We Don't Change Unless...

December 19, 2016 Tracy Cocivera


It’s hard to make sustainable and meaningful behavioural change stick. We say we want to change but we either don’t mean it or give up too early. The imperfect world pushes and pulls us off our transformation path and our inner mindsets can also make failure inevitable. For example, we often believe that if we know what to do then we will automatically do it. We also tend to be overly confident our willpower will prevail over temptation. That is, we won’t get distracted or that the unexpected won't occur. However, we are often surprised and not prepared when unforeseen challenges and distractions make achieving our goals impossible. Finally, we often believe we can change all by ourselves and that we don’t need help or structure. With these mindsets and environmental influences, it’s no wonder why sustainable behavioural transformation is tough if not impossible.

For us to truly shift our behaviours, we need to accept we need to change, know what and how to change, and be conscious of the grips inertia and the environment have over us. Sustainable and meaningful behavioural shifts requires effort, discipline, focus, and perseverance. Many of us are seduced by the fantasy that our change will be permanent and we won’t have to put forth effort to sustain our new behaviours. As we know, this is not reality – new behaviours need to be maintained. We are also often resistant to the fact that we would need instruction and follow up to change – we feel that we are above that. We would rather pursue complexity and improvement rather than simplicity and maintaining. We are brilliant strategists and planners but sub-par executors.

For change to stick, feedback and structures are critical keys to success. Feedback, both giving and receiving, helps us to better understand the impact between the environment and our behaviours. Feedback loops are important and consist of four phases:  evidence, relevance, consequence, and actionEvidence is feedback and awareness about our behaviour. Relevance and consequence involve us assessing whether this behaviour is important to change and the impact it has if we make the shift or not. Finally, action is the result of a conscious choice we make to transform our behavior. Feedback helps us consciously focus on making the behavioural shifts that are productive and impactful. 

Like feedback, structure is needed to be better. And the right structure is key so it supports us and our organizations.  Structure enables us to execute our behavioural strategy in a focused, disciplined way every day. Not only does structure support accountability, it also enables us to frequently and objectively assess our behavioural change and determine where we need to continue to shift. 

It’s hard to make sustainable and meaningful behavioural changes. Although it’s difficult, we can have a higher probability of success if we leverage feedback, structure, and help.

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About the Author

Tracy Cocivera

Dr. Tracy Cocivera is a Business Psychologist and a Principal with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions. For over 12 years, Tracy has contributed to the success of leaders and their teams across many industries, including retail, technology, financial services, and energy and natural resources From established executives to emerging executives, Tracy partners with her clients to help them manage their organization and their careers in order to achieve significant business results.

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