Asking for change is not enough.


One of the frustrations when working in a team is getting everyone to work in the directed manner. AFL football coaches frequently suffer such frustrations!

Staff meetings become a place for repeating the same requests for changes in behaviour. Tension builds as leaders feel ignored, and staff happiness suffers because they feel hen-pecked and micro-managed.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result. So what needs to be done differently?

For a start, recognise that every person is amazingly different. Their unique and different genes, life experiences, beliefs and values ensure that their responses to your work environment will also be unique and different to one-another. Working against people’s instinctive and habitual behaviours  is a flawed and difficult approach.

A book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, Switch, describes why changing behaviour in others is difficult: they liken a leader or manager’s directives as the rider on an elephant, holding the reins, and people’s habits and behaviours as the elephant. Despite how strongly the rider pulls on the reins, the elephant has the stronger pull.

So how can you work with this idea and create the change you seek?

The three directives that the Heath brothers recommend are: DIRECT THE RIDER, MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT and SHAPE THE PATH.

This is true for what I discovered during my years of practice ownership and team engagement. My wording is different, however the premise is the same:

CLARITY – Lack of clarity leads to confusion and resistance, and also reduces engagement. It is your responsibility to communicate your ideas with the clarity others need to get on board. Specify the exact actions you want to see.

WIIFM – Address the ‘What’s In It For Me’ for people. Identify the benefits and compelling reasons why a particular change is worthy. Remember that one of people’s primary drivers is ‘purpose’- working towards a greater goal than just themselves. Establishing your practice’s purpose and vision is a valuable process that feeds into your team’s WIIFM.

CREATE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESS – Identify and remove obstacles, acknowledge small wins, make it easy for people to succeed. You lead the change by displaying the desired behaviour. People will naturally follow the consistent behaviour of the group, so encourage everyone to persist.

The success of great systems in your practice depends on how successful your implementation process is. If team behaviour doesn’t change, don’t keep asking expecting a different result. Instead ask yourself what THEY need to be successful.