When I facilitate Management Development courses I notice that the biggest challenge managers face is their people. Invariably when we do coaching practice on the programmes the issues that managers bring for coaching are around their people and specifically their ‘difficult’ people.
Usually what makes their ‘difficult’ people difficult is
- they don’t want to do what their managers want them to do
- their behaviour is upsetting their manager or their team mates
- all the conversations with them are difficult
So, what can we do? How can we change people’s behaviour? In reality, we can’t! We can’t change how other people behave…
However we can…
- incentivise people to behave differently, so be clear about the behaviours we want to see & reward those behaviours or make the benefits of behaving in the way we want them to outweigh what they get from their current behaviour
- penalise people – so have undesirable consequences for undesirable behaviour
- simply raise people’s awareness of how their behaviours impact …on them …on you …on the wider team (when I say simply I don’t mean that raising people’s awareness of their behaviours is easy, I mean that we simply raise their awareness – not doing anything differently other than helping them to observe their behaviours)
So, we can’t change others, we can only raise their awareness and change the environment in which the behaviour takes place, i.e. influence.
One of the main ways of influencing how another person behaves (and often the most overlooked!) is to change the way we behave. For example changing slightly the way we communicate with someone can have a radical impact on our relationship with that person.
Often we have given up on our ‘difficult’ people and have accepted that that’s just the way they are without ever really modifying our behaviours and trying something different. We make it all about them but relationships and conversations are as much about us as they are about them. Sometimes we spend hours complaining about them (to anyone who will listen!) not realising that we could spend a fraction of that time doing something different with that person that would make a real difference to our relationship with them.
So, bring to mind a person who you regularly have ‘difficult’ conversations with…
- What is your expectation of the conversation with them beforehand? What might happen if you had different expectations?
- How are you contributing to those difficult conversations? What are you doing? What are you not doing?
- Suppose your relationship with that person was the best it could possibly be, how would you be communicating with them then?
- When was your relationship better and how did that play out in your conversations?
Remember that although we can’t control other peoples’ behaviours, we can influence them, which reminds me of the quote “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wishing you courage, serenity & wisdom 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach