You may want to change someone’s behaviour. A subordinate; a boss (yes you can!); a spouse (let me know how you get on); a child.
Before you try to do this, you need to be sure the change is for that person’s benefit, not just yours. And that they want to change, or at least they see you as someone who has their interests at heart and they don’t see you simply as a manipulative psycho-nutter…
So, assuming that’s all OK, let’s begin…
To change someone’s behaviour you need to focus on their, er…behaviour.
Focus on what you want to change. So far so obvious?
Hmmmm, not so obvious.
Here’s how to get it wrong –
- Focus on capabilities – “I think you need to go on a course…”
- Focus on beliefs and values – “You’re too soft with them you know…”
- Focus on identity – “You’re not much of a negotiator are you..?”
Focusing on these aspects doesn’t bring about change. It’s not helpful because it doesn’t suggest a means to improve. I cannot change my capabilities overnight. Beliefs and values will take even longer. Identity? Even longer still.
Here’s some stuff that’s been said to me over the years…
Firstly, two great cracks at my identity –
“You don’t have much confidence do you.” Thanks for that boss. I feel better already.
“You’re a bit of a loner aren’t you?” This was said to me by someone who felt anxiety when alone in a room. I kid you not.
And then on my capability –
“I think you really messed up there?” (I’m OK with this one, I don’t mind criticism at the capability level, but most people are not like me and they do not like it.)
“I don’t think you feel responsible for your sales.” Of course I feel effing responsible for the sales but the customers do not buckle to my will simply because I possess this belief…and we are selling undifferentiated commodities at premium prices…aaarrrggghhh!!
These bosses were not bad people. In fact, I’d say they were top 25%. Well meaning, educated, rounded and experienced. But they still made the mistake of trying to effect change at a level other than the behavioural.
Here’s the bare bones of a conversation on behaviours –
- Did you get the result you wanted?
- What could you do differently?
- What are you going to do differently?
If you limit your positive critique to behaviour, and you do it well, the person will change their behaviour.
This in turn will improve their capability.
Which will change their beliefs (on what they can do).
And in time their new behaviour will become part of their identity.
Of course, you can praise at any level.