What are the 5 steps to help leaders sustain behavioural change?

Change comes from within, or so George Bernard Shaw says. Why would we want to change our behaviour and that of our employees? It’s all about what kind of culture you want in your business. At the forefront of leadership think thanks today is culture, this is what the business stands for, the unwritten rules of how it gets done, the secret sauce.

So, how can this be done?

1. Look at our own behaviour

Well, it sounds obvious but to make a successful change we have to observe and monitor our own behaviour. There are always behavioural things we should look out for in order to manage and lead others more effectively. These can be things like, are you paying attention when someone                                                                 speaks; also important, do you look like you’re paying attention?

As entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, it’s our responsibility to keep our minds open to make sure that this behaviour is keenly aligned with what the business needs and expects. As leaders, we create this culture and provide the cement which keeps it in place. Where then do we go next?

 

2. Encourage change

How early do you start? Before they’re even hired. During the hiring process, you’ll want to make sure that the prospect will be a great fit for the culture you’re creating.

When hiring and during the on boarding process, it is important to make sure that the values of the prospect align with those of the company. This is called values-based recruitment and it is one of the most cost-effective methods of hiring, due to the resulting lower turnover from lower employee disengagement. Company values and/or employee values can change over time and become unaligned, creating disengagement. Great caution here – if your people had no influence in determining your company’s core values, it’ll be an uphill struggle asking them to align with those values.

This can be measured and predicted to a degree with a Values Health Check. 

Employee behaviour in the workplace is complex and difficult to change sometimes. If we want employees to behave in a certain manner, then we need to make sure that we are managing them and the workplace in a way that supports, encourages and holds them accountable for those behaviours. As we try to influence and change our employees’ behaviour in the workplace, we should try to use positive means such as reinforcement, communication, inspiration, empathy, understanding, and behaviour modelling to achieve our end goal.

 

3. Empower your employees

Employee behaviour in the workplace is complex and difficult to change sometimes. If we want employees to behave in a certain manner, then we need to make sure that we are managing them and the workplace in a way that supports, encourages and holds them accountable for those behaviours. As we try to influence and change our employees’ behaviour in the workplace, we should try to use positive means such as reinforcement, communication, inspiration, empathy, understanding, and behaviour modelling to achieve our end goal.

According to Self-Determination Theory, intrinsic motivation (motivation for its own sake) has three core tenets:

Autonomy: the sense of being in control and having a choice. When given more autonomy, people are more likely to put in sustained effort, perform better, fulfil goals, achieve even assigned changes and experience enjoyment and satisfaction. To increase a sense of autonomy, managers should involve people, get the tone right and offer choices.

Competence: the sense of being competent and relishing challenge. People are more motivated if they feel competent, especially for complex and broad goals. Besides, challenging and difficult goals lead to higher job satisfaction and feelings of success. Reminding an employee of their strengths is a good way to increase a sense of competence. Positioning things as a challenge, rather than change, and appealing to their pride is also effective.

Relatedness: the sense of being meaningfully connected to other people and what you are doing. Having a sense of purpose leads to higher performance, enjoyment and satisfaction, and sustained dedication. Managers can boost connection by involving people – asking why it matters and what the benefits of change will be; explaining the reasons for change; and making it personal and practical.

Using these three parts of self-determination theory we can start to build up something that works to empower our employees and coach them from having a similar set of belief and core structure to a curated and cohesive workforce.

Applying this is only half the battle though, the longer   term and difficult path is sustaining this culture and tenet of improvement. As we have doubtlessly perceived in our everyday lives, social norm changes are incremental.

There’s a gap between what we say and what we do, we say we’re going to start working out in the new year but really, how many of us sustain that change.

4. Make an emotional connection

People will engage in behaviours that are rewarded and stop behaviours that are not. When you want to see more of a behaviour in the workplace, reward it, or at the very least, acknowledge it. We adopt a new behaviour because we believe it serves a specific functionor purpose, in our lives.

To have employees sustain behaviours, we need to make sure that we are helping the emotional side of their brain connect with the actions which create behavioural change. Feelings can drive the desire to change and once the feelings are repeated enough times, it will cement and form a sustained behaviour, or habit.

 

5. Bridge the gap between action and behaviour

Bridging this gap between employees doing an action that you want to see make up their behaviour and the emotional connection that makes them want to do it is where sustainability is.

Here are a few things leaders can start doing to bridge the gap:

  • Verbally recognise employees who are doing well by specifically telling them what is good about their behaviour.
  • Reward continued good performance with pay. The number one motivator for employees is, numerically, how much you’re valuing them.
  • We need to model the behaviour you want to see. Be that inspiration yourself as mentioned at the start of the post.
  • Understand the cause and effect of motivation and behaviour. Why are people behaving the way they do? Sometimes to do this we need to understand them as people too. Get to know your employees!
  • Respond to behaviour in a consistent, reliable manner. Building on point 2, if you yourself aren’t being consistent with all employees in dealing out rewards, you can’t expect your employees to be consistent in their own dealings within the company. Watch out for unconscious bias!
  • Drive that emotional side of their brain with your own passion, be enthused about things, changes especially if you want both emotional and logical buy-in!

There it is, a few words about applying and sustaining behavioural changes in yourself and your employees. We are architects in safety culture and values development and would love to discuss this further with you, give us a call on 0800 470 4441 to start making a lasting change today.

Author: Rob Mitchell

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