When I saw this headline from our partner Leah Fisher's recent blog I couldn't help but smile. We're often asked for what amounts to being a silver bullet, magic pill or in some cases small miracle, and I wish change was that easy!
I like Leah's take on this challenge and couldn't have said it better myself...
"New Pill developed that dramatically improves people's productivity and behaviour!"
Imagine a headline like that! "Where can I get it?!" would be the response of most managers! What a coup that would be for companies and businesses around the world that have been grappling with the age-old challenge of implementing change and aligning the behaviours of their people.
Unfortunately there is no magic pill, although incredibly senior leaders often expect that their people will suddenly become more skilled or productive and change their behaviour after simply attending a one-day workshop.
We need to remember that as humans, we’re really programmed not to change that easily - if we were, we’d wake up every day a different person! While some might find that exciting, others would find it just exhausting! We naturally resist change as humans, unless of course it makes sense to us and we can see a good reason for doing so - and even then, we have to work at it. It takes time.
When we talk about change in organisations, we are more often talking about the behaviours that are exhibited by people within the business. We might want more of a focus on the customer, or on the strategy or on productivity etc. We want people to behave in a way that’s aligned to our overall goal and objective.
Some people might be familiar with the old Saatchi and Saatchi video of the flying geese which shows the perfect arrow formation. The music is “Groovin with Mr Bloe” and the video explains the power of the formation and the roles the geese play in achieving greater productivity. But while we might imagine how great it would be to have everyone aligned just like that, we know that organisations, and people are much more independent and need to operate more fluidly.
Understanding what influences people’s behaviour is the first important step in achieving alignment. And the greatest influence on our behaviour? What we think, or our ‘mindset’. Our beliefs, what and how we think about things will greatly influence how we behave. When dealing with change within organisations we’re often looking to find ways to move the organisation in a positive direction. And the first step is to understand the behaviours we need to align our people around. The mindsets that exist currently - which ones are working against the business (the ones we need to change) or what’s needed to positively move the business (ones we need to create).
If our mindsets drive our behaviour, then how do we change mindsets? While workshops can be one way to raise people’s awareness, it’s actually the opportunity for people to engage in meaningful dialogue on a regular basis that will influence us the most. It’s about shaping the conversations that our people are having - either with their managers, each other, their customers and even with themselves!
Coaches and counsellors will attest to the fact that for personal change, it’s not about providing answers; it’s about helping people to arrive at the answers themselves that have the greatest impact. It’s helping people find the ‘aha’ moment - and within this moment we start to rewire our neural pathways and how we ‘think’ about things. And, it’s also about new ‘routines’. Regular new habits, that serve to influence the way we do things.
By ‘shaping the conversations’ we are able to encourage dialogue around change and help people to come to the solution and agreement around behaviours themselves. These ‘conversations’ are not left to chance, but work best when managers and teams can focus a short amount of time, on a regular basis to explore the behaviours we’re aiming to achieve.
Alas there is no new ‘pill’ that will give instant change of behaviour and increase productivity. However, there is a way to more permanently create new mindsets that in turn will align our teams around a common purpose, and create positive momentum in any business, and it all starts with a conversation.
Posted: Monday 10 September 2012