Turning Changed Behaviors into New Habits

HabitsPotential customers occasionally point out that creating competitions to spike activity and change behavior is great, but what happens when the competition ends? The goal, of course, is for behavior change to sustain, and customers have told us as much. But it is a valid question.

Have you ever tried to implement a change in your lifestyle or daily routine that didn’t last? Maybe it was getting up an hour earlier, starting a workout regimen, eating better or, if you’re like me, basically every New Year’s resolution ever. How do you stop the trend and make behavior change stick?

About a month ago I stumbled upon some answers. New York Times best selling author, Keith Ferrazzi spoke at the Techonomy Detroit conference in a session titled, “The 5 Undeniable Truths of Changing Human Behavior.” There was a load of interesting information — some of it applicable to what we’re trying to help our customers do and much more of it applicable to our day-to-day lives.

He told a story of a friend he ran into recently. The guy’s an alcoholic and has been sober for 25 years. When asked how often he still goes to meetings, his response was: “I try to go everyday, but it’s not nearly enough.”

The obvious point: Change is hard.

Real change doesn’t happen until the practice changes. Making it stick takes dedication and practice. But why are some changes more effective than others?

He laid out some questions to consider whether you’re attempting to implement change amongst a team or with yourself.

  • What is the highest return behavior change you want to unleash? Think of the one thing that if different could have the most impact on your business or life.
  • What are the two or three distinct practices that need to change to have the highest return? Maybe it’s more client meetings and delivering more proposals. Or if you’re looking at changing your diet, it could be meal planning for the week and packing a lunch so you’re not tempted to subsist on a bag of potato chips, diet soda and beef jerky.
  • What are the consequences if you don’t change? Is your job at risk? How is your diet impacting your overall health?
  • Why should I change? (Logical reasons here.)What would it mean to your business if you grew an additional 5 or 10%? Or your health if you lowered your cholesterol and minimized stress?
  • Does it feel purposeful or meaningful? Connect the change in your team’s behavior to their personal goals.
  • Is it easy to do? Does it make life easier? Identify potential hurdles and put together a plan to mitigate them.
  • By making this happen does it make me feel part of the tribe? People have a strong desire to fit in and feel like they belong. By creating a sense of community around the change you’re trying to implement, you encourage a sense of belonging and allow your team members to push each other to success.

In a recent post on his blog, Mr. Ferrazzi suggests the last few are the most impactful. Personal motivation always leads to the desire to change.

After you’ve thought through all of this, and made it personal, as a leader here’s where you start: Lead with the most likely people first. That’s the role models — not the eager beavers. Start with top performers. You stand to lose the most if they leave because they don’t have the sense of community, which, interestingly, he suggests is one of the top reasons successful people leave to pursue other opportunities.

Applying this disciplined thinking is crucial to the success of getting the change to stick. Remember that change takes practice and dedication, both from the manager trying to implement change and the team affected by the change.

If you’re looking for further reading on the subject, do yourself a favor and pick up one of Keith’s books or check out his blog, specifically his Change Acceleration series. He has a lot of great material on understanding what makes people tick and connecting with them.


Turning Changed Behaviors into New Habits
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Turning Changed Behaviors into New Habits
There's a difference between changing behaviors and developing habits. Here's what it takes to do the latter.
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