Five Ways to Influence Behaviour in Your Agency

As a leader in a company, being able to lead takes a great part of your role. While you obviously can’t directly control your employees (and wouldn’t want to if you could) you carry the responsibility for how they behave under your management. But this doesn’t mean just taking it on the chin whatever your employees decide to do – it means using your management skills to influence them to behave more in line with the business’s goals.

B = f(P, E)

This equation by psychologist Kurt Lewin shows a formula that determines our behaviour.

B = Behaviour, f = a function of, P = Person (personality) & E = Environment (both social and physical).

Our personalities change very little during our life and are somewhat fixed; therefore, to be effective in influencing behaviours, you must first create, control or alter the environment to suit your desired behavioural outcomes.

Here are five ways you, as a leader, can influence the behaviour of your employees.

1. Document and communicate the behaviours you desire

Sometimes your employees might be acting in a way they don’t realise is undesirable simply because you’ve never communicated this to them.

As a leader, you set the standards for the company. If there’s ambiguity around what is and isn’t appropriate, this is only going to fuel those that wish to behave in a manner that’s in conflict with the greater aims of the company.

Don’t be afraid to be explicit about things. Your employees will be happy if not for the guidelines themselves, but simply for the fact you’re upfront and clear about what behaviours support the company values and culture as well as the ones that don’t.

2. Be an inspirational model to follow

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, CEO and President respectively of the leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman wrote in Harvard Business Review that inspiring employees is the most effective strategy to get them to act, rather than ordering them around.

They split behaviour management into either push or pull methods – you can push employees towards the behaviours your want, or you can pull them along by setting the example and making them want to follow by their own accord.

There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating for an employee than to be told to do one thing while the boss does another. True, different roles often mean different behaviours and actions are necessary. But if you want your employees to be polite, for example, you must be polite yourself. Inspiring them to act like you is far more effective than telling them to do as you say, not as you do.

For this to work you must base the values and culture of the company on your personal values and natural behaviours, this will enable you to lead by example with integrity and true authenticity.

3. Don’t point out every negative behaviour

As anyone with children will be able to tell you, sometimes the more you remind someone of a behavioural change, the less likely they are to do it. The cause of this is often unclear; perhaps it’s a strategy to demonstrate autonomy and self-direction. No one wants to feel as though they’re being controlled, so rebelling against constant demands is one way to show you won’t be pushed around.

Whatever the cause, nagging only serves to irritate and annoy. It’s the ultimate bad ‘push’ method. Use a more reassuring communication strategy instead, as influencing your employees and motivating them to do what you expect them to do requires communication techniques rather than constant orders.

One great concept is ‘Spotlighting and Highlighting’. Spotlighting is recognising the positive and desired behaviours of an individual and then letting them know personally. Highlighting is recognising the positive and desired behaviours of an individual and then letting the whole team know publicly.

4. Have a highly visible scoreboard

While it’s always important to set performance targets for individuals, it’s also wise to do so for the entire team. The simple act of setting a team goal reminds everyone what they’re aiming for, that they’re all jointly responsible for getting there, and that they need to align their behaviour in step with the team.

Team goals also help individuals connect to the results of their work – a key element in effectively motivating team members is by having a visible scoreboard. This allows everyone to see where they are up to at any point in time, they can then self-adjust their behaviour to meet the set targets and goals as an individual and as a team.

5. Document and regularly challenge the standard procedures

In another of Zenger and Folkman’s findings, the leaders that can bring change are the leaders that are not afraid to go against “the ways things are done around here”. Instead of accepting the status quo as the best way, the most effective leaders inspire people to think outside the box and create an environment that encourages new ideas and supports the required behaviours.

This works in two ways – it shows the employees that the leader is willing to be open-minded and look for better solutions. It also communicates what different behaviours are accepted. This can be particularly helpful if an established Agency is looking to change direction or become more innovative.


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