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Performance Counseling Should Be About The Behavior, Not the Person

As a police officer for 18 years on the mean streets of Modesto, CA, my job was to get people to stop

doing some things they were doing, or get them to do some things that they were not doing. What can I say, except it is called law "enforcement" for a reason, if people always followed all the rules, cops would be out of jobs! Each day I would go to work, not knowing who I would be interacting with, but pretty sure about what kind of behaviors I would be dealing with. This was the way I worked for 18 years. It didn't matter who the people were, but more about what the behaviors were. But people were more likely to change their behavior if they felt they had some say in what happened.

Then, I made the choice to be a supervisor. What I found during those 10 years as a supervisor/manager was that the behaviors continued to be important, but now, I was also responsible to maintain a "good working relationship" with the employees. I learned very quickly that there are times that people will try to "bend the rules," or become "innovative" in their approach to things. When this happens, just like in the first 18 years, it was up to me to help them change their behavior. And this was usually done through performance counseling. And like the first 18 years, if people had a say in what happened, they were more likely to change their behavior.

While working as a police supervisor/manager, I was also continuing to study organizational leadership in a masters program at the local university, and began to understand that the behaviors can usually be categorized into "conscious or subconscious," and "deficient or defiant" behavior. Sometimes, good people with good intentions make mistakes. Other times, people will subconsciously be defiant in their behavior, while yet others, may consciously be deficient and/or defiant in their behaviors. Consider the chart below... is the behavior a matter or motivation or ability? Deficiency is linked to knowledge, skill, or ability, whereas defiance is linked to motivation. Whether the behavior is deficient or defiant, conscious or subconscious, they influence the performance of the person involved.

A matter of motivation or ability

While working in the police department I began to test the assumptions about being deficient and defiant, and conscious versus subconscious behavior. What I found was that poor or questionable employee behavior fell within the deficient/defiant, and/or conscious/subconscious behavior. The person may or may not have been aware of the behavior and how it was being perceived by the supervisor.

Why is this important?

Because the behavior is the focus of the performance counseling. When conducting behavior-based performance counseling, the attention should always be focused on, and about, the performance behavior, and not the person. Just like in the first 18 years of my career, each day I would go to work, pretty sure about what kind of behaviors I would be dealing with, but this time I also knew most of the people I would be working with. And not only was I responsible to change the behavior, I was now also responsible to maintain the relationship, so it did matter who the people were, and more importantly why they behaved the way they did.

S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method is designed to save the relationship and change the behavior. In a future post we'll talk about how to separate the behavior from the person. You can also find out by purchasing the book "SCORE Performance Counseling; Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior" at, or

About the Author: Dr. Chris Fuzie is the author of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior," and Owner of CMF Leadership Consulting. Chris is a developer/trainer/consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations. Chris holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service where he last served as the Assistant Division Commander of Investigations.

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