Goal setting for behaviour change

| 29 January 2021

Many of us struggle to agree goals with our team members around ‘behaviour change’ or ‘interpersonal/people skills’.

We might say something like ‘I’d like you to be more proactive’ or ‘more of a team player’ or ‘more assertive’.

But these statements are way too vague and open to interpretation.

So, let’s get rid of the ambiguity with my two-step process. 

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want Sue to improve her communication skills.

Step One 

Ask yourself: What’s the impact of Sue’s communication skills on you or others?
Say it out loud or write it down as if you were telling a story or talking to a friend.

You might say:
‘Sue’s great but she’ll never use two words when twenty will do. She’s unprepared a lot of the time and she waffles so we get confused and lose interest. She seems completely unaware that people are looking at their watches and switching off when she talks. She wants a promotion but, in all honesty, although her skills are great, she doesn’t have the impact or gravitas that she should’.


Step Two

Focus on what you want for Sue – not what you don’t want. Here are some examples:

  • I want Sue to prepare for the monthly meeting with no more than six key bullet points outlining the key points she wants to raise.
  • I want Sue to check the team’s understanding by asking an open question such as ‘Paul, how does what I’m saying impact on the xyz project?’
  • I want Sue to speak for no more than 2 minutes before pausing and asking a question.

These are very specific. 

They are also very do-able.

You could argue that they are too prescriptive or too directive.

But in this case, they’re a great way of getting Sue started. (You can build on these further down the line).

You can of course adopt a non-directive approach and ask Sue to come up with her own solutions or ideas for improving her communication rather than providing your own.

And you will of course ask her how you can help or what feedback she would like as she makes the changes.

Sue is much more likely to grow her impact and gravitas AND she stands much more chance of getting that promotion than if you’d just asked her to ‘improve her communication skills’.

This process works like a dream when we’re focusing on behaviour change.