Simple Steps for Improving Communication and Changing Behavior


Improving processes is not just a straightforward task of altering a couple of steps in a process map. Instead, it requires changing the behavior and mindset of employees in an organization. Without the commitment of people, usually the business just reverts to the ways things were.

So what can you do to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to you? According to William Greenwald, founder and Chief Neuroleaderologist of the Windsor Leadership Group it’s critical to recognize the importance of changing mindsets. In this interview, he offers practical suggestions on how to increase your influence and craft messages that serve to truly inspire new behaviors.

PEX Network:  In your book, Be a Mindsetter, you talk about the importance of developing the right mindset and how it's often the tipping point between those who are successful, and those who aren't. How does this insight help people improve processes?

William Greenwald: Processes are governed by people, and people are governed by leaders. When we think about Mindsetters, as we call them, we’re talking about those that can craft and deliver their communications in a manner that truly serves to inspire, and influence, and impact those around them, or those that they serve.

When we think about processes, we think about how do we drive change? Change in processes is really hard, especially if we're going from one system to a completely new one. We need Mindsetters to get us truly fired up so that we can see that future.

Mindsetters understand that mindsets can be shaped. We're not stuck. However, it takes somebody that's very authentic, very genuine, to shape our mindset. A cognitive snap is often required to help us see things in a different way. And, if you've ever had a dear friend that’s caused you to think about things in a different way…that's what we call a ‘Mindset Reset.

Sometimes, when we're going through a tough time at work, or we're working through a new process that we just can't get our head wrapped around, Mindsetters can really serve to inspire through their communication. They can influence our behaviors, and in the end they impact everything we do in the organization.

The great thing is, it's not hierarchical. That's what I love. These are true servant leaders, and they can be those who are cleaning the restrooms all the way up to the CEO. Mindsetters are all around us.

PEX Network: What would you say are the characteristics of the right mindset?

William Greenwald:  I don't know if there is such a thing as the ‘right’ mindset given we all have very unique characteristics, personality traits, and come from different nurturing environments. However, I do know that a positive mindset is better than negative one. However, maintaining a positive mindset is often hard to achieve because from an evolutionary perspective, we tend to gravitate more to the negative than to the positive…we tend to be negative creatures of habit.

This is validated when we look at a group picture that we're in. What's the first thing we do? We don't look at others. We look for ourselves, and typically it's not, hey, look at how good I look! Instead you’re critiquing the way you’re smiling or your hair. Think about what you’re doing. You're instantly letting the ANTs crawl all over you -  ANTs are “automatic negative thoughts”.

The interesting thing is that research has shown the more successful we are, the more “ANTs” we (typically) let crawl on us. That’s interesting, because it’s often assumed that if you’re really successful, you’re going to be full of confidence. That's not (always) the way it works. However, ANTs can be leveraged for gain and positivity by helping to keep you on your toes (and keenly aware of your surroundings and environment). But what I recommend is to squash the ANTs, use your confidence and positively reshape your mindset.

We do know that mindsets can be shaped. Often we need others to help shape them. I can be extremely positive. In fact, my wife's always saying, “stop being so positive…can't you see we're in a bad time right now?”
But I often need other people too when I'm looking at things through more of a negative slant. I need that person to question whether things are really as bad as I think they are.

And, when my colleague, friend, spouse, etc. changes my view of the situation, that becomes the ‘Mindset Reset’ I referenced earlier. There's always something to be thankful for, something to feel blessed for, something to feel gratitude towards. But sometimes we need a reminder and those that serve to cultivate and shape that positive mindset are the true Mindsetters.

Taking it back to process improvement, one of the things that comes up a lot is the importance of changing culture and behavior in an organization. What are some strategies or tactics process improvement people might be able to use to help shift behaviors within an organization?

We spent years trying to understand how brain science informs that question. What's the science behind how people shift other people’s behavior? We looked at successful leaders that people want to follow, and they'll follow them anywhere. Why? What we found is that extraordinary leaders role model the behaviors they expect and communicate with authentic PRESENCE. In our book, we layout an evidenced-based framework that is informed by cutting-edge brain science and teaches leaders how to craft and deliver their communication so that their message serves to inspire, and influence, and impact. There are three key steps in the communication framework we introduce: Reduce, Relate, and Reflect.

The first step in the model requires a leader to ‘Reduce’ their communication(s) to a core, succinct message. You can achieve this through the lens of simplicity, making it applicable (meaningful) to the other person, and by using words that are memorable. An example of this could be “simple stories stick”. People remember that. That's an alliteration. “Eat light, eat often” is another example. That was something that I learned 15 years ago. I'll never forget it. It's simple, just four words, it's applicable (it was provided to me during a workshop dealing with energy and nutrition), and it's memorable.

The second step is called “Relate”. In this step, we go from reducing the message to helping others ‘relate to it’. This is the step that's often missing but hugely important for ultimate buy-in and behavior change. Too often, communication is a one-way street. But you can address this by asking your audience, what does this mean to you? How do you relate to this?  You can think of this step as the baton pass…where you take your message and formally hand it off to the receiver of your message. After all, if they don’t own the message (hold the baton in their hand), their behavior will conform to compliance only, not commitment to the change being requested.

Ultimately we have to get our audience to reflect. That's the third R… Reflect on whatever it is we're talking about. This is where the magic happens because the audience/receiver starts to understand how their life and work can fundamentally be changed if they move in this new direction.

It’s quite common for companies to reduce the message by making it very marketing-ish. Heck, they may even help the receiver relate to the message; thus, achieving