The Truth About How to Influence Your Team's Behaviour
You may have come to this blog to discover the tricks and tips to influence, change or even encourage particular behaviours in your team. The unfortunate truth is, it’s not that simple. So if you were looking for a quick tip, this isn’t the place, because news flash – quick fixes don’t exist.
But I can tell where to truly start when it comes to behaviour change to ensure you don’t come across as a hypocrite, a dictatorial leader, or just plain manipulative.
Too many of the features out there on the Google landscape will tell you tips to influence your team’s behaviour that essentially treat employees as if they’re small children needing to be coerced.
Here’s a few shocking examples;
“Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed.” – If by noticed you mean becoming the target for the slack moanathon that will most likely ensue once you’ve ‘been assertive.’
“Communicate the behaviours you desire.” – You can preach to your team about their behaviour until the cows come home, doesn’t mean they’re going to listen.
“Managers need to sit with team members and monitor their performance.” – Yikes, shall we just chain them to their desk while they’re at it as well?
If you put yourself in the shoes of your team, reading some of these articles, how would you feel?
It might get your back up for starters. It might even make you feel annoyed.
Does this treat people with respect, or like they’re adults. Absolutely not.
Most of us resist being changed. No matter how you butter it up and cover it in sprinkles, we know when we’re being coerced, influenced or managed – and we all hate it.
To begin with, we hate the thought that we could be imperfect in any way. It leans into our stories of ‘not being good enough’, a feeling most of us have even if we haven’t got the consciousness to realise it yet.
And further still, we hate when someone is preaching to us about our behaviour, especially when the preacher’s own behaviour is barely perfect. We go the opposite way.
“Who do you think you are!”
You might just have to change first...
Imagine it like a pendulum.
You want to swing them towards behaviours YOU see as desirable.
But instead, you only push them in the other direction.
As Brene Brown says, “people love the idea of culture transformation, but won’t change themselves.”
And that’s the crux of it.
You may have to change yourself before you even think about polishing up your team’s behaviours.
We don’t influence change by nagging or telling people what to do. We influence positive change the most, when we’re truly, authentically showing up and doing our best.
If you’re sat here thinking, “ No Lizzie, I need to change my team, but not myself. Well, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Welcome to the beginning of your journey.”
Where do workplace behaviours come from?
Before we can go further you need to understand that behaviours are a product of underlying beliefs.
Behaviours are a symptom of a cause.
Every way we act. Every choice and decision we make is based on beliefs, values, mindsets, perceptions, and the climate of the environment we find ourselves in. There is a myriad of reasons we act and behave the way we do. Yes, sorry to upset the apple cart, but even as the person you are right now is a byproduct of something you believe in. Right down to the way you dress.
In organisational behaviour, this has best been explained by cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall, who pioneered the study of nonverbal communication and interactions.
Hall developed the iceberg analogy of culture in 1976, and it remains highly relevant today and is one of the most used analogies in organisational psychology and workplace transformation.
As with an iceberg, behaviours are only at the top of what we can see, but deep below there is a large proportion of influences hidden beneath the surface.
From the diagram of the Cultural Iceberg you can see that it’s not just one thing that shapes our behaviour, but various factors that all contribute.
Wondering why people act the way they do at work?
You only need to dive deep below the surface to understand what it could be that’s shaping the behaviours coming up in your organisation.
News flash – it might not be a personal problem, but a culture problem.
Your mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself. Mindset influences how you think, feel and behave.
We have personal mindsets from our experiences and our upbringing. However, even companies have mindsets or stories about their people and culture.
For example, a positive culture mindset could be;
“I know everyone that works here is doing their best.”
Or a negative culture mindset could be;
“People are only here to get paid.”
Without you consciously knowing it, your culture mindset becomes the collective mindset of your team, because it comes across in your actions and behaviours.
The way you treat people, says everything about your organisational mindset.
And here’s the extraordinary part. Our mindsets are just beliefs, but we often feel so strongly about them we believe them to be true. This means our mindsets then shape our thoughts, feelings and therefore our actions and behaviours.
Alter the climate...
Imagine climate as the mood of your company. What are the moods or feelings that your team experiences in your company culture?
Climate is critical to behaviour because we are feeling-beings, and how we feel hugely influences how we behave.
If you have a cultural mood where people are treading on eggshells and scared of speaking up, yet you want a team who comes up with new ideas. Well, those two things just don’t mix, because that fear-driven climate crushes creativity. Quite literally, it’s been found by numerous studies on the brain that when we’re in fight or flight mode, we simply do not have the physiological capacity to be creative. We can’t access that part of the brain because it’s too focused on survival.
Climate is undervalued, but it’s often an immediate human instinct you feel when you’ve walked into a space.
It’s the energy and mood you can pick up on without anyone having to say a single word to you.
The best example I’ve ever heard is when you’re on holiday and you walk into a local pub. You know immediately from the atmosphere if this is going to be a place that welcomes you or watches your every move.
Live your values...
What gets rewarded, gets encouraged.
You may say your culture is living by one set of values but is your money where your mouth is?
As Todd Whitacker says, “The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate.”
You could be rewarding great behaviour, but do you have the courage to pull people up on the behaviours that do the most damage. You cannot have one without the other.
If you haven’t been clear about your values and expectations you will soon begin to see the behaviours unravel in front of you.
My honest advice...
You will never change a team’s behaviour if you don’t address the following areas of your company culture.
Work on yourself first.
Have you done the personal-development work to ensure that you, as a leader, or even in your job role are showing up as your best self? Do you have the right mindset and the right attitude?
When poor behaviour arises how do you approach it?
Do you let it slide or are you pulling people up in the moment?
Letting toxic behaviour such as aggression or disrespect cannot just be left for the next appraisal or performance review. It needs to be addressed immediately.
Understand what your culture is encouraging.
Take a step back and assess your company culture. What things could be happening that are encouraging such behaviours?
To help, you could take my short Company Culture Audit.
And last of all, do you have a solid culture in place to begin with?
The earlier you establish a strong company culture, the better off you will be as you grow. And the less likely you will have behavioural problems going forward.
If you need more help or support reach out, as I’d love to help you navigate your culture changes.