Behavior Change

One of the important things I do with my clients is behavior modification. That means I show them another way of doing something that achieves a desired result that they have been unable to obtain or in a way that does it better. And as most people default to being resistant to change, the benefits of the change must be observably and measurably apparent by my client.

Some of the changes seem small, but as we are all creatures of habit, it still takes ongoing coaching for that change to become their new default behavior. For example, I have a client that was having trouble with one of his clients. Email after email was going back and forth with no resolution and continued frustration. He was ready to write another more detailed email when I asked him if he had tried picking up the phone and calling the person. After some protests, the answer was “no”. Eventually he defiantly said, “I’ll call them and outline their options clearly, like I did in the emails”. I coached that he considers calling the client, acknowledging there is an issue, but then to just ask what they want to do and then not say a word. “Why would I do that?” I told him that when people are cornered they will defend their position much more than they really need to and that by asking them what they want to do you keep your options open (and your power) and they might surprise you with their response. He gave it a go and the issue was resolved immediately without continued drama. And my continued steps in this situation are to make sure he is getting on the phone with people as his default, which has now grown to him wanting to become an accomplished public speaker and recognized expert in his field.

So by a minor modification of his behavior, with continued coaching to make sure it sticks, my client is evolving at a rapid pace. And I’m excited for him! He is quickly becoming ready to grow his business at a high rate.

The key to “selling” behavior modification is that it has to be seen as value added, just like any other purchase a consumer makes. As coaches we are selling a better way. We offer the promise of a path to success and growth. Follow us and you’ll be less stressed, and the quality of your life will improve. Like a religion, believe in us and you’ll find salvation for your business and thus your life. Follow our scriptures and you will be saved. I’m obviously being a bit dramatic here, but the point is that behavior change requires that the client believes that the right change will help them achieve their goals, even if they don’t exactly know what their goals are. In other words, they have to be willing to overcome their resistance to change and to commit to evolving beyond the ways they have done things in the past.

A second example would be a business I work with that has become used to not getting back to their clients quickly or effectively dealing with the frustration their clients express over this. They are extremely busy all of the time (another issue we are addressing in multiple ways) and are feeling beat down to the point that they have convinced themselves this is acceptable. When they relayed this to me I was quiet for a few seconds and then asked them, “so you are okay with this?” Of course they said they weren’t okay with this, but that they didn’t know what to do about. I suggested that calling upset clients back immediately was a good idea because clients you currently have are much more cost effective to keep then going out and trying to get new clients. Then I went silent. Knowing my background as a business owner they asked how I dealt with this kind of situation in the past. “First of all, at my company everyone knew our goal was to be the best retailer in our industry in the country. Everyone was onboard with this goal. And when things did go wrong with a customer I always took the complete blame, as minimally I had hired the employee that frustrated them”. The next day my clients sent me scripts they had written for how all clients are greeted in person or over the phone. They laid out, in detail, how all incoming calls and client visits were handled. And that everyone was called back within the hour, if not sooner. They wrote how they planned to address their immediate and long-range goals to their staff at an upcoming luncheon they were doing for the entire staff.

So how did extremely busy clients suddenly have the time to detail important changes they were ready to make in how they interact with their clients and with their employees? The answer is that their default resistance to change was overcome by the dissatisfaction with how things were currently, particularly in the new light I cast on it. Minor (but huge for them) behavior change was beginning. Their belief that a coach could help them improve and head down the path to achieving their goals helped them find the will and the time to make positive behavior change. It’s like a switch was flipped and suddenly they could see the light. Their mood instantly improved, as did their resolve to use this as a springboard for other changes as well.

We are all creatures of habit. And most of those habits are good. They let us know how to act in repetitive situations, so we don’t have to reinvent these acts continually. Like knowing which setting you like the toaster on for your favorite bagels or leaving your keys in the same place so you can find them quickly the next day. But the habits that are bad have a huge negative impact on your life and business. Being grumpy with employees or being defensive about poor quality reports you’re producing is really no different than drinking too much or riding a motorcycle recklessly in that the results can be negatively life altering to your business and/or your quality of life.

To recap, one of the important things I do with my clients is help them with behavior modification that positively helps them achieve their goals. As coaches we are charged with having the skills, experience and insight to help our clients see a better and more productive path forward. Then we help them follow the path and hold the accountable to do so. And what is better for your work and business is better for your life, because they are ultimately the same thing.


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