Leadership Tips: 7 Tips to Change Difficult Behavior

In the last few blog posts I’ve have been addressing difficult behavior and how to change it.

Now we come to the point where you’re annoyed. You’ve decided to deal with the problem by confronting the individual exhibiting the behavior, and you have carefully observed this person’s behavior and know exactly what she does that troubles you so. What’s next?

1. Check In With Your Own Feelings

Take a few breaths and a mental inventory of what you are feeling at that moment. Acknowledge that you may be feeling anger, fear, doubt, courage, commitment, and more. You may even want to report these feelings to the individual you are confronting. Then…

2. Procure An Invitation

Your opening move will be to give the person the conscious choice of “readiness” by allowing him to grant you permission to talk to him about how you two work together. Do this by asking permission: “I’d like to talk with you about how we work together and I need about 15 minutes, is this a good time?” Then…

3. Report Explicit Observations

Put on your anthropologist’s hat and report data from your field notes. This might sound like: “I noticed in our meeting today that you said ‘that will never work’ 15 times in the first 30 minutes of our meeting. I know because I kept count on my note pad.”

While reporting this data, do so without any judgement in your tone of voice. That would be defeating your purpose in being explicit. Then…

4. Use Cause-and-Effect language

Tell him what observable effect was caused by his behavior. Say something that he, too, might have observed like, “I noticed that other people in the meeting stopped coming up with ideas. In fact, they stopped speaking altogether. Some even pushed away from the table and sat there with their arms folded.” Then…

5. Report Your Own Assumptions or Interpretations

Now you can use labels and attributions. Just precede them with “I” so that it is clear you are owning them as yours instead of projecting them on the other person. Say something like, “I felt like you were trying to disrupt the meeting and I got angry.” Then…

6. Stop, Look, and Listen

Since you want a behavior change from the other person, you need to enlist him as an active participant in the process of examining the causes and effects in the situation. Sure, he might be a little hurt and maybe defensive, but he could also be unaware, grateful, and conciliatory. You won’t know until you allow him the space to respond. Then…

7. Negotiate Toward a New Agreement

Work toward an agreement about:

  • how he will behave in the future in similar situations
  • how you will avoid reproducing the situation
  • and/or what you will do to help if the behavior endures (and it might since it could be deeply embedded).

The goal is to create a new opening through this agreement that will allow you to work together toward new behavior and results. A condition of achieving this goal is that the other person not feel attacked or experience a loss of esteem but instead is in a resourceful state of mind.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch

Think of an individual who fits these three criteria:

  • you have a good relationship
  • you have lots of permission to be yourself
  • and there a small thing s/he does that bugs you

Commit to asking him or her to reconsider that behavior.

If you address difficult behavior and ask for what you want when that behavior is still tolerable, you won’t have to always be choosing whether to confront large and intolerable situations.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork on 09/23/2013 01:00 am
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