P is for Seeing People’s Patterns And The Possible Consequences  


There are many models for understanding people and their behaviour. These range from psychoanalytic approaches to studying people who deliver peak performance.

One approach is to focus on a person’s patterns and the possible consequences of their actions. This can be useful if you are considering working with a person, building a relationship or helping somebody to develop.

Recognising a person’s patterns can help to predict how they may behave in the future. People tend to develop rather than change. They may also learn to channel their personality, of course, rather than change their personality.

During my own work with people, I tend to focus on their positive patterns. This involves helping them to build on their strengths and follow their successful style.

The sessions often start by helping people to clarify their picture of success. The aim is then to provide practical tools they can use:

To build on their positive patterns.

To minimise the consequences of any other patterns.

To achieve their picture of success.

People are also invited to focus on choices and consequences. They can choose the route they want to follow in the future. Each choice has consequences, of course, with both pluses and minuses.

Pattern recognition is one of the keys to peak performance. This is certainly the case if you aim to encourage people when working as leader, educator, coach or a similar role.

Good encouragers often help people to build on their successful patterns. Observer critics, on the other hand, tend to only focus on other people’s unsuccessful patterns.

Bearing this in mind, how can you build on people’s positive patterns? How can you also provide them with tools they can use to minimise the consequences of any unsuccessful patterns?

Encouragers often start by watching a person in action or by seeing an example of their work. They then ask some of the following questions to help a person to achieve their picture of success.


Peak performers quickly see patterns in their chosen field. Certainly much of this stems from a natural talent, but there are also skills that can be learned to improve this ability. Let’s consider how this works in one particular field.

Imagine that you want to go beyond seeing patterns followed by individuals. You want to recognise patterns shown by people in teams and organisations. How to take this step?

One approach is to watch people interact or work together. It is to watch what they actually do. It is not to be judgemental or to interpret why they are doing these things. Later you can clarify their successful and self-defeating patterns – plus the consequences.

You can watch people in action and clarify – in
behaviour terms – what is actually happening

Start by watching people in a specific situation where you want to see patterns. They may be having a conversation, solving a problem, playing a sport or whatever.

How to recognise if the way people behave is a recurring pattern? You can bear in mind the saying:

Once is chance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is a pattern. 

Look at what is happening and gather lots of information. Try answering the following questions.

What are people actually doing? What are they doing right that is succeeding? What are they doing that is self-defeating? Can I see any recurring patterns?

What is each individual doing? Who does what and when? How do they actually do it? What happens as a result? What role is each person playing? Who is leading; who is following; who is active; who is passive?

What are people doing well? What do they do right then that helps them to succeed? What are the principles they follow? How do they translate these into action? How can they build on these patterns?

What can people do better and how? What are they  doing that is not working? How do they stop themselves achieving their goals? What could they do instead to achieve success?

What are people’s attitudes? Who is positive; who is negative; who is a mixture? Who takes responsibility? Who avoids responsibility? What are the consequences of each person’s behaviour?

How are people communicating? What is each person’s communication style? What are the consequences of these styles? What could they do to communicate more clearly?

How do people deal with setbacks? Who is proactive; who is reactive? Who seems to grow stronger after setbacks?  

How do people tackle challenges? Do they work to find positive solutions? How do they solve differences? Do they go for win-win, win-lose or lose-lose?

What may each person be feeling? What can I see, hear or feel that shows how people may be feeling? What do I think people want to be feeling? What can they do to give themselves that feeling? 

Finally, take another look at the total situation. What else is happening? You may have already started to spot the recurring themes so, once you are ready, move onto the next step.

You can clarify the patterns
and the consequences

Take time to reflect. Consider everything you have seen and focus on the key themes. Looking at the information you have gathered, ask yourself:

Can I see any patterns?

Describe the themes that immediately come to mind and give specific examples. You can do this by asking yourself:

What are the successful patterns? What is working? What are people doing right to achieve success? What are the consequences? How can they build on these successful patterns? 

What are the self-defeating patterns? What are people doing to stop themselves succeeding? What are the consequences? What can they do instead?  

How can people build on the successful patterns? How can they prevent or manage the self-defeating patterns?

How to use this information? Much will depend on your particular role. If you are working as a coach, however, you may ask yourself the following questions.

You can go into new situations, quickly
see patterns and predict the consequences

Pattern recognition is one of the keys to peak performance. Great workers demonstrate this ability in the areas where they perform brilliantly. They also seem to know what will happen before it happens.

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, called this gift personal radar. He began studying survivors when joining the paratroopers.

Looking at the hardened professionals, he found that many survivors demonstrated a specific characteristic. He wrote:

During our training I noticed that combat survivors have a type of personal radar always on scan.  

Anything that happens, or any noise draws a quick, brief look. They have a relaxed awareness. 

I began to realise it wasn’t just luck or fate that these were the few who came back alive. Something about them as people had tipped the scales in their favour.

Different people demonstrate this ability in different situations. Great footballers, for example, often have more time and space than other players. Demonstrating superb positional sense, they seem several moves ahead of the opposition.

Great retailers often have an intuitive feeling for selling. Walking into a store, they can immediately point out several things that can be done improve the business.

Ellen MacArthur, the round-the-world yachtswoman, talked about reading the waves to anticipate future sailing conditions. She then worked out the strategy for reaching her destination.

So what happens when people use their personal radar? Entering the situation in which they excel, they feel alive and alert. Employing their antennae, they rapidly gather information about the following things.

They quickly see patterns.

They see the potential picture of success.

They see how to pursue the best strategy for achieving the picture of success.

You will have good radar in some activities but not in others. You may use this gift when encouraging people, solving a technical problem, leading a team or in another activity.

Certainly it is best to put yourself into situations where you have good radar, but you can also try to develop the ability to see patterns elsewhere. You can keep asking the key questions:

What are the successful patterns? What are the self-defeating patterns? How can people build on what is working – and minimise what isn’t – to give themselves the greatest chance of success?

Lets return to your daily life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to see a person’s pattern and the possible consequences?

This could be a personal or professional situation. You may want to do this when recruiting a team member, making a decision about an employee, coaching a person, helping somebody to find satisfying work or whatever.

What can you do to see the person’s pattern? What can you do to consider the possible consequences – the pluses and minuses of the person’s pattern? What are the steps you can take as a result of gathering this information?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following themes.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to see a person’s patterns and the potential consequences.

Describe the specific things you can do to recognise their patterns and the consequences.

Describe the specific things you can do to make good use of this information.

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