The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Friday, May 20, 2016

CREATING (OR ALLOWING) BEHAVIORAL CHANGE


This posting is an excerpt from the recently published PATHWAYS AND PASSAGES TO LEADERSHIP available through Amazon.  Thank you for following, commenting and encouraging the publication of passages from Dave’s Deliberations and may you find pathways through life that take you to places you never dreamed possible.

There are three ways we can try to change another’s behavior.  We can order someone to change, enforcing the altered behavior with penalties or threats (coercion).  We can provide a reward or some other external recognition that is of value to them should they change (motivation).  We can provide a path that will make them a better person or allow them to be something different than they are (inspiration).  Whether in a business or personal relationship – or any role in which we find ourselves interacting with another in order to accomplish a single objective – positive and meaningful change results from an intentional action (even if one intentionally decides not to act) rather than an accidental happenstance.

Supervisors often coerce individuals to change.  They issue orders, give directions and tell people what to do (and often how to do it).  Theirs can often be a world having few opportunities for independent action so they provide even fewer chances for people they supervise to act independently.  While supervision IS (thankfully) changing, many individuals leading work that can be accomplished without much training or preparation spend much of their time assigning work, reviewing processes and measuring results, leaving little time to invest on motivating or influencing altered behavior.  Rather than asking or laying the groundwork for change, they direct and monitor activities so they can achieve on a personal level but often negate individuality when coercing change.  In personal relationships, individuals who coerce others often tear them down to build themselves up, focusing on “what went wrong” rather than celebrating “what went well.”  Coercive individuals tend to get what they want but may get ONLY what they want, with their gains being short term and of limited value.  Telling someone how to do something produces quick and focused activity but rarely the best possible results.

Managers often motivate individuals to change.  They identify alternatives, provide choices and give people reasons that make them want to alter their behavior.  When combined with punishment for not changing, motivation can be a powerful means of producing results.  The problem with motivation, however, is that an external force must initiate the change.  In a working relationship, a manager often identifies what is best for all involved parties then initiates action by spelling out what will happen if change does not occur (coercion) but also what will happen should favorable change occur (motivating the alteration).  As long as a manager is present to identify a suspect behavior and provide reason to change, good things will happen. Rarely, however, will an employee used to constant motivation see the need to change unless they continue to receive external impetus.  Much can be accomplished when individuals are motivated to change – the problem with motivation, however, is that an object at rest (or an individual whom is content to do what he or she is doing) tends to remain at rest (or doing what has proven to be comfortable).  Until one is convinced that they must change their behavior if they are to receive different results, they will not experience growth.

Leaders inspire others to change.  Rather than telling people what must be done they show individuals a better way.  Rather than dwelling upon an individual’s negative behavior they reward positive efforts.  Leaders paint a picture of “what if” or “what could be” rather than one of “what is” or “what will always be.”  A leader makes people want to change in order to achieve something they wish to have, accomplish or become.  Inspirational change goes beyond telling (coercion) and past selling (motivation) – it leads another towards self-actualization.  Inspiration causes people to see why changes should take place, creating an internal desire to abandon who they are to become what awaits them.  Inspirational change is often caused by one’s desire to “be like” another or to achieve what someone else has accomplished – to make oneself (or another) proud of their actions.  In a personal relationship, inspirational leadership makes another want to join in (rather than follow) and to share the "road less traveled" (rather than taking the quickest, fastest route to nowhere).  Rarely will inspirational leaders tell another what must be done or how to do it – they allow their actions to speak louder than their words.  When we look to be that which has not yet been identified we initiate lasting change – which becomes the platform for continued growth.
Whether you choose to coerce, motivate or inspire change, recognize that an individual must see a reason to change before they will abandon their ways to pursue a new horizon.  We cannot CREATE change within an individual – we are only able to initiate it.  We cannot FORCE change within an individual – we are only able to guide it.  We cannot make another do that which they choose not to – we can only provide positive reasons to act AND identify negative consequences should one choose not to act appropriately.