How Do You Motivate and Sustain Behavior Change?

I have a physician friend who in the past has worked in a small group practice, and is now part of a very large practice with management of a CEO and Vice Presidents. As we caught up over lunch, he expressed concern over the challenges of not only creating behavior change within an organization, but making it part of the company culture moving forward.

His organization has a retreat every two years in a beautiful spot; while enjoyable, he found himself wondering what he was doing there, and what positive result could be expected, especially in the area of behavior change. His feeling is that the discussions during these retreats about the coming changes in medicine are important but do not address the day-to-day difficulties in engagement and collaboration.

He wanted my opinion as a consultant about retreats and if they are worth the money and time that is spent, especially if one of the goals is behavior change. Clearly a good time can be had,  some camaraderie and sharing can occur, but can this translate into change that can be measured and felt in real time?

Of course having just returned from the GILD Institute and having coached and consulted with some extraordinary leaders, I know this is possible with effective engagement and follow-up. However, I also know that a one-time experience is not the answer, even over a week or two, without the ability to follow up and change behavior in real time.

I was struck by his concern that people do not listen, and realized that preparation for listening, change and accountability is necessary and not something that can be overlooked.

So how do you create behavior change as a leader both for yourself and for the team of people that you lead? And more importantly can you create the change in your team of peers?

The focus of this article is behavior change in your leadership team of peers because that is the most likely place to develop relationships that will have the broadest impact, and where a system of accountability can be developed that will cascade throughout the organization.

There are three important aspects to address as you move toward more effective communication and alignment:

1. Communication:

a.  Make this important. As a leader, set up time for one-to-one conversation with peers who run other functions or departments.
b.  Create a meeting where people re-introduce themselves in terms of how they see themselves and what is important to them.
c. Encourage participants to share how they see their role impacting the organization and this team.

2. Discuss accountability and how to create strategic partnerships to support achievement of individual and team goals.

3. Create a process for focus on solutions rather than blame when issues arise.

Make these points part of the agenda of each meeting. Sometimes they will take five minutes, and sometimes they will take a good part of the meeting. However, the results of this focus will make real change in the success of strategic goals.

There is a question that I heard many years ago and it came up again this year, “What is your primary team, the one you lead or the one you are on?”

The overwhelming answer at first is, “the one I lead.” The more practical and useful answer is, “the one I am on.”

Why? Because the willingness to address the team you are on gives you the opportunity to look at your own behavior in the area of communication, creating partnership and focus on solutions. You can bring this awareness to the team you lead, and understand issues from experience rather than theory.

Have a great couple of weeks and let me know if you have comments, suggestions or challenges that we can discuss here – I’d enjoy hearing from you! Patricia Heyman