SBM Articles


How To Shift Awareness To Changed Behavior

by Judy Ryan

Imagine you have toxic, disengaged (“quiet quitting”) behaviors in your workplace. Everything you read and measure shows this negatively impacts your growth, profitability and reputation. The facts confirm that the effective people in your organization are personally responsible and fully engaged. This means irresponsible thinking and behaving must change. The question becomes: How do you get toxic and disengaged people to change their mindsets and behavior? In my work helping organizations and individuals adopt responsibility-based ways of operating, the most challenging and crucial path to success is shifting your people from awareness to managing and changing their behavior.

Many Would Rather Avoid Behavior Change
Once you recognize that the most effective people are those who accept responsibility for their behavior and own all their tasks, the question then becomes ‘how do I help all my people do this?’ In our culture model, transfer of responsibility to people so they pick it up is the essence of leadership development in all. They adopt task ownership and manage their own relationships, productivity, engagement, and progress. What are some barriers (and solutions) to this? These are common:

- Analysis Paralysis: Wikipedia describes this as “an individual or group process where overanalyzing or overthinking (I add over-speaking) a situation can cause forward motion or decision-making to become “paralyzed”, meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon within a natural time frame”. Often this takes the forms of re-hashing the details of a story, justifying a current position, blaming others, gossiping, and speaking fearfully about the discomfort of changing one’s mind and behavior. Solution: Create structures that prohibit naming names, telling stories, or justifying the status quo. (For us, this is our mentoring process and how to apply tools.) In our mentoring and mediation strategies, we help people interrupt these behaviors and promote responsibility with What, How and When questions rather than Why (analysis) or Who (blaming) questions. This sounds like, “What will you do?”, “How will you do it?”, and “When will you put your plan into play?”

- Blaming and Justifying: Samuel Arbesman in his popular quote on change blindness says: Most of us don’t want to go out of our way to change (put in the effort) nor do we want to consider that our current ways of thinking and behaving need to be upgraded. Our egoic selves would rather blame and justify instead. Solution: Help people identify and listen to their better angels. For us this is two-fold. First, help them choose and focus on intention and purpose; meaningful change they commit to cause. This shifts them from fear and self-protection, to love and contribution. The latter inspires determination and courage to go out of one’s way and upgrade. Second, help them recognize what Cloud intimates, “We avoid change until pain motivates us” by teaching them costs (e.g., burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, loss) for blaming and justifying.

- Procrastination: If I can talk endlessly about taking new actions, I can procrastinate in actually doing so. I see that even in circumstances where people have created psychological safety and new skills, the step of putting something new in motion is similar to a child being afraid to jump off the diving board. Like dieting, the idea is, “I’ll start tomorrow.” We call this consciously incompetent and unhelpful. While some time is needed to build courage and conviction, the most helpful thing we can do is support the shift to occur. This is when we most help others hold themselves accountable. Solution: As Buscaglia says above in essence, “Knowing we are capable of change is only step one; we must decide to change.” The greatest solution for procrastination is reminding others that barriers have been cleared, support is present, and they alone are standing in the way of progress. This combined with encouragement, empowers others to ‘take the leap.’

Emotional and social intelligence requires each of us move from self- and social-awareness to self- and social-management. Doing so is what actualizes positive change. This is where what’s ‘in the head’ becomes ‘lived in the heart and actions’ of each person.

Judy Ryan (, human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!

Submitted 1 years 50 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
Views: 611