You know those movies where the guy says, “I could tell ya, but if I told ya, I’d have to kill ya”? My second company, the one that did computer crime investigation, had that sort of atmosphere. The problem was, I had a fantastic employee, who was an asset to the company except for one thing—he was a loud talker. In a company where total security matters, loud talkers aren’t good to have around talking about your confidential cases. They talk and ya gotta....get them to change.
It's not easy but with the right approach you can change people’s motivations, which result in their changing those habits you don’t like.
Here are six simple ways you can help employees to get over their bad habits:
1. Blame the habit. It’s not them. It’s the habit. Don’t make it personal. Recognize that the problem you are trying to fix is not the person, but his or her bad habit that is hurting business. Show them that you’re on the same team and talk with them about how you can tackle changes together.
2. One person at a time. You save your company the way you save the world—one person at a time. If you want to change the way multiple people are behaving, talk to them one at a time, starting with the person who has the most influence among the group. When you change the leader you tap into their influence with the group, making the whole process a lot easier on you.
3. One problem at a time. We know “multi-tasking,” like answering your e-mail and talking to a client at the same time, doesn't work. This pertains to problem-solving, too—it's best to solve one problem at a time. Even small changes can be overwhelming if you try to change too much at once. Start with the easiest change. Then go to the next easiest. Build momentum for the major changes.
4. Apply peer pressure. I don’t mean bullying. Try a teamwork approach. Invite the employee to come up with ideas on how their colleagues can help them by enforcing sanctions that encourage change. Make the motivation method fit the employee—they’ve got to want it. Whatever you come up with, reward the person for doing the right thing rather than punish them for doing the wrong thing.
5. Remove the cause to kill the symptom. The thing you want to change is typically a symptom of a deeper habit. Rewind and determine what causes the symptom. Fix the cause and the bad habit goes away. Until you get to the root of the problem, and fix that, you’ll just be swapping out symptoms and the change won’t really take hold. For example, if you’ve got an employee who is always late, find out why and find a solution rather than punishing them for the symptom—tardiness.
6. Start a dollar jar. Ever notice how everyone around you can see the food on your shirt and tie but you? The most obvious things are often not obvious to the person who needs to see them. First clearly point out to the employee, what he or she is doing that you want them to stop. Then, make sure they’re in agreement with stopping. Once you have their buy-in to changing, devise a system where their subconscious habit becomes a conscious thing. It could be a dollar jar (where they put a dollar in the jar every time a habit occurs that needs to stop), or you could create a checklist they must use so you bypass the subconscious and create new habits. Making the habit conscious is more important than the mechanism you use.
If all that sounds like a lot of work, consider how much more work it’s causing you to not help foster change. Also, when you hit on the right approach, it’s not as much work as you’d think. My loud talker took much less effort than I thought. I used a penny jar, and after a mere 48 cents, we had positive change.
Mike Michalowicz is CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that help companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, as well as a popular blog for entrepreneurs.