Behaviour doesn’t change overnight
Author: Guy Sellwood Managing Director Prosell Learning Ltd and VP Americas
Original Article published by Prosell UK
In Australia we face some unique people management challenges. Because of the size of the economy and our large land mass, we often see a situation where sales managers are multi-functional. Here, much more than elsewhere, sales managers carry sales targets, have marketing responsibilities and have sales people spread across the country who they don’t get to see on a regular basis.
All this means that sales managers have limited time to develop their people and can sometimes be guilty of explaining / discussing a skill development issue and then assume that it is resolved.
This article is important because it shows us that there is a process that people go through when attempting to change behaviour and if we are not aware of the process, we are much less effective as people managers and coaches.
Introduction by: Peter Fullbrook Managing Director Prosell Australia
Behaviour doesn’t change overnight
Have you ever found yourself in the situation of being given some feedback, perhaps an observation by somebody else, a comment made or maybe you've seen yourself on a video? Alternatively you might have listened to yourself speaking and whilst the feedback received has perhaps not provoked an initial response, it has bothered you in some way. This feedback has sat and worried you for a while and at some later stage, you've possibly acted upon it.
Many of us, I'm sure, can relate to feedback we have been given concerning our lifestyle and how we may have adjusted our behaviour based on the comment made about a loved one or someone close to us. The process of responding to stimuli about our behaviour, often in the form of feedback, is a well-researched process and the process has four stages.
The four stages are key in understanding the transformative process that our sales and customer service coachees undergo during training and coaching programmes. Similarly, it is just as important for us to consider this four stage change process ourselves when developing our own skills.
The Four Stage Change Process
The four stages are very straight forward:
· The first one is reflection and involves consideration of what the feedback is. Consideration of what it means to us, what its impact is to us, and consideration of its validity. So we question - is this meaningful? Is this accurate? What does this mean to me?
· The second stage is response. It is the process of considering our options. What do we want to do with this particular piece of feedback, now that we have considered it? Even if we believe it to be valid, we may still decide that the best response is still to do nothing. We may indeed respond also by thinking to ourselves that there is something that we can do simply and easily or something that may be more difficult to do but we consider our options.
· Thirdly, we take action or inaction but that will still be a conscious decision. Action is about changing some aspect about how we behave.
· Then finally, and very importantly from the purpose of coaching and behavioural change, comes maintenance. How do we then continue to adopt this new behaviour that we have chosen? This four step process can be a fairly quick process for people to go through and sometimes we find ourselves in a very impactful situation which requires us to very rapidly change our approach to a situation.
We are given feedback that will help us to make a significant commercial gain or to protect a serious aspect of our health. It could be a number of any serious stimuli but often and particularly in a business context, we are given feedback that may be useful to us and that is often given to us with good intent but that we might wish to consider and reflect on for some period of time.
It may indeed be that once we have received the same feedback a number of times that we move to response and that we then move to action. Yet, we find ourselves often talking with customers whom have high expectations for the rapidity with which they can bring about change, that somehow those that they work with will respond quickly and rapidly to desired, expected and required changes in their behaviour.
Why is this model important to the feedback process?
1. The four steps are really important to consider when you are undertaking any form of transformative process with your people. Firstly, it's very important to consider it in the context of training and development activity. Very often we may be in a workshop, a classroom environment, we may be undertaking some eLearning, watching a video or engaging in something which provokes and stimulates and during that time we might be reflecting on new stimuli, we may even in that time be thinking about what our response might be. We may decide what action we are going to take because we are in a situation where we are not able to take that action immediately; it's going to happen after the event.
The action and the maintenance come after the input of that training and development event and this is where the role of your line manager or supervisor is so crucial. Their roles are fundamentally important to support any changes in your behaviour, to be supportive of and reflect back with positive feedback about the change you have made, such that maintenance becomes something that is desirable, that the positive affirmation that you receive encourages you to continue with that action.
2. The second piece to consider about the importance of this model is that actually, personal change can take a bit of time and that as a coach sitting with individuals; we may need to be patient. We might need to watch for small adjustments of people's behaviour over time and wish to track, monitor and record information about those changes. This is important so that we can see how the individual has changed but also importantly for the individual themselves so that they can recognise their own ability to adjust, adapt and change according to the feedback they receive.
This will typically give greater confidence to the individual concerned about their change agility. People who are confident in their ability to change are far more likely to move from reflection, to response, to action more quickly because they will see opportunity in that change and they will not feel fear for that change.
So think about how the benefits of creating situations which give people feedback upon which they can reflect and consider responses as part of your transformation process. Additionally, also consider how you support and recognise the actions people take and how they maintain those changes over time.
If you are able to support and encourage those actions and maintenance phases and encourage a confidence in people's agility to change, you will improve your organisation's ability to respond to all of the challenges that we face in the modern business world and make yourself more agile to responding quickly to new challenges and new opportunities.