Have you ever left a meeting feeling less clear than when you walked in? If it happens to you, what are the odds that you do this with your own team? You may be the type of leader who leaves a trail…
I have been helping a number of clients recently to change the behavior of some of their teams. The issues are often the same: teams won’t collaborate with each other; they won’t share information; staff continue to engage in busy work and activities that don’t contribute to goals of the organization. What’s a leader to do? There are three key components to changing behavior for the long term: Alignment, Rewards, and Structure. You need all three to drive successful behavior change.
1. ALIGNMENT AROUND GOALS
It may seem obvious but if employees are not clear what the goals are, and agree with them, the chances are slim that they will be pushing together in one direction. Very often staff say they don’t understand the strategy of the company or a particular initiative when what they really mean is that they don’t agree with it. It always helps to spend time hashing out a shared understanding of the direction you’re heading and why. If people still don’t agree, try to find influencers within the teams who can help lead them. People are often more ready to follow an influential peer than you.
Companies talk a lot about incentives but most people are not motivated by financial incentives. They care much more about recognition and praise. Peer recognition can be very powerful, as can recognition from a neighboring department or client group. Ask the team to come up with suggestions for how others should be recognized. Get them thinking about others rather than themselves and you’ll figure out how to reward them also. Help them set up simple low cost awards for people who provide them with good service and turn it into a group celebration. Other rewards don’t have to be even stated as such. I knew an organization that had a low key happy hour the last Friday of every month, which became a place for people to get to know each other better, as well as an opportunity to flag work challenges
Finally, structure matters. I worked recently with a client where people were being asked to collaborate with each other, but doing so required more work and additional steps to get anything done. It was very frustrating, even for the staff who were supportive of the change. You have to make it easy for people to change what they have been doing. Think of Newton’s first law of physics: “Every object persists in its state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed on it”. Before you think that force needs to be physical (don’t do that), the easiest way is to look at what structural changes need to be made so people can behave differently. Hint: Ask your staff. They probably know the answer to that one too.
- Alignment and Structure, without Rewards – They won’t change
- Alignment and Rewards, without Structure – They can’t change
- Structure and Rewards, without Alignment – Who knows what will change?