Change your Behavior for Good!
At Transforming Leadership we have three magic words: Intentional, Behavior, and Effectiveness. After all, your effectiveness is based simply on your behaviors. Regardless how simple or complex the job, it boils down to specific behaviors.
For many leaders, identifying specific behaviors, either their own or those of direct reports, that need to be tweaked, changed, or improved is pretty easy. The challenge is changing the behavior. The ineffective behavior is identified, and (hopefully) an effective behavior change is defined. Now the trick is to QUIT doing the ineffective behavior, and DO the effective behavior, often enough that it becomes a habit. Simple! Then why doesn’t it happen more often?
Certainly by the time we have attained a leadership position, we have been in the workplace for a decent length of time. And the odds are, we have been doing that specific ineffective behavior for quite a while. We do it without thinking, naturally, unconsciously, automatically. To change the behavior, we need to have something in place that will consciously remind us of our instinct toward the old behavior, and remind us to replace it with the new behavior. Most of the time, it’s not brain surgery, but a simple cue that we can’t miss, that means something to us.
When I was in private practice as a family counselor, I recognized my tendency to do more talking than listening. I knew that the most effective counselors were the best listeners, but whether it was nerves or just habit, I was talking too much. I was not allowing the silence to elicit thoughtful answers from my clients.
I had identified my ineffective behavior that needed to change and the new behavior that I wanted to become my habit. So I used a cue to specifically remind me of that new behavior.
I got some heavy stock paper and printed a simple sign, put it in a cheap frame, and hung it over the door behind where the clients would sit. That way, I saw the sign EVERY TIME I was with a client. The sign said: PUTUHS.
Very few people noticed the sign, and no one knew what it meant, except me. It isn’t necessary that anyone recognize the cue other than you. This is not behavior change by intimidation or embarrassment. It is behavior change by recognition and conditioning.
One of my recent clients decided to carry a journal as their cue. They can’t leave the journal in their office, ever. It won’t fit in their pocket, so they must consciously pick the journal up and carry it with them wherever they go. When they are with someone else, in a meeting, etc, they can’t put the journal down, they must hold it or carry it. They have identified an interpersonal behavior that they want to change, and the journal is their cue for slowing down and thinking through their response to people. For anyone seeing them, it’s just a journal. For them, it’s a constant reminder of a behavior that they want to stop, and a new behavior that they want to turn into a habit.
Like I said, simple!
By the way, for my sign in my office, spell it backwards!