5 Steps for Leadership Behavior Change

What do leadership faculty do when they’re not teaching others about leadership?  They sit around their offices talking to each other about leadership!  Here’s a video of Phil Willburn and me discussing what leaders who change do differently from leaders who don’t.

The top five actions of leaders who successfully attain their behavior change goals:

  1. They choose only 1 –2 goals to work on.
  2. They make their behavior change goals public.
  3. They ask colleagues for ‘feedforward’ suggestions on their goals.
  4. They create a simple action plan to follow.
  5. They make their goals visual to remind themselves and others.

I consistently see that the more leaders apply the above steps, the more their new behaviors stick permanently. Most people follow none or only one of the above, which explains why leaders can be so motivated at the end of a program, but three months later find nothing changed. Remember, if you are in the business of helping leaders grow and develop you need to give them more than just the motivation to grow, you need to give them the process.

5 thoughts on “5 Steps for Leadership Behavior Change

  1. LOVE this. I just wrapped up a program with the Greater Richmond Chamber (called the RVA Leadership Lab) and my cohort and I have been discussing ways to implement our development now that the official program is over. These 5 steps are incredibly manageable and I am sending this link over to each of them right this moment.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Danielle, glad to see you are giving it a go. Going back to work and making it stick is always the trickiest and most important part. I am currently creating a free resources section on how do this well at http://www.nicholaspetrie.com so check it out. Also, let me know how you and your colleagues go…….

  2. Nick – Good video interview. Deep topic for a quick overview but you did a good job and noted some key points. I have long been involved in employee training, teaching, coaching and have concluded that what we attempt to do is increase the number of take aways the individual packs after our work/presentation is complete. Trying to improve this led me and my partners to build tools for verification, re-enforcement and self review.


    That said I also learned Triple Layering, or the 3 line method that connects points for easier recall. That said the secret sauce remains understanding what the audience goals (wants) are prior to beginning. These sometimes don’t fully align with the goals of the organization who is funding the session.

    It has been our experience self analysis and review is the component that links to further interest, engagement and adoption.

  3. My experience is that the more business relevant the learning is, the more it sticks. Which is logical, of course: why learn something you’re not going to use?

    The challenge, however, is getting trainers and leadership experts to understand this and to be able to work within the context of the client. I like Phil Wilburn’s list of 5 steps because it’s easily applicable to business environments, and easily understood by those who haven’t studied the latest theories and models of leadership. Which, believe it or not, includes the vast majority of managers who would benefit from leadership development.

  4. The best thing about this method is that it’s easily measurable, a great selling point for this stakeholder-centric method. To focus on the most appropriate (and pressing in terms of leadership effectiveness) goals, I find Marshall Goldsmith’s Twenty Habits (for example, ‘Winning too much’, ‘Starting with No, But or However’, or ‘Adding too much value’) from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, invaluable.

    Thanks for spreading the message, Nick!

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