Leadership Coaching Tips-6 Steps to Behaviour Change

dog-new-tricksby Lynn Scott, Featured Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]C[/su_dropcap]AN YOU TEACH an old dog new tricks*?  (For the answer, read on……)

I find that one of the reasons that people don’t always deliver on their promises, meet their goals, objectives, or KPIs is that even with good intentions and the best will in the world they know ‘what’ they need to work on or change but they don’t know ‘how’.

Let me explain.

Leaders often want their team members to ‘improve this; increase that; influence more effectively here; develop new ways of doing this or that’.….. and so on.  And, intellectually, team members ‘get it’

They get the ‘WHAT’.

But when the WHAT is about some kind of behaviour change, they can get stuck.

Because they don’t know where or HOW to start.

And it seems a bit overwhelming; scary even.

So to all leaders who find themselves in this position, wanting to help your team to make those behaviour changes these tips should help:

We’ll use a simple example of speaking up at a meeting

Firstly, you both need to agree that the behaviour change is necessary (and why)

1.Ask your team member how ready he is to make the necessary change – just because you’ve spoken about it and you both agree, it doesn’t mean he will make a start straight away.

2.Be clear on what YOU will be thinking, feeling, hearing, seeing if he makes the change (for example you might think that he clearly has something of value to say that is useful to the whole team; you will be hearing his ideas which can be very useful to the team’s thinking process; you will feel happy that he is making a really valid contribution and you will be seeing his team members feeling that he is contributing equally and taking part rather than sitting  back or ‘opting out’).

3. Ask him what HE will be thinking, feeling, hearing seeing if he makes the change – and possibly what others will make of it (e.g. his team members).

4. Ask him to share what he thinks the pros and cons of changing his behaviour might be.  This is important.   For example, the pros might be all of the points in (3) above.  But for him, at the moment, he doesn’t rock the boat/put his cards on the table/disagree with others by staying quiet – so he stays ‘safe’.  So, for him, changing behaviour potentially comes with some perceived risk. So what are the beliefs behind his current behaviour? These should provide some enlightening pointers.

5. How can you help him prepare for the behaviour change?  (What might he need to write down/think about in advance/ask somebody else/practise)?

6. What’s the first step he might take – this is key.  Maybe his first step will be to speak up once or ask one question at the next meeting.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

lynn scott coaching -leadership developmentIn my coaching work, I often ask clients to do experiments to help with behaviour change.  I once worked with a man who was extremely well respected in the organisation but who had this feedback from his colleagues:  ‘Nobody knows the real you ; you don’t share much of yourself; we’d love to see more of your personality – because we don’t know you, we can feel a bit wary of you’. 

This was not how he wanted to be perceived so behaviour change was the order of the day!

This was a man who was highly intelligent, professional and successful.  His belief was that board meetings and indeed work in general should be all about getting on with the job in hand and not what he called ‘small talk’.

This belief was not serving him well.

lSo we set up an experiment where he would make ‘small talk’ in the airline queue, on planes (he travelled a lot on business!), in the supermarket and so on.

We also agreed that he would find out two things about each of his board member colleagues that was non-work related –  in whatever way he felt was right for him.

Small steps.

But these experiments were totally transformational to the way he saw himself and the way others experienced him as a colleague and team member

He truly came out of his shell!

One of the most useful books I have read on the subject of behaviour change is Changing for Good .  The Stages of Change model outlined is a really useful indicator of the steps that we all go through when making changes (or not) in our lives, how change takes place and some of the reasons why we don’t change.

*Yes you can teach an old dog new tricks  – but like the ‘changing a lightbulb’ joke, the dog has to want to learn!


Lynn Scott
Lynn Scott
LYNN Scott writes pragmatic, actionable, no BS tips for busy leaders. Leadership doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s not about fads, theories, models and ‘inspirational quotes.’ It’s about knowing yourself and others at a deeper level; focusing on the right things; taking one step at a time and having a really clear purpose that ignites the fire in others. Plus, of course having the best possible team in place. (Ditch those energy vampires now). Lynn is an Executive Coach working with high achieving, committed men and women and their teams who are ready for their next level of success. She particularly loves seeing technical experts become focused, confident, pro-active leaders. She previously built and led global teams for a UK PLC and learned as much from her leadership mistakes as her successes. She’s a Brit based in the South of France with husband Brian and Border Collie Poppy.

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