How To Enable New Work Habits

How To Enable New Work Habits
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How To Enable New Work Habits When Change Is Needed
When strategies and leaders change, work habits often need to change.  But change management consulting experts know that it is not always easy to enable new work habits – even if the changes are viewed as positive.  Anyone who has tried to break a bad habit or to learn a new skill understands how hard it is to make lasting change. But meaningful change is possible and will happen much faster if leaders use the right approach.

Three Steps for Leaders to Enable New Work Habits
Based upon data from our change management simulation, here are three proven steps to better enable new work habits:

  1. Identify Doable Behavioral Chunks
    Actively involve your team in identifying the habits that must change in order to create strategic alignment, drive higher performance, and maintain team engagement. Then agree upon a few critical and doable micro behaviors that are comparatively easy to define, implement, and reinforce.

    For example, if your team needs to improve decision making, start with something small like “we will all agree on the specific decision that we are trying to make before we start trying to make it.”  Small, achievable behaviors enable progress and set the team up to “graduate” to additional decision making behaviors such as “what decision making process will we follow.”

  2. Focus On Learning and Progress
    Your team won’t succeed all at once and there will be missteps. Understand as team leader that effort, steady improvement, and learning is the aim, not immediate perfection. Encourage team members to try new habits, reflect on what worked and what did not work, and try again.

    Let them explore the feeling of the new habit and enjoy the learning process. Every time they take a step in the right direction, provide positive feedback as they discover that each attempt is an opportunity to learn and improve.

  3. Coach, Encourage, and Reinforce
    To best enable new work habits, it is your job as a change leader to ensure that your team is not afraid of making mistakes as they try new ways of thinking and behaving. Whenever possible reinforce desired habits with timely praise and support.  The more specific you can be on the behavior you want to reinforce, the more they will feel encouraged to keep it up.

    From a coaching perspective make sure that you help team members to accurately assess how they are doing, provide them with constructive feedback for improvement, and help to create an individual development plan to close any gaps.

    To best enable new work habits, your positive feedback and encouragement should outnumber your constructive feedback 5-to-1.  Why?   Research conducted by academic Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada found the ratio of positive to negative comments for the highest-performing teams was 5.6.

The Bottom Line
To enable new work habits, start with small steps, provide positive feedback, accept that changing habits is a process, and approach the process as a learning opportunity. It still will take patience and time to practice, but new habits CAN become new skills.

To learn more about how to enable new work habits, download How to Successfully Recognize and Reward Organizational Change

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