My wife is a trained chef. This training has helped her understand the chemistry of food and to create meals out of disparate leftovers that the untrained (me) would never envision. This is a reason that when two people read from the same recipe, they both know what to do, but the trained chef knows how to do it. There’s a difference. At work, strategic and operational plans are great at telling us what to do but strong leaders help us also know how to succeed. Tweaking managers often spend little time on the ‘how’.
I have three observations of the moments when initiatives stall, and the approaches strong leaders take to put change into motion:
- Don’t over-analyze, act!
- Instill essential new behaviors.
- Adjust the current structure.
In post #1 we examined “Don’t over-analyze, act!” with the four keys to overcoming the tendency to overanalyze.
Here in post #2 we address the need to: Instill essential new behaviors.
I love this quote by Bridgette Moynahan: All of a sudden, you have this newborn you have no training for. It's frightening. This post isn’t about parenting but it is about recognizing the behaviors that most ensure your success and how to implement them with urgency. The unwillingness to discern and train to new behaviors is the most often cause of stalled initiatives. Managers tend to believe that if they explain what to do, their people will know how to do it. Leaders illuminate the new behaviors needed, set the example, and hold their teams accountable for using the new behaviors.
What to do? Here are my keys, all necessary, to ensuring a shift to essential new behaviors:
1. Write down the old and new behaviors: “We will no longer do this, we will do this instead.” Placing essential new behaviors in writing moves the conversation from talk to specifics. Employees appreciate the clarity, the chance to discuss why and how, and confirm expectations. And almost nothing puts this in motion faster than a deadline. Set a date when the new behaviors must begin and complete this and the next two items.
2. Eliminate the coveting of processes/events/programs: “The activities that must change will be examined and honed with the new end-state in mind.” This change is linked to the above behavior imperative but it needs its own place holder. Change is very difficult when we’re asking the staff that authored and owned historical activities to make the shifts. Such activities must be honored then sunset in order for the team to adopt new approaches. Some leaders use formal 3rd party process reviews as a way to keep staff from coveting old ways. An independent party can operate free of an emotional connection to the process.
3. Train to new behaviors and practice these skills regularly: “We will be more productive by adopting the skills needed to succeed.” Imagine a sports season where you rarely practice before facing your opponents. In recreation this is bad coaching, but at work this is often the norm. Determine the essential new skills and hold people accountable for using them. Committed leaders use assessment tools to illuminate skill gaps, openly share them with their teams, and fully invest in reinforcing and measuring the use of new skills and behaviors.
Three key steps to bringing your new ‘baby’ into the world. Embrace the moment and commit to ensuring the right new behaviors. You’ll be glad you did. Good luck, and watch for post #3 soon! Want to read Post #1?