Perspectives

Behaviours first change management – resilient leadership at a time of global crisis

At a time of unprecedented global crisis putting ‘behaviours first’ has never been more important. Behaviour change is and will remain at the heart of how we together will fight COVID-19. Behaviours define who we are, what we do, and how we act. All of which have changed dramatically in a very short space of time.

A behaviours first mindset helps us to focus on what makes us uniquely human. A mindset and an outlook on life that puts the behaviours of us and those that surround us at the centre of driving forward change for the greater good. In a COVID-19 context, it is a mindset that will enable us together to fight the spread of the virus and to take the learnings from how we adapt and change in the everyday.

As a change management professional I talk to clients and my teams when delivering transformation programmes about the significance of behaviour, the importance of storytelling and the necessity to learn by doing to enact and instil behavioural change. Whilst all of these points remain true, I feel passionate about taking the positive learnings from the situation that we now find ourselves in.

As a working mum with two children three years and under I have experienced my fair share of behaviour changes over the past few years. On a personal level, there are a number of positive changes that I have made, some out of choice, and others out of necessity. In a COVID-19 context these changes have been exacerbated, leading me to change further how I behave in the everyday:

  • Appreciating the little things – Going for a walk in the sun, when the sun is out the world is beautiful. I have spent hours in my garden despite it being late March. I have watched the children interacting and growing day by day in lots of small interactions that in usual circumstances would not have taken place. And I have spoken more to my immediate family members, bringing us closer together at this uncertain time.
  • Less wasteful – I have been using leftovers, being disciplined on what food is on the daily menu and reduced my use of toilet roll (just in case the hoarders have taken it all!).
  • More resourceful – I have created new games / craft activities to do with the children and learnt how to make a good meal from what I have left in the fridge.
  • Calmed my pace of daily life – I am not in a rush to get out of the house in the morning. I have time to have a proper breakfast with my family without rushing around or travelling on an unpleasant and overcrowded tube train.

Professionally as a leader, I continue to put behaviours first in how I work with my clients and teams. However, in this COVID-19 context for me there are five priority behaviours; honesty, vulnerability, stewardship, reflection and listening.

  1. Honesty: Being truthful, trustworthy, genuine
  2. Vulnerability: On a number of levels physical, social, economic and attitudinal
  3. Stewardship: Steering the ship and providing guidance amongst a midst of uncertainty
  4. Reflection: Time to problem solve, challenge the norm and break up routines of how things are usually done
  5. Listening: Focusing on the how and the what with empathy, genuineness, respect, acceptance, non-judgement and sensitivity

So what am I doing differently as a result of focusing on these five priority behaviours?

  • More storytelling. I have been telling stories about how I am managing, what I am doing and what is and isn’t working for me (such as this blog). Storytelling is hugely powerful at times of immense change. Stories bring to life the theory, bring people together and provide examples / lessons – which in turn help to build a sense of community (albeit virtual at the moment).
  • Openly sharing my personal challenges. I am wired to share how I feel, however, I do believe that sharing personal challenges and thus bringing to the fore vulnerabilities, helps to build rapport and trust amongst teams.
  • Being disciplined with my time management. Whilst I have been doing this since returning to work after my second maternity leave, I have learnt the importance of this once more, as I balance work life and parenting all from the confines of my home. I have created a delineation between home and work by simply determining when I am present in my two roles (as mother and as worker).
  • Recognising what I value from face to face interactions. I have always been one for remote working when possible. To me it is efficient and at times far more productive but like anything it is context specific. I have therefore had time to reflect and consider what I value from being in the office and whilst it’s certainly not the daily commute, it is the informal exchanges, the sharing of stories and spending time speaking to humans rather than to humans through a machine. In our current context, this has enabled me to consider how and when I have a zoom video call, a phone call or merely take time to get work done and to not be interrupted – a discipline that I will be continuing to fine tune.
  • Doing daily exercise. I have always enjoyed exercise as a way of de-stressing and generally feeling more energised. In a time when we have limited opportunities to get outside I have adopted the discipline of walking meetings when they’re 1:1 and when the opportunity and context is right. I have been encouraging my teams to do the same as exercise helps me to get into the right headspace and to reinforce a positive outlook.

A behaviours first mindset helps to focus on what makes us uniquely human. It is a mindset and an outlook on life that puts the behaviours of us and those that surround us at the centre of driving forward change for the greater good. The lessons that I have learnt from COVID-19 thus far will change how I operate both as a mother and a business leader moving forwards. It is important to remember and cherish the little things that make us uniquely human. Behaviours first change management is a must for delivering sustainable change. Finding the value in what makes us human will pay dividends for how effective and productive we are in our personal and professional lives. Taking learnings from how we adapt and change in the everyday are a force of positivity at a time of global uncertainty. Seize the opportunity. Think behaviours first. Make change human centred.

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