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Can We Change Behavior?

by Kathy Kurnyta on

Throughout our careers and personal lives, we are the recipients of constant feedback. Some feedback is easy to hear (typically when it is positive), while other feedback can seem frustrating. Do you ever get to the point where you feel like, “I’ve heard this over and over about myself. That’s just the way that I am. I can’t change.”

In working with leaders on their development, there are certain traits or characteristics that seem to be an inherent part of our personalities, such as being assertive, or a good listener, or a risk taker. When you receive feedback to improve something that seems quite contrary to what comes natural to you, how do you change it? More importantly, do you have to?

As a first step, I would encourage you to get as much consistent feedback on the behavior that is recommended for change. Do you have a reputation for being a collaborative and consensus-driven leader, who is not assertive in voicing opinions or driving decisions?

While it’s not expected for you to change your style – because your style is what distinguishes you from other leaders and has led to your success to this day, you do want to pinpoint circumstances in which your collaborative approach is leading to a drawback for you.  Then you can identify behaviors that would be beneficial to change.

For example, if you receive feedback that you are not assertive enough, you might want to ask yourself:

  • Are there times where I want to drive consensus and it takes too long to make a decision? What are the negative consequences of not making that decision?
  • Are there meetings where I listen to everyone but don’t voice my opinions when I should? Do people know where I stand on the issue?
  • Do I need to be more direct in providing feedback to my team members to hold them accountable?

By reflecting on your effectiveness in different circumstances, you can pinpoint the exact situation where a different approach might achieve stronger results.

To change your behavior, there are different tips and techniques that you can start to incorporate in your day-to-day activities. For example, if you find that you tend to be quiet in senior leader meetings, prepare and write out a clear point of view prior to the meeting. Force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and voice your opinion within the first 10 minutes.  Challenge yourself to take an unpopular viewpoint; voice your perspective in a clear and direct manner.

To ensure success in driving a behavior change, we recommend that you maintain three areas of focus:

  • Motivation – you have a personal desire to change that behavior; you see the benefit to yourself.
  • Discipline – you are willing to dedicate the time and effort needed to drive that change.
  • Accountability – you are willing to seek from others to track your progress and improvement.

So, what behavior are you ready to change?

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