Tag Archives: Change Management

The Easiest Way to Change Behavior with Craig Ferguson

There is so much written about the ways a leader can enact behavior change. We can discuss the power of social norms, habit formation, change management, or any number of behavior modification techniques, but maybe that’s overthinking it. Maybe Craig Ferguson has found the simplest, more effective solution.

In a recent interview, television host, comedian, director, and author Craig Ferguson discussed one particular behavior that he’s worked to improve—being a good person—and how his “complex” methodology has helped:

I do not believe that thought makes behavior; I believe that behavior makes thought. So if you want to be a good person, job number one: Do something nice. Resist the temptation to be a dick. And then, very quickly, the universe will stop making you a dick. You’ll stop feeling like a dick because you’re not acting like a dick. If you don’t act like a dick, you’re not a dick. Sometimes I want to do some really awful shit, but I don’t do it, therefore, I’m not in jail.

I could write an essay on why this approach will work, but the lesson is clear—if you act a certain way, you are more likely to become that way. We can question sincerity or the problems associated with pretending, but the truth remains that change follows action, and nothing changes without action.

So if you want to enact behavior change, start making the change. You want to be considered a leader who empowers others? Start empowering them. You want to be considered ethical? Act ethically. If your goal is to be a better leader, don’t over analyze it; take action.

Three Ways to Provide Meaningful Context with Questlove

Ever had a new, ingenious idea that was met with a thud? I’m sure YOU haven’t but you’ve probably seen it happen to others. I was speaking with a CEO recently who had been working on an exciting new direction for her company. She had questions about strategy, but what we really should have been discussing was her communication plan when launching it.

At the company-wide unveiling, she eagerly revealed the plan. There were charts and graphs and every other quantifiable measure to support her idea. And then there was silence—a bleak, soul crushing silence.

It turns out that no one, including her leadership team, had any inkling this was coming. They thought they were attending a quarterly review, not a turn-the-world-upside-down upheaval. Change, in itself, can be scary, but what’s even scarier is when you don’t understand the what’s, why’s, and how’s. What my colleague was missing was context.

Context involves our ability to interrelate something you already know with whatever change we’d like to instill. Questlove, a music aficionado, record producer, and drummer/joint frontman for The Roots, recently discussed this on Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin:

No one has ever had success in music without being contextualized in an artistic community. So, you think you like Stevie Wonder, but no, you associate Stevie Wonder with Smokie [Robinson], The Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Motown family… The only people that had success without a family or contextualization are one-hit wonders… Everyone is associated with a movement. Look at The Police. They were part of that post-punk movement, early new wave movement, Talking Heads. Even if they don’t do it by design, we as consumers think that.

Just as no one has ever had success in music without being contextualized, no leader is successful in business without contextualizing their ideas. With context, the leader sets the tone so they can initiate commitment and support for change. It taps into individuals’ established schemas and mental models so they can create the mental links necessary to apply the new information to their construction of reality. If this seems complicated, these three simple techniques can help you provide context to your team.

Know thy audience. Everything is interpreted through someone’s context. It shapes the meaning in all communication. Thus, when your message is delivered in a context that is not compatible with the audience, miscommunication is inevitable. Maintain an understanding as to what your audience already knows and how they are most receptive to learning.

Squash fears. Change is often associated with fear, and fear is often associated with a lack of understanding. So illustrate how the new plan meshes with the current strategy. Explain what, if anything, it is replacing. Describe how it will reallocate resources, job duties, etc. and how it will affect individual employees.

Provide history. Every new concept has a background, a past. It may involve an update, revision, or enhancement to a current concept; a best practice; or a new industry standard…but it didn’t materialize out of thin air. Plot out the history so others can visualize how the project started and why it is necessary.

Very often we assume others can comprehend these connections without explanation; after all, it is so clear to us. However, as in the case of the aforementioned CEO, she had been thinking about her new direction for almost two years before the launch. That is two years of pondering, brainstorming, and intellectualizing. Two years of making the associations she needed to bridge the gap between her vision and the current state of the company. Two years of contextualizing.

Want to learn from her misstep? Inform your team of the issue at hand through a workable framework. Address their concerns. Give them the background information you already possess so they can visualize the decision making leading up to your resolution. It may not seem like much, but it’s the context they need to associate your new Stevie Wonder with their classic Smokie Robinson.

Craig Ferguson on Informed Deconstruction

Craig FergusonWhen I speak with newly hired leaders, I find myself advising them to avoid bashing their new company. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is actually quite common. The newbie was brought in to “fix” a problem so there’s a sense of empowerment that the current system is wrong and their way will be right. Craig Ferguson had a similar experience.

