How to Stop Wasting Your Money on Training by Understanding “Cause” – Part 2

Do you think that most “people skills” training is a waste of money because nothing changes after the training?

Do you ever wonder why so much behavior-focused “training” doesn’t stick?

Or why someone agrees to change their behavior and really means it – but then they slip back to the “old” behavior that was a problem in the first place?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, this blog may help to make things clearer.

It is a continuation of our earlier blog called “The 6 Major Reasons Why ‘People Skills’ Training Doesn’t Work – and 6 Action Steps to Fix It” which identified 6 reasons why “people skills” training often fails and provided 5 Action Steps to fix it while directing the reader to this blog for the Action Step to fix Reason #6.

The goal of “The 6 Major Reasons…” was to help make training work better.

This blog is dedicated to the 6th reason for the failure of training.

And, it provides an Action Step to fix the problem before moving on to the CLARITY that comes from understanding CAUSE.

  1.    The Learning Focuses only on a Person’s Behavior and Doesn’t Focus on the Cause of the Behavior.

If the training only focuses on behavior itself, it’s predictable that management might conclude that the reason someone doesn’t change after training is simply “bad attitude” or “not paying attention” or even “not enough training”, while the real reason that the training didn’t work is very subtle and consistently overlooked.

For managers, there might be a huge advantage in understanding the real reason or cause why the behavior doesn’t change – so that they can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of employee learning and growth.

Before we jump into the explanation of the real reason or cause why someone doesn’t change, it’s important to agree on the definition of behavior.

What is Behavior?

At Breakthrough Management, our definition of behavior is “anything the human body does”.

The behavioral manifestation of this definition includes how we use Words, Tone and Body Language to express… what we are thinking or how we are feeling and also… to present an opinion, point-of-view, scenario, conclusion etc.

The Complicated Process of Behavior

Human behavior is driven by a very complicated process – which we have been researching for over 30 years.

This complicated process is everything that happens before behavior.

The easiest way to begin to understand this process is to consider the following statement.

“By the time someone has behaved, everything has already happened.”

What does this mean and why is it so important?

It means that “behavior” is actually the end result of a very complicated series of things that happen inside of us.

In other words, we only see behavior after a lot has already happened inside us, especially within our heads.

Filters and Triggers

This complicated series of things can be viewed as “filters” and “triggers” through which we view, interpret, and behave with the world around us.

For the purposes of this blog, the words “filters” and “triggers” are metaphors.

“Filter” is a metaphor for our five senses and other things we are born with (personality, emotions, etc.) and learn (belief systems, experiential skills, etc.) – through which we situationally experience the stimuli of the world.

“Trigger” is a metaphor for how our brains use this “filtered” stimuli to interpret the world and decide how to situationally interact with the world (including other people). This interaction could be innate (we are born with it) or it could be learned.

Where Filters and Triggers Come From

Where do these filters and triggers come from?

We are born with some filters and we learn others.

Now here’s the fascinating part…

We cannot change the filters we are born with (but we can manage them).

We can change the filters that we learn.

Here’s one example of what we are born with:

As a species, we are all born with emotions. No person can decide to never experience emotions again. We cannot change this. However, we can learn to manage our emotions.

Now, here’s an example of something we are not born with but that we learn:

We are not born with our “attitudes” or the skill of “versatility”. They are all learned.

And, if we want to, we can change any or all of our attitudes or improve our skills.

An Example of How Filters and Triggers Play Out at Work

In some circumstances, “filters” and “triggers” support each other symbiotically.

Here’s an example of how it plays out when filters and triggers interact with each other.

Imagine you are watching this exchange between two people when you are in the office during a weekly meeting.

Jason finds Chantal’s behavior upsetting and starts becoming frustrated. But, because she happens to be his manager, he smiles and agrees with her (this is driven by his view of the situation, which is “attitude”).

What just happened here?

Jason’s sense of sight and sound (filters) picked up Chantal’s words, tone, and body language (her behaviors). And, because his more “passive” personality (which is a filter) is different from her more “confrontational” personality (another filter), he felt a little intimidated, concluding that his opinions didn’t really count (based on previous experience with Chantal because she always interrupts him and never lets him finish what he is saying).

