Austin Powers isn't exactly known as an organizational development expert, but he may have been on to something with his signature line, "Oh behave!" Because as it turns out, organizational behaviors can improve results, enhance ROI, and positively impact the competitive advantage at your company or organization.

At least that's the premise of the brand-new book by Steve Jacobs called  "The Behavior Breakthrough." He presents behavioral tools, tips, frameworks, and leadership questionnaires that companies around the country have employed to perform well over the long term.

"Everyday behavior is so important - and so neglected," Jacobs writes, "that in the years ahead, competitive advantage in any industry or geography will flow as much from behavioral leadership as from new strategies, processes or technologies."

[caption id="attachment_24035" align="alignright" width="200"] Steve Jacobs[/caption]

So what is behavioral leadership exactly?

Jacobs says it's an approach that focuses on crafting desirable shifts in small everyday habits, behaviors, and routines.

Based on Applied Behavioral Science, a discipline that has been researched and taught in major universities for decades, behavioral leadership puts to work the principle that new results require new behavior.

Further, significant new results - those that confer a broad and significant competitive advantage - require the right new behaviors, and the right few behaviors, that endure over time

In the book, Jacobs offers lessons on identifying and fostering high-impact behavior, and how to use behavioral leadership in executing business plans, coaching, guiding large-scale corporate change, building culture, and accelerating talent strategies.

This 2008 Harvard Business Review study echoes Jacobs' point about the importance of behavior when it comes to execution.

A brilliant strategy, blockbuster product, or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there.

"A brilliant strategy, blockbuster product, or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there. You have to be able to deliver on your intent. Unfortunately, the majority of companies aren’t very good at it, by their own admission."

For five years, the authors of the HBR study, Gary L. NeilsonKarla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers (any relation to Austin?), invited many thousands of employees (about 25% of whom came from executive ranks) to complete an online assessment of their organizations’ capabilities, a process that’s generated a database of 125,000 profiles representing more than 1,000 companies, government agencies, and not-for-profits in over 50 countries.

Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution.

Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution—that is, when asked if they agreed with the statement “Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action,” the majority answered no.

So what can an organization do to improve that? Jacobs says you can assess the level of behavioral adaptation of your organization and the leadership team by asking these questions:

1. Direction: Does everyone in your organization clearly understand the most important priorities (vision, mission, value)?

2. Competence: Is your organization and its people capable of achieving its vision and purpose?

3. Opportunity: Are all needed resources available? Is your organization removing the barriers to performance?

4. Motivation: Do people want to perform, or do they just have to? Are the consequences that employees experience for their actions clearly aligned with the direction to inspire desired behavior?

The more 'yes' responses you have, the more behaviorally adapted your organization is.

How many yes responses would your company or organization have? What do you think of the broad concept of behavioral leadership? Have you heard of it? Believe in it? Practice it? Do you think it is as critical to business success as this new book contends? We'd love to hear from you.

Tags: Business, Harvard Business Review, Austin Powers, Steve Jacobs, Behavior Breakthrough, Gary L Neilson, Karla L Martin, Elizabeth Powers