Cindy and robert lefton mastering precepting

Mastering Precepting Chapter by Drs. Cindy & Robert Lefton

At Psychological Associates, it is our core belief that people from all industries, of all experience levels and backgrounds, can benefit from the application of the Dimensional Model of Behavior. That belief was once again put into action with the publishing of Mastering Precepting, Second Edition from Sigma Theta Tau International. The book serves as a guide for nurse mentors, or “preceptors,” as they navigate the technical, behavioral, motivational, and physical challenges of training new nurses. This updated edition includes a chapter co-authored by our own Drs. Robert and Cindy Lefton, co-Founder and Vice President of Organizational Consulting, respectively.

When asked about the experience of writing with her father, Cindy said, “It was an honor to work with one of the great minds of IO psychology. His ability to boil ideas down to the level where you can see your own ability to impact others or a situation, it’s amazing. His optimism and belief in people are inspiring.”

Their chapter, “Assessing and Addressing Preceptee Behavior and Motivation” delves into the use of the Dimensional Model to assess behavior in mentees (or “preceptees”)  and shape mentor behavior accordingly, as well as the benefits of the Five-Step Format for a conversation, and the use of a Just Culture framework.

Below, please enjoy a short excerpt from Mastering Precepting, Second Edition.


The Behavioral Pyramid

Cindy Robert Lefton

Several decades ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a theory to explain how our intangible needs motivate behavior (Maslow, 1967). Maslow’s theory stated that for individuals to move up the hierarchy of needs, they must satisfy the lower level needs (at the bottom of the pyramid) before they can advance to the next level.

Similar to Maslow’s model, the Behavioral Pyramid focuses on needs associated with the workplace (Lefton & Buzzotta, 2004; Lefton et al., 1980). For example, workers must first satisfy their biological needs (food, water, etc.) before they can become productive contributors. After these needs have been met, a person can advance to the next level in the hierarchy, security needs (for example, safety, an income, role stability, clarity, and predictability).

Once security needs have been met, individuals are ready to advance to social needs that center around the desire to be connected with co-workers and create meaningful relationships at work. Upon meeting social needs, individuals can advance to the esteem needs (for example, achievement, recognition for their contributions, and respect from colleagues). After these needs have been met, the individual can progress upward and focus on meeting independence needs, which involve the desire for autonomy and control.

Though independence needs are not a part of Maslow’s hierarchy, these needs are associated with factors that motivate workplace behaviors (Lefton & Buzzotta, 2004; Lefton et al., 1980). The next level, self-realization, is rarely attained because everyone is always growing. Needs at the self-realization level are associated with obtaining goals that are related to the greater good of the organization and mankind.

Applying the Dimensional Model of Behavior to the Behavioral Pyramid, you can link behaviors to satisfying various needs. Focusing on Q2 behaviors, a link exists between these actions and the need to establish and maintain security. Preceptees with predominately Q2 behaviors are motivated by intangible needs that:

  • Ensure security and stability;
  • Are predictable; and
  • Value policies and procedures because they add a level of predictability and security to the job.

How can you influence Q4 behaviors with a preceptee demonstrating Q2 actions? Link the desired behavioral outcomes to creating stability and maintaining security.

Learning Moment

You notice that your preceptee is exhibiting some Q2 behaviors. The preceptee often eats alone and does not get involved with staff conversations. Approaching the preceptee, you can link the desired behavior change (engage with coworkers) by explaining that communicating with staff helps keep things under control (stability) and allows all teammates to be apprised of what is going on with all the patients in your area (predictability).

Mastering Precepting, Second Edition is available for purchase from Sigma Theta Tau International.

Mastering Precepting Cover

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