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Behavioural Change

change-management totemIf we want people to be doing something different, shouldn’t we just train them?

Quite often organisations go through a shift in focus or strategy, legislation changes, the introduction of new technology or some other need to do things differently. When this happens, depending on the nature of the change, there may be a need for three or 300,000 people to change the way they do things.

Where does training fit in?

Training can be both fantastic and useless. Training, “the teaching of a skill or behaviour” is great at showing me how to do something, for example how to use a new piece of equipment. But training does not guarantee that when the time comes to use the equipment, I make any of the critical choices that make the difference. Choices like:

  • Using the new equipment over what I usually do
  • Following my training to use the equipment properly
  • When I hit an obstacle, choosing not to give up
  • Choosing to encourage others to use this equipment and be positive about trying something new

All of these steps require a positive attitude to change and a subsequent change in behaviour – which training alone can only slightly influence.

Line of isolated jelly bean figures with shadows

The challenge is not that learning how to do something is useless; it’s that it’s just not enough. We need to know why we should bother doing something different, what the obstacles might be, how we can avoid them and how we stay positive through that learning curve.

So how do we change behaviour?

Whether you want people to use new equipment, try a new approach to performance management, be more innovative or deliver a specific objective – the same rules apply. To change individual behaviour, you need to:

  • Find out what motivates your people
  • Identify the potential barriers and obstacles to your specific change
  • Identify the benefits to each individual of the change you want to embed, and align these to individual motives
  • Communicate the change, the benefits, the obstacles and what you’re doing about them, then provide training where required
  • Demonstrate that senior leaders are really behind this (usually by doing it themselves)
  • Engage each individual to consider their attitude to the change, their motives, their barriers to change and what they will do about them

All of the above works most effectively when you have a project manager leading champions around the business to engage individuals, knock down barriers and take the whole organisation through the change. And once this initial engagement has occurred, you will need to maintain momentum by measuring the change activity, communicating progress and celebrating success.

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The Power of Optimism

Optimism 400x265Are you an optimist or pessimist?

The optimist / pessimist contrast is usually the only contact many of us have had with the concept of optimism.  Optimism by itself, is a fascinating concept and there is a growing body of research showing that this is largely genetic and then shaped further by early experiences and upbringing – so we’re optimists or pessimists from a young age.

Yet there is a difference between being an optimist and thinking optimistically – and we can all benefit greatly from choosing to think more optimistically, some of the time.

Martin Seligman is world famous for his work on depression, happiness, wellbeing and optimism.  He points out as a result of thousands of examples from therapy and experimentation that regardless of our natural style (more or less optimistic), we can develop our thinking.  And that change in thinking leads to both lower chances of getting depressed and faster recovery time if we do feel depressed.

So what can we do?  It all comes down to how we explain to ourselves and others “good” and “bad” events.  Life happens – it’s how we think about those events that makes the difference to our wellbeing.

When good, great, pleasing things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to explain those things as personal, permanent and pervasive.  This is optimistic thinking.  An example would be:

“That workshop went so well because I did a great job.  And I always do a great job so tomorrow will be just as good.  And I’m not just good at this, I’m good at other things too – my strengths apply across situations.”

As opposed to: “it was a fluke the workshop went well, the group were just really nice.  I won’t be that lucky tomorrow.  And just because that workshop went well, that doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m useless at most other things.”

Totem Gummi Bears

When sad, upsetting, bad things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to do the opposite.  Let’s explain those things as impersonal, temporary and specific.  This is optimistic thinking.  An example would be:

“My marriage is not going well because of current circumstances, I don’t think it’s all down to me.  This is just a bad time, things will get better.  And just because the marriage isn’t so great right now, I’m still able to do great at my work, hobbies and relationships with other people.”

As opposed to: “It’s all my fault, I’m ruining my marriage.  This is permanent, it’s never going to get any better.  How can I do anything else well, I am a failure at everything.”

So the research shows it, more optimistic thinking is better for our health, wellbeing and overall success.  It’s not about thinking positive all the time – how would we get on if we had no risk management specialists planning for the worst?!  This is about us having a choice in each situation, and choosing at times to think more optimistically for our wellbeing and happiness.

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