Craig Ferguson is a comedian, director, and author who hosts the game show Celebrity Name Game and History Channel’s Join or Die with Craig Ferguson. In his former role as host of the Peabody Award-winning The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Craig wanted it to be different, unlike the other late night talk shows. As discussed in a recent interview,

You realize that you can’t throw out things until you know why they’re there. So like the convention of a talk show, I kept as much as I thought was of any use. And there was some that they made me keep. They said, ‘You gotta do a monologue. You have to have that piece of you every night at that time.’ And then they give you reasons like, ‘We’ll fire you if you don’t.’

He relearned this when he started Celebrity Name Game:

You have to learn how to do the format. I thought I was going to be a wise ass. I went into it thinking, ‘I’m not going to do a traditional game show.’ And I watched the first episodes back and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and I was like, ‘Who’s in charge?’ You couldn’t tell. There were a bunch of people moving around and they all looked the same.

What Craig and every leader must understand is that we must understand the structure before deconstructing it. Here are three ways to begin your deconstruction.

Start with data gathering. To make any substantial changes, we need to know why the process flows the way it does, how decisions were made, and who set the priorities. Then we can begin to draft informed, strategic solutions to correct or enhance the system.

Depersonalize the problem. When someone joins an organization with immediate critiques, they find out too late that their disparaging comments alienated the team and lost some much needed support. Find a way to deliver the negative comments in a softer, less disparaging manner. Justify why it needs to change with facts and make the team part of the solution.

No one care about your past job. I’ve told many leaders to avoid the phrase, “At my last company…” This brag does not impress anyone, nor does it validate your argument. Own the idea and sell it on merit. If you get pushback, maybe say, “I’ve seen this work before.”

Like Craig, we must understand why things are the ways they are before making changes. A wrecking ball approach may feel good, but processes, priorities, and programs were instituted for a reason. They are ingrained in the culture and some individuals feel personally accountable for developing and maintaining them. This may feel like it will slow you down, but cleaning up your botched efforts will take much longer.

Weekender: Bryan Cranston on Courageous Personal Growth

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 10: Actor Bryan Cranston poses for a portrait at the Broadcast Television Journalists Association's Third Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards on June 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for CCTA)

Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a gram of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a gram? Because it’s the weekend!

It’s easy to get into a rut. It starts with being too comfortable, then you’re resisting changes that challenge your comfort, and before you know it, you sound like a colleague of mine who told me yesterday, “Why bother changing my leadership style? This has worked for a long time so I’ll do it when the CEO directs the entire management team to do it.”

For a little context, she’s only 32 years old (not quite an “old dog who can’t learn a new trick”) and all I suggested was that she start asking more questions when she meets with her team. If she’s reading this, and I hope she is, maybe Bryan Cranston can provide a more convincing argument then I did.

You can either take a proactive or a reactive point of view. And we know a lot of people that are like, ‘Hey, do you need a job flipping burger?’ [And their response is] ‘Guess I’m flipping burgers now.’… You’re reacting to stimulus as oppose to forging ahead and saying, ‘No, I don’t want that.’

So if you put yourself in a position to increase your odds of having an experience, that’s where you want to be. You want to try something new. You want to be courageous and do something that you have not done before… As we get older, we have a tendency to say, ‘This is what I do and this is what I don’t do.’ We stagnate in our growth. Even if it’s a small thing, take a chance. Try it.

Find the courage to take proactive steps in developing you and your team. Don’t allow passive “Guess I’m doing _________ now.” Instead, generate a culture where people feel empowered. This will enable them to own their actions, not fall into them. And with empowerment comes engagement, increased productivity, and a team that thrives on continuous self-improvement.

Weekender: Richie Sambora on Authenticity

richie-samboraWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a ‘shot through the heart’ to kick start your weekend. Why just a shot? Because it’s the weekend!

The “fake it ‘til to make it” approach is an effective way to embody the persona you’d like to become, but what happens when your new self strays too far from your authentic self? In a recent interview, legendary guitarist Richie Sambora discussed how being true to their sound made Bon Jovi the success they are.

I think [our success was about] good songs and the authenticity didn’t really change. You know, you can’t all of a sudden [be] Bon Jovi and turn into f–kin’ Pink Floyd! Some bands try that and it doesn’t work. Stick to who you are and be authentic — I think that was a big part of it — and then just go out there and work.

Whether or not you realize it, you earn a reputation for behaving in a particular way. So when you start acting in a manner that is counter to this view, people question your motives, dependability, and truthfulness. This does not mean you should stop evolving and growing, just consider how you enact this change.

  • Start slow. Pepper in the “new” you so others don’t feel the change is drastic.
  • Explain yourself. Tell people why you feel the need to make a change.
  • Ask around. Once the change is in place, gauge how others perceive you.

Sambora mentioned that Bon Jovi should not turn into Pink Floyd, but wouldn’t you love to hear their rendition of Another Brick in the Wall? They simply need to do it in a style that is authentic to who they are without trying to replicate Pink Floyd’s version. You need to do the same. There’s no need to be livin’ on a prayer, just remain authentic to yourself when developing and expanding your identity.