Sunday, April 12, 2015

Changing Behaviors

How behaviors change

In this ever changing world, change is the only constant. When we as leaders identify development plan for our reports, giving them tools to achieve it is equally important. Most of the leaders include antecedents like providing standard operating procedures and training to achieve results. Research has found that these methods yield results but are effective only up to 20%. The 80% of effectiveness comes from the consequences following the behavior. 

Designing an effective consequence requires hard work. Once a specific behavior is pinpointed, consequences that are encouraging or discouraging, delivered immediately, are important and are highly likely to occur will increase or decrease likelihood of that behavior repeating in future. However if the consequences are either delayed, or are not important or is unlikely to occur will not change the behavior.

Like all other processes the behavior change has four stages. The four stages are:

1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence

1      Unconscious Incompetence – The Enthusiastic Beginner

This is a stage when you don’t know what you don’t know. The most often quoted example in literature is that of learning driving. The first time you get on to the driver’s seat, there is lot of excitement but it is extremely difficult to manage hand and leg coordination. The competence level is low but the commitment level is high. This stage is also called The Enthusiastic Beginner. At this stage the leader needs to provide high level of direction but low level of support. It does not take much time for this enthusiastic to get to the next stage.

2      Conscious Incompetence – The Disillusioned Learner

In this stage, you know what you don’t know. You realize how bad you are at driving. You start creating self-doubt if you will ever be able to learn driving. With sustained practice, you start developing some competence but the commitment level drops to low. The leader needs to provide coaching - both high level of direction as well as support. With practice you start getting results and then it is time to move on to next stage.

3      Conscious Competence – An Emerging Contributor

This is the time when you start replacing old behaviors with new behaviors. However you have to think about them. In the driving example you start acquiring skills like talking while driving. If you do not think, you fall back to old behavior. At this stage you have developed moderate level of competence but commitment is variable. Sometimes you would feel like quitting. Another day you would start with renewed vigor. Leaders at this stage should turn down direction but continue to provide high level of support.

4      Unconscious Competence – A High Performer

You are now a professional. You don’t have to think about what you are doing. You can drive and listen to songs. You can talk to your co-passenger. You have acquired high level of competence as well as commitment. The leaders should turn down both direction as well as support. The new behavior is now a habit. The job can now be delegated.

One small advice. You do not want to overwhelm the person. Start small. Focus on a very specific behavior and you are well on your way to getting better at the Art and Science of Leadership.

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