honour of having you here…


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