There are many ways to introduce, trigger and spread behaviours in organizations, but not many of them are effective and sustainable. Triggering behaviours is the easy bit. Everybody can do it. We, human beings, are doing it all the time. Spreading them is a bit more difficult, but still doable. Making it sustainable, this is another matter. Not many approaches do the trick. In Viral ChangeTM we succeed all the time due to the bottom up and peer-to-peer methodology that we use.
But sometimes mangers wish there was a way to inject a behaviour, create a habit or, more frequently, deal with difficult behaviours that have a hard time getting embedded in the culture.
One good example is in the difficulties that many managers encounter in giving performance feedback. And most of the time, when people say this, they refer to difficult conversations and difficult or negative feedback. It is very common to hear, ‘perhaps we are too nice’, or ‘we don’t dare’, or ‘it just does not happen’, ‘it is not in our DNA’. IT becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the issue, an important one.
I suggest that it may be good to try to get there by the back door. This is the back door. Imagine that you create a rule that every single meeting has to end by soliciting feedback from each of the participants. Noting dramatic, even a score of satisfaction 1 to 10. Most people, most organizations, have an agenda for meetings. Include a few minutes feedback session. As a rule. If you have the discipline of an agenda, you won’t have much difficulty within the discipline of giving feedback at the end. It may start as a simple feedback, it may evolve to a more sophisticated feedback from person-to-person. It does not matter.
After a while, this will become normal. How many meetings per day do you have in the organization? Dozens? Hundreds? Imagine all of them ‘practice feed back’!
Of course, I am not talking about the same feedback as above, the difficult performance management conversations. Instead of focusing, sometimes with high energy, on ‘training everybody to give (performance) feedback’, and getting nowhere, you make feedback ‘normal’ in easier and less ‘threatening’ situations, such as at the end of a meeting. You will end up making feedback easier in general, period. In the meetings and outside meetings. The taboo may disappear. After all, ‘practising giving feedback’ will be already happening possibly in massive numbers.
That is the back door. Find something that facilitates the behaviour somewhere different from the area of the problem. Multiply, create a critical mass (norm, habit), and that will infect other areas. It’s a praxis, a habit, a practice, something people do, versus, a process, a mountain, a difficult one.