How to Change Problematic Behavior

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As advances in technology improve processes and operations, business leaders must still deal with the prevalent issue of human behavior, especially when it is problematic and recurring. Mark Ledden shares four key steps that can change the negative habits towards the positive.

While Kenning coaches do sometimes help our clients learn how to invent and adopt entirely new behavior patterns, we often are asked to help our clients bring behaviors they already exhibit in one context to a different context.  As Ishan (name changed), an SVP I recently worked with, put it, “My boss, the CIO, tells me I need to be more assertive in steering committee meetings. I feel like I am actually pretty good at being engaged and even challenging with my peers and my teams, but I know what she is talking about.  When I am dealing with our CEO and Board, I feel reluctant to jump in.”

When I asked what seemed like a pretty straightforward question, “So, why don’t you act the way you do with your peers with the executive team?,” Ishan’s answer was at once surprising and predictable: “I guess I don’t want to look foolish or embarrass myself. Speaking up feels risky.”

Rationally, Ishan already knew perfectly well that it was probably much more risky for him to maintain this two-mode split than to bring more of his “working with peers” style to senior team meetings, but he was legitimately unsure why doing so seemed so hard, or at least so unsafe. Clearly there was a sense-making challenge in play that would need to be addressed for him to achieve lasting, self-generative growth as a leader.  At the same time, though, while a strictly behavioral approach might not be sufficient, Ishan did have a reasonably large and straightforward opportunity to simply act more like he already did in some places.

The fundamental process for bringing a part of yourself that you show in one context into another entails the same basic four-step process we recommend for trying on new behaviors to break unhelpful habits:

 

Key points include:

  • Identifying triggers prospectively
  • Noticing habitual behavior
  • Having a clearly articulated alternative in your mind

 

Read the full article, Grip trip: Four steps for changing problematic behaviors, on KenningAssociates.com.