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Making Behavior Change Stick

Have you ever tried breaking an old habit to replace it with some new behavior?

Of course you have. Whether it’s a diet, exercising more, reading more, less device time, or other lifestyle changes, adopting a new behavior can be tough.

Working on changes in your leadership style can be hard.

Just like any life changing decisions, your effort to become a better leader requires change on your part.

Without exception, my coaching clients decide on a path to making behavior changes. Regardless of the issue or the topic that first brings us together, once I start coaching with someone, we find ourselves landing on the need for a behavioral change.

The change can transform executive presence, influence, and effectiveness. It might involve communication or delegation. Maybe the change is about interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

One way or another, the change someone desires always requires a behavior change.

Why Change Can Be Hard

If you’ve tried any of the changes I’ve mentioned above, you know change can be hard. Why is that?

First, there is our comfort zone. Habits and behaviors get comfortable for us. We do things mindlessly ignoring other things or people.

Breaking away from that comfort zone is felt physically and emotionally. We sense the change and prefer to revert to a more customary approach or reaction.

Then there is fear. Most of us fear change. It’s the great unknown. We ask ourselves what if this doesn’t work?

Lastly, it takes effort. If we’re going to break some chains, it requires effort. Sometimes we’re just too busy or tired to make the change.

Here’s How to Make Behavior Change Stick

I found there are 4 things that can help facilitate a change of behavior that sticks. My friend and colleague, Cheryl S. Bryan has also written about these in her blog.

Purpose – Lock in on your purpose and the reason for the expected change of behavior. Let the reason you choose to change become a beacon for the effort. Don’t lose sight of your purpose.

Plan – Make a plan for the change. Plot a course for the beginning, middle, and end. Set your path for change. Decide on details. Get stakeholder feedback along the way. Measure yourself. Learn from setbacks.

servant leader

Patience – Be patient. You will experience missteps. Give yourself some grace as you attempt the change. It won’t all be perfect. If you slip up (and you will), pause, reassess and keep moving.

Practice – The only way a new behavior gets established is to practice it over and over again until it becomes more natural.

Go For It!

If you can follow these 4 P’s for making behavior change stick, you will achieve far greater success.

Use these when mentoring and coaching your team. Encourage others to embrace the change they need by observing these key principles.

If you would like to know more about making change stick, click on the links below. I’ll be happy to arrange a call.

We’ve All Been Ambushed at Work

bad email news picture

Let’s face it, it’s no fun when you get ambushed at work. Being trapped by surprise can come in several forms. A co-worker can steal the credit for something you did. Or a peer can undermine something you’ve been slaving away to make perfect.

The one I hate the most is when the boss does it. You know what I mean. You’re working along thinking things are going well. Maybe the boss even said something publicly about how happy they were with your effort.

Then BAM! You get pounced on. When you least expect it, you get an email saying you screwed something up or missed some deadline; basically failing on expectations.

Even more problematic is getting that email while you’re away on a planned (and approved) vacation. The email hints your absence is part of the problem. GEEZ people !!!!!

The employee is not the problem

Dealing with your co-workers is tough enough, but when the boss ambushes you, what are you supposed to do?

I’m convinced most employees start out with the intent to do a good job. Sure there are a few bad eggs who slip around, job hopping, doing very little, but thankfully they are in the minority.

Most workers try to do the right thing. So a boss who feels the need to ambush must be the one who is in the wrong. Generally, the employee is not a problem.

I read an article Gary Vaynerchuk posted saying poor performance is all on the manager. I like that idea. Here’s exactly what he said:

“Here are three steps to managing underperforming employees: 1. Take the blame yourself. 2. Start to communicate better. 3. Tell them they’re not executing at the level you’re hoping for. Then ask, “what can I do to help?” Then actually start helping.”

Bosses who are frustrated with perceived performance problems and feel the need to barf on someone’s parade, especially at weird times, must be harboring some ill feelings.

Great leaders provide adequate AND timely feedback to their team. Feedback should never be a toxic dose of bad news.

