Tag Archives: behaviour change

By any other name…

Having worked on a couple of projects in Russia, I was interested to see this news item on BBC today.

“Russia classifies beer as alcoholic”

The idea of beer being thought of as “soft” drink got me thinking about the influence the names we give to things influence our behaviour. It reminded me of my first day at Grammar School – in fact the first few minutes!

Our form master introduced himself to us and then gave us some of the basic rules and spelt out the expected behaviour standards. He went on to say …

“You are now at the Grammar School and you are here to learn.
We don’t have a playground, we have a school yard,
we don’t have playtime, we have morning and afternoon break …”

It set the scene and we were left in no doubt that we had to “put away childish things”! I don’t know what effect it had on our creativity but it sure pointed us in the direction of study.

Do the names you give to things in your business have a positive or negative effect on the way you behave?

Could you change people’s attitudes to issues such as performance management, appraisal and staff engagement if you called them something else?

What would could you call them and how would it help?

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You can have too much of a good thing – apparently!

If you’ve ever tried to change attitudes and behaviours, you will know that it is crucial to be consistent with your message. Whatever you do, make sure that all of your words and actions reinforce the change you want and never, ever do or say anything which undermines it.

I know it seems like walking a tightrope at times – hard to do and easy to fall.

Remember that actions speak louder than words! Especially if the actions don’t match the words – people are very sensitive to that.

This is even more critical for senior people because their position amplifies their every word and action.

If it comes across as:

“do as I say… not do as I do!” – you’ve lost.

You have to lead by example

You would think it was obvious but it seems not.

One of the biggest behavioural change processes at the moment is the ongoing attempt to encourage the British people to recycle more – the UK government and local authorities all claim it is a high priority. And so it ought to be – we lag well behind most of  our european neighbours.

But I worry about the mixed messages they send.

What do you think of this?

Where I live, we have a complicated but comprehensive recycling system – it uses colour coded wheely bins [we have 4]  and different combinations  are collected weekly on a cycle which is difficult to fathom! Sometimes it seems like a large scale version of the 1980s “Mastermind” code breaking game.

Last week we had to put out our Green [compostible], brown [paper and card] and blue [bottles and cans] bins at the kerbside, not before 19:00 the night before but by 07:00 at the latest on the day of collection. They were collected at three separate times during the day by what seemed to be the same team in the same vehicles!

One of my neighbours had so much card and paper to recycle that the lid on his wheely bin wouldn’t quite close. His reward for being such a good recycler was that his bin wasn’t emptied! So now what does he do?

So the message seems to be:

“please recycle but don’t recycle too much.”

  • Do you think this approach will encourage the desired behaviour?
  • Do you think they are making it easy for people to change their habits?
  • Have you ever done anything which undermined the change you wanted?
  • Or know of anyone who has?

I’d like to hear your examples – perhaps we can all learn from them!