Why Our Model For Changing Behaviour Just Isn’t Enough

Leadership is all about influencing change.

Think of a goal you’ve set in your life. For your business? For your family? For your community? To achieve that goal, you must get yourself and others to change their behaviour.

Unfortunately, we humans have a poor track record at this.

The Human Track Record

Here are a few interesting statistics.

Nine out of ten corporate IT projects either miss their schedule, go over budget, or fail to deliver on their promise.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of that? Most of us have.

Two of every three inmates released from prison are rearrested within three years.

Isn’t it called the Department of Corrections? Well, there’s not much correction happening. We’re not very good at influencing people’s behaviour, even when it’s important to us.

This is my personal favourite: In the United States, people spend $42 billion each year on weight loss, and 19 out of 20 people lose nothing but their money.

Think about who we’re trying to influence in this situation. Ourselves, right?

If you can’t even influence yourself, what hope is there to influence others?

The Intuitive Model

It turns out most of us already believe we know the right way to influence people. It’s an intuitive, three-part model.

Part 1 is a wake-up call. It starts with, “I need to get their attention.”

Part 2 is consequence. Once you’ve got their attention, you need to convince them that the consequences of not changing are really severe.

Part 3 is to give them a clear roadmap to follow and they’ll change.

Most of us carry this model around in our heads. Maybe we learned it in a marketing book or psychology class.

Well, guess what? That model just doesn’t stand up to the data.

Here’s an example of how that model looks in action.

Every year in the US, one million people have a heart attack and survive.

Don’t you think that’s a good wake-up call? It’s definitely attention-getting.

They have heart-bypass surgery or get a stint put in, and then the doctor sits them down and talks about consequences. The doctor says something like, “If you don’t change your lifestyle, you will die.”

Do you think that’s severe enough?

Then, the doctor gives them a clear roadmap to follow that entails how to change their diet, how to exercise, and which medications to take.

Shouldn’t that be easy enough?

The result is shocking. Four out of five patients are back to their old, unhealthy behaviour within just two years.

That’s how ‘well’ that model works.

It’s a great model if all you’re after is getting a “yes” response. But, if you want behaviour change, you need something more robust.

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