When Behaviour Change Doesn’t (appear to) Work

 Profile image of Corine Hines From Spring Leadership

Corine Hines

Back in 2010, when I was just starting my coaching journey, I began seeing how powerful the process was for individuals. I’ve worked with all types of leaders and managers, from underrated heads of finance and recently recruited high potentials, to directors that were heading for burn out.  Watching them grow, develop better habits and improve their relationships, was incredible. But I was itching to have more impact on the wider business.

Personal transformations are amazing – but I knew that high performing teams aren’t created because one person transforms themselves.

Over the years we’ve developed an approach that helps individuals and teams make huge leaps forward – transformations that set them up for future success, which make a significant difference to them personally and to the bottom line.

Our techniques change businesses for the better. And it’s an absolute privilege to be involved.

Imagine two people in your team, let’s call them Frank and Lucy. Frank is a serial interrupter and knows he needs to button it and listen better. And Lucy blurts out solutions instead of taking a coaching approach with her team.

They tell you about their plan to improve over the next 6 months.

The difference between Frank and Lucy is this:

  • Lucy has regular catch ups with you, asking for feedback and ideas on how she can get better at coaching her team.
  • Frank doesn’t mention it again.

Who do you think will have most improved their behaviours by the end of the year?

I bet you picked Lucy.

I’d have to agree – but why?

You might think Lucy is more dedicated because she’s engaging with you on how to improve. You probably think Frank has forgotten all about it, and actually, didn’t Frank interrupt you just last week in an important meeting with a client?

The thing is, Lucy has probably made mistakes over the last 6 months, but she’s asked you to point this out to her for a course correction. Plus, you were looking for times she actively coached her team so you could give her positive feedback.

Frank has been a lone ranger and hasn’t benefited from this feedback loop. Plus you’ve forgotten many of the times Frank didn’t interrupt you so it’s more difficult to assess his improvement. But the minute Frank interrupts you mid-flow, you silently curse him and think a leopard can’t change its spots.

There are two lessons in here.

First, your perception of someone’s performance is very much coloured by what you see. Sometimes we need to be alert to Frank and all the other quiet improvers amongst us.

And second, Frank will find it easier to improve (and for people to recognise the change) if he gets feedback and suggestions for improvement. So next time someone in your team tells you they want to change a behaviour, gently encourage them to do the following:

  • Identify a handful of people who will be impacted by their new behaviour
  • Share with the group the behaviour they’re attempting to stop or start
  • Every month have a 10 minute catch up to ask for feedback and suggestions about how they can improve

If they try this for 6 months, I bet you’ll both be surprised by what impact they have and what they achieve.

You might even try it yourself. Just sayin’.