Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leadership Habits Take Time to Ingrain

This is the fifth segment in a series in which Meredith Bell asks me some tough questions about leadership and leadership development. In this clip, she asks me how long it takes to develop a new leadership skill.

The answer is not what executives or the folks in Human Resources want to hear. When managers go off to a training course, when they come back people expect them to be "trained" and ready to implement what they learned.

It doesn't work that way. You don't replace a life-long way of doing things with a new way just by sitting in a classroom for three or four days. Back on the job and in the pressure of a busy workplace, a manager isn't going to react with one of the fine new techniques he learned. No, sir. He's going to do what's automatic and comfortable - his old way of doing things.

Habits are hard-wired in the neurons, enabled by physical neural pathways. The only way to replace the old dysfunctional work habit with an excellent new one is to grow a new neural pathway, which takes real work - hundreds of repetitions of the behavior. It's exactly like changing your golf swing. Good luck doing that after a couple sessions with the pro. No, you'll have to hit about a thousand golf balls the new way, just like everybody else.

Here's what I told Meredith...

In case you missed the first 4 videos in the series...

#1 - 4 Vital Things Every Leader Must Do

#2 - Why People Usually DON'T Give Their Best Effort

#3 - Leader Skills Are NOT Enough

#4 - Leaders Learn Best ON THE JOB, Not in the Classroom

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Bill Melvin said...

I picked up an additional important point from your swimming example: Practice in the presence of experienced others. If you had not been swimming in a public place, in the presence of an experienced swimmer, you would not have received that instruction on how to improve your stroke.

Adrienne W. Campbell said...

Awesome interview! Summary: Transformation in any arena takes homework OUTSIDE the classroom. This is also a key element in military training: the soldier is trained until he becomes one with his actions. Now I'll be off to do my homework! Thanks again, Mr. Coates.