If things need the leader’s corrective action, he/she should give proper feedback and restate expectations. Yet hiding behind an email to deliver the message is a weak way to do so.

Woman getting bad email from her boss

What to do

If you are the leaders here are a few thoughts and recommendations to avoid ambushing your people.

First, find ways to share feedback in the right way. Give the employee the respect to tell them “bad news” face-to-face. I know with larger, perhaps global teams, the personal face time is hard. However, in those situations, video capabilities can afford each party the next best thing to face-to-face. Oh and never use email unless it is a last resort.

Think about the timing. I know you have a burning desire to fix things, but decide whether the fix is critical at just that moment. I like three questions I’ve coached for a long time:

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said by me now?

Be objective about whatever the issue may be. Stephen R. Covey called it “seek first to understand.” Don’t pose the issue as a condemnation of behavior or results. Perhaps your source of information has slanted the matter. Present the details as observations, not final facts. (Hint: You will get embarrassed.)

Lastly, be graceful in your approach. Again, I believe most employees are there to do the right thing. Unless that employee is a proven screw-up, don’t assume the worst. Believe the best and work through the issues gracefully.

Using these steps you can avoid the hated ambush of your people at work.

Decisions: The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

The squeeze

Making things happen takes effort. Leaders know that sometimes all the best effort gets wasted on outcomes that fall short of expectations. You face leadership decisions throughout your day. How do you make the effort worthwhile?

The squeeze about decisionsConsistently making the best of your own effort and that of your team is what separates one leader from another.

You know the types of decisions:

  • Organizational change
  • Moving your facilities/offices
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Simply growing the business
  • Expanding your vision

What ways can you drive better outcome and avoid the squeeze?

Planning

Much is written about data-driven decisions. In big business gathering the data is both more achievable (deeper pockets to spend on big data) and harder to do (broader range of variables). Yet you don’t need the high end, rocket science-like data to drive your planning. You do need valid information.

For smaller companies and entrepreneurial endeavors, you need simple trend line information like:

  • Recent sales, perhaps seasonal data
  • Expenses, what are you spending?
  • Payroll information
  • Materials/supply usage
  • Buyer profiles, who’s buying your product or service?

The process of planning for your next big decision can uncover blind spots, things you haven’t yet thought about. Once the unknown is revealed, you may decide the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. That is, you will not realize the return you expected for the effort and resources you may be planning to spend.

Culture

The culture of your team drives everything. The team effort derived from a healthy work culture can often produce amazing results. Culture can overcome limited resources.

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sources say he never meant that literally, but it does indicate a bias toward the power of a high trust team effort. A powerful and empowering culture within your team is a more reliable path to success.

Culture isn’t inherently about workspaces and perks, like comfy chairs and ping pong tables. It’s about the habits people have formed, how they make decisions, how they respond to challenges, pressure, and discomfort, and what they believe is good or bad for success. Culture is based on what’s been incentivized, rewarded, reinforced, and possibly even punished in their workplace.

Process

What process has your company or team developed to be able to execute on decisions made?

Ready, Fire, Aim! Is not a process. It’s a train wreck. ~Doug Thorpe

The process you devise for achieving success accomplishes several things, all at once.

First, it allows you to score some wins. Finding the right blend of people, technology, and a procedure is a process. When a particular combination of those elements is producing good results, you have a winning process.

Scoring wins for your team builds momentum. Strong, viable businesses have their unique momentum. But you must have some wins to be able to build momentum. Overnight success is seldom that. Rather it comes from sustained hard work and dedication to winning ways.

Keep finding ways to improve the process. The business world is not static, it’s dynamic. That is, it keeps changing. So, too, must you.

The Bottom Line

While you certainly have learned a lot about making better decisions, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to executive decision making. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources to help you get the most out of the decisions you make:

Check them out – you’ll be glad you did!

Question: What are some ways you avoid making decisions that “aren’t worth the squeeze?” Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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