Once we have opened our mouths and words have blurted out, we cannot reverse the process. We know the importance of thinking before speaking and acting. Forgetting to think first can land us in trouble. It is behaviour that directly connects to results, even though thinking may be responsible for generating the behaviour.
I may think up a strategy for persuading my peers to buy into a project, but my behaviour will be judged by the perceptions of the people on the receiving end of my communication. It is not enough just to think we have the best way of influencing others; we must also pay attention to how we may be received by them. If our strategies are not getting us the results we want, we can carry on doing the same or we can do something different. The former is the choice of ignorance and incompetence; the latter requires flexibility and making a conscious decision to do something different.
Behaviour often conforms the rules and norms within an organisation. Even with a conscious effort to think differently, strong behavioural patterns can prevent change from taking place. A team of ten people may resist change simply because it is easier to stay within the limits of well-worn groove.
Successful team leaders are also change agents, with the ability to influence large groups. The larger an organisation becomes, the more fixed patterns of behaviour you will find and the more you will require influencing skills to make a difference.
Take a few moments to do the following exercise.
Think about your own patterns of behaviour. Take a typical week in your working calendar and recall the meetings and the written communications you engaged in.
1. How much of this was a repetition of something you have done before? How much of it was different to what you had done before?
2. Scrutinise what you did, what you said, and how you said it. How much of it got the results you wanted? How much of it didn’t?
3. If you could go back in time and live that week again, which parts of your behaviour would you change and why? What about your listening skills, your perception?
If some of your behaviour is not getting you what you want, the first step towards changing it is to recognise what you want to change, and then create some alternatives. This may sound simplistic, yet I bet you know lots of people who keep repeating ineffective behaviour, even though the results are clearly not contributing to higher-level goals.
Next article we will speak about the role of feedback in changing behaviour, stay tuned:)