From abstractions to elements to concrete behaviour → understanding → certainty → behaviour change that is empirically measureable.
For Choice or Design Driven Change to take place, hundreds of conversations need to take place day in and day out, whilst organic change occurs silently and often goes unnoticed.
Those conversations and indeed, corporate presentations take place at conferences, off sites, in meetings and corridor chats and if we listen carefully we will hear some common themes and language patterns. These themes and language patterns may just hold the secret to success in producing the elusive changing of BEHAVIOURS that we so often talk about.
As we already know, if a behaviour is to change, we need to know what the previous or now undesired behaviour was/is. Even more importantly, what exactly, specifically and concretely, the desired behaviour needs to be. That is, what will it LOOK like when we DO it, and what will is SOUND like when we DO it? If the descriptor is clear and specific the likelihood of the new Behaviour turning up is far higher. We do already know that to be true.
Back to those language patterns, they frequently include some of the following words: engagement, empowerment, accountability, communication, cross group/function, ownership, commitment, integration and the list can go on and on. And inside your head you’re likely wondering if things like engagement and empowerment are actually happening.
We all use language as our tool for being understood, yet we know very little consciously of how language use creates understanding or doesn’t.
Rather than going into complex linguistic analysis, let us look at a very simple pattern that does occur almost every time that understanding happens.
Successful conversations take place at three different levels:
E.g. accountability, engagement. Conversations with this type of language are very common.
(NOTE: This type of conceptual language is easy to agree on, yet hard to get shared understanding).
E.g. Some elements that might be involved in ACCOUNTABILITY could be:
- Take a clear brief
- Confirm and agree on brief
- Delivery or renegotiation
- Feedback on completion
- Debrief improvement opportunities
- Coach someone else.
(These are very rare conversations). This level is the link between abstract and concrete language and a primary stimulus to behaviour change turning up.
3. Specific concrete behaviours for one or each element
E.g. the type of question that might be asked to get down to the concrete measureable behaviours would be:
- What concrete, observable behaviours would be happening if we were taking a clear brief?
- What would we be seeing, hearing or specifically doing if we were taking a clear brief as you would want it to be?
The answer to that may be:
- Acknowledging what we hear and understood or checking that what we heard is correct
- Asking specific clarifying questions about the scope, time-frame or the do’s and don’ts
- Summarising what has been agreed
- Raising some concerns that have been overlooked in the brief that you know to be valid.
You will note that now we are in non-ambiguous, concrete territory. The above four behaviours can without ambiguity be videoed and/or audibly recorded as empirical evidence that the behaviours are taking place.
It also means that the person receiving the initial request for ACCOUNTABILITY now knows exactly what it is that is required of them in concrete behavioural terms. And that conversation in those three levels takes but a minute and could save hours or days.
If we were to put to work this simple three-step process of structuring our ‘behaviour change conversations’ we may never have to go through the following type of situations again.
You are in one of many meetings; you have just heard a proposition or a brief put forward that sounded really convincing, and was delivered compellingly. Everyone non-verbally signalled they understood or agreed or both, and then later you discovered how you heard it did not match up with how someone else, who was at the same meeting heard it. Or worse still, you heard what was said and had no idea what it really meant or how it would be applicable to you. Added to that there was no Q&A time, thus you left without the clarity that you require to do what was asked.
So, to ensure that never needs to happen again, do an experiment over the next two weeks. Try the ‘THREE LAYER CONVERSATION’ and go from Abstract to Elements to Concrete behaviours and see what happens.
Look for the following: → understanding → certainty → behaviour change
Enjoy the exploration.