His emotions (another filter) triggered his upset and the beginnings of frustration.

However, his brain (operating here as a filter and a trigger) rapidly concluded and decided that the most advantageous behavior for him was “to agree with a smile”.

Clearly, in this circumstance, the “filters” and “triggers” that Jason was born with and those he learned are interacting and unfolding symbiotically.

In either case, all of these filters and triggers are in motion BEFORE his behavior.

By understanding the difference between what we are born with and what we learn – and by then understanding what actually drives/causes our behavior, we are now much more clear about what’s important to focus on.

Action Step for Reason #6:

This reason why Training Fails is more complicated than the other 5 so if you’d like to learn more about how to effectively refocus a behavior-based learning workshop to a causal-based learning workshop, please feel free to email us at or and we will contact you directly.

Once you understand CAUSE, you have more CLARITY.


The clarity that comes from understanding what really causes our behaviors is profound.

It essentially means that if you want a person’s behavior to change and you focus on or address their behavior, nothing will change.

To create an environment for real change that sticks, management needs to focus on the reason why the person is behaving the way they are in the first place.

In other words the cause. (covered above in Reason #6)

Here’s an example of how management can get it wrong by simply focusing on behavior.

A manager decides that Carlos needs assertiveness training because he is not asserting himself enough when dealing with colleagues from other divisions within the company on joint interdepartmental projects.

The manager believes that the cause of implementation delays is Carlos’s inability to assert himself with his colleagues about meeting committed deadlines.

In this instance, the manager is focusing on Carlos’s behavior and not on the cause of Carlos’s behavior.

Looking at this scenario differently – from a causal basis – it unfolds like this…

  1. First, the manager has to determine whether he and Carlos both have exactly the same definition of “assertive” behavior.
  2. Then, the manager, based on his own definition of “assertiveness”, has to get agreement from Carlos on two things – a) that Carlos agrees with the manager’s definition and b) that Carlos is unable to behave in an acceptably assertive way to meet the manager’s criteria.

If the manager follows these two steps, he may be surprised to learn that Carlos believes he can behave very assertively. In fact, his family members and friends let him know constantly that he is often too assertive and inappropriate for them much of the time.

So, what’s going on here?

Clearly, Carlos has the ability to be assertive.

So, he doesn’t really need to get those skills in a workshop. He already has them.

That’s not the CAUSE of his lack of assertiveness.

All Carlos has to do is give himself permission to use his skills appropriately in the workplace – which he clearly hasn’t given himself permission to do.

The cause of why he hasn’t given himself permission is his fear of being judged and being inappropriate which is what happens with his family when he’s “assertive”.

This is the clarity the manager needs in order to deal with Carlos…

To understand that the cause of Carlos not being appropriately assertive at work is not a lack of skill or ability but rather, his fear of being inappropriate.

With this clarity, the manager merely has to give Carlos permission to be as appropriately assertive as necessary with his colleagues to ensure that they meet the deadlines of the project that has been assigned to him to coordinate.

In other words, no “assertiveness training” is needed at all because in this circumstance it wouldn’t work.

That’s why learning what is actually causing a person to behave the way they do and what to appropriately do with the information is critically important to determine what kind of training is necessary, if any, for Carlos to grow.

This then leads us finally to ….


Extending the example of Carlos and the manager, all that Carlos needs to do in order to grow is to give himself permission in the workplace to be as assertive as he naturally is, without fear of reprisal and recrimination from his manager for being inappropriately assertive with his colleagues when necessary.

Cause, Clarity, Growth

This is why our mantra at Breakthrough Management is…Cause, Clarity, Growth.

If you don’t identify the actual cause of a person’s behavior, you won’t have the clarity to understand what they have to focus on to grow to their next level of personal and professional development – whether through training or clear, focused management support.

This blog is an extension of our previous blog about called The 6 Major Reasons that “People Skills” Training Doesn’t Work and 6 Action Steps to Fix It. If you’d like to read it, please click here.