If you want to understand – and manage – people well, you need to become a mathematician.

“The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics.” – Galileo

Recently, I was sitting with a young guy in his late 20s who had just received a big promotion to run an aggregate plant in northern England. He was excited! Although he’d worked there for 12 years, and had managed a couple of people, he knew running a full facility would be much harder. He asked for my advice.

I shared with him that most people are like a math problem you need to solve – that there are a few basic principles he could learn to master, over time, to manage and get the best from people. It’s quite straight forward, like variables in a math formula. Once you learn enough about those variables – what people need, their motivations, and the environment they are in – you can generally understand and begin getting better at predicting human behavior.

Love Languages and Learning

This young man happened to be on his honeymoon, so I talked to him about the concept of ‘love languages’ – the idea that different people feel appreciated in very different ways. His challenge was to understand which unique “language” resonates most with each person on his team.

He needed to learn – to read 10, 12, 15 books – about business, management, sociology and psychology. If you continue to learn about people and try to understand human behavior, you’re able to more easily recognize what’s at play and what can work.

At the end of the day, it’s just math.

The Challenge

  1. What variables of human behavior do you need to learn more about?
  2. How close are you to truly grasping the key issues that will help you understand the people you work with?