Long-lasting behavioral change… not attitudinal change

I remember once having this conversation about an employee’s attitude vs performance with a colleague of mine. He was hell-bent on “letting go” of someone who didn’t have the “right” attitude (according to this colleague of mine). The rationale: since attitude cannot be changed, performance cannot be managed. Hence, proved! I only wish the psychology of motivation were that simple to decode.

I don’t want to get into what transpired but what I’ve come to learn since then is managing someone’s performance goes beyond just attitude. People can choose to apply themselves to either elevate their performance or drastically change it without significant changes in their attitude. What gives? More often than not it’s a new insight or key learning that helps them see things from a completely new perspective.

Coaching, for example, isn’t about changing someone’s attitude though that could be a valid objective for a long-term engagement. Facilitating behavioral change is what coaches work on because getting to the core of how a person (or a leader) is wired to react or respond in certain situations helps in creating long-lasting change.

That’s precisely why “motivational/inspirational talks” don’t have a lasting effect on people with “attitudinal” issues. A change in attitude is a byproduct of behavioral change supplemented with new insights. No wonder coaching interventions are called “journeys” than intervention. It’s an evolving, exploratory process.

My corporate coaching engagements, particularly Stakeholder Centered Coaching, are usually year-long interventions for a reason — change takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Even clients looking for personal coaching find it difficult to transform their behaviors from a one-off call. It rarely ever happens if at all. There are no shortcuts to long-lasting change. You’ve got to grind through the process. Just like anything else in life.

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels nail it in when they say, “Real change requires you to change your behavior—not just your attitude.”

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