As mentioned in a previous post, the behavior of leaders should ideally reflect the values of the organization. But accomplishing this goal may call for some change in behaviors. From quitting smoking to exercising regularly to getting more organized, most of us have a list of behaviors we’d like to change. We are all familiar with the need to change and the challenge of initiating and sustaining the change. Let’s look at 4 ways that leaders can be proactive and improve their behavior to set the example for their organizations.
Before we see any real change in our behaviors, we have to change our thoughts. Aligning our thoughts with our values has a measurable impact on behaviors. Our thoughts should support our values. Whether the values come from our personal beliefs or our organization’s value statement, we cannot sustain behavior change unless our thoughts and our values are fully congruent. This congruence will give us the energy to stay the course through the change process.
We’ve all heard the phrase “fail to plan means plan to fail”, and this is especially true when changing and improving our behaviors. The best plans include a written document that has simple, clear steps about how this behavior is going to be changed. It’s also worth noting that successful leaders write down potential obstacles to their behavior change and possible solutions to overcoming them. In our plan we could include turning the behavior we want to get rid of into a behavior we want to increase. For example, if we tend to be late for meetings, the behavior we want to increase is to “be on time for meetings.” Then, focusing on one behavior at a time and successfully turning that behavior to a habit, will help us learn about ourselves, and how we can change other behaviors on our list.
Surprisingly, “doing” the new behavior could actually be the most rewarding part of this whole process. Once a person starts seeing results from their changed behavior, this positive reinforcement encourages more of the new behavior. To help keep ourselves on track it is good to set reminders and record our progress. Reminders or triggers for the behavior are the necessary component of the change process because without them, we would forget all about our plan and fall back into the existing patterns. Recording our progress is also important. And if we can find a trusted friend or colleague to give us feedback on our behavior change, then we are really increasing the probability of the change actually happening and being sustained.
Anyone who has joined a gym as part of their new year’s resolution to exercise understands how important this step is when it comes to behavior change. Staying the course, keeping up with the new behavior and ultimately transforming it into a new habit is probably the most difficult part of the process. Remember that new habits take time to develop. Setting up an accountability system for ourselves and tracking our results will encourage continued behavioral change.
When others in the organization see how leaders are changing, they will want to follow suit. Ultimately, it is Aristotle who put it best when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” With these four steps, leaders can improve their behaviors and demonstrate this excellence in their organizations.