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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Want to Change Someone’s Behaviour? Try a Little Acceptance Instead!

One of the things that we find difficult to accept or even understand is that everyone is unique with different talents, different attitudes, different abilities and they probably look different too.

All of this makes nonsense of generalist initiatives making the assumption that if we treat everyone in the same way then we will get the same outcome from everyone.

I recall talking to a member of my Vistage CEO peer group some time ago when he told me that he was intending to make substantial changes to the working environment that would generate enthusiasm in the team.

He did just that and, lo and behold, there were at least 10% of the people who complained that it wasn’t as good as previously and they didn’t like the change.

For some time I have been banging on about people in the business with a poor attitude and rightly so.  They can be a toxic influence and need rapid and decisive action.

However, there is the other factor of behaviour that is perhaps subtly different from that of attitude.

Recalling the Performance/Attitude matrix one very important square is that with only adequate performance but good attitude with the implication that the individual is willing to be trained in the skills that would make them into a Good Performer with Good Attitude, a very desirable state.

The fact is that as people are unique we need to examine then individually to see how and if they will adapt to change and take on board new ideas and processes.

That requires a subtle amalgam of attitude and behaviour, good attitude leading to good behaviour and vice versa.  I agree that that is a wild generalisation but like all generalisations it contains a modicum of truth somewhere.

The fact is that most people who we value in the business will still have some behavioural traits that perhaps either irritate or even actually militate against good practice.

In discussion with one of my Peer Group members recently he told me of two senior people (Directors) in the business, both of whom were good performers and had generally excellent attitude but not to each other.

In fact they were at opposite ends of the continuum that starts at ‘Quiet And Gets On With It’ and ends at ‘Noisy, Brash and Impetuous’.

At this stage we need to examine the individuals in the round and ask a few questions.

For example, how significant is the output of each person?  What is their individual contribution to the business?  Could we do without either of them?

Even though they are not wholly compatible in this case it is perhaps a matter of compromise on the part of the leader.

Provided that all the answers to the questions are positive and we want to keep both of them, then it is up to the leader to realise that people can’t be changed and at some stage we either accept the vagaries of their behaviour as well as the good contribution they make.

It is a very tough call for the leader; accepting perhaps that 20% of what someone brings to the table will irritate and annoy while happily accepting that the good well outweighs the bad demands maturity and some humility.

It means getting things into perspective; realising the uniqueness of people will always result in differences some of which are acceptable and some downright impossible to live with.

There are undoubtedly some facets of behaviour that irritate. The question is, does they militate against effective performance and if not, get real and live with it.

It’s a matter of balance on the end.  Add up the positives, determine the negatives and make a decision.


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