In 1936, Curt Lewin, noted psychologist and widely known as one of the fathers of organizational development, developed a simple yet powerful formula to describe human behavior. 

B = f(P,E)

The formula means:

Behavior is a Function of the Person and the Environment 

Behavior is represents HOW you “show up” in front of others but it does not explain WHY you “show up” that way.  As Lewin suggests, people’s behaviors are a product of two things, the person themselves and the environment they work in.

Before we rush to judgement as to what a behavior or action means, we should always ask this question first: “That’s an interesting behavior. I wonder what’s behind that.”

This is a constructive way to approach the scenario since there are a lot of factors that contribute to how someone behaves.

We’ve added some detailed enhancements to the formula to make it more practical for application by both team leaders and team members.  We’ve found this really helps it peeling back the layers of human behavior to understand what is truly happening.

Behavior or Action

We’ve added actions to this category because it’s not always a behavior that leads to success or causes potential problems.  It’s also actions taken.  Sometimes they breed success, other times failure.

The work to be done here is for leaders to determine the key behaviors and actions they want to see in their teams.  This begins with core values and continues with actions that enhance competitive advantages which ultimate lead to success.

What behaviors and actions drive your success?


I’m skipping the person for now because we want to first focus on what the leaders’ core responsibility which is to create an environment where the desired behaviors and actions can flourish.

For example, if you desire more creativity from your teams, are you creating an environment that rewards creative behaviors and actions?  Are you open to team members ideas? Do you ask for them? Is it easy to collaborate?  Do you create a fun environment where ideas can develop?  Is it safe to fail and learn?

As a leader, your number one responsibility is to create an environment that encourages and supports the desired behaviors and actions. 

I’ve seen drastic changes in employee behavior and performance simply by creating the right environment that allows them to be successful.  If you are experiencing bad behaviors or poor performance on your team, the FIRST things you should ask yourself are:

Have I created the right environment for their success or am I part of the problem?

What can I change to improve the environment?



This starts with recruiting.  Are we hiring the right people?  Does our interview process ensure that we are finding people with behaviors and skill sets that match what we need?  Culture fit is critical to success so interviewing for values is essential.

Just like the leader has to be accountable for the environment, the person has to be accountable for their own behaviors and actions.  If the leader is at peace with creating the right environment for success and the person is still not performing, then it is a people issue when then can lead to a performance plan and eventually termination if objectives aren’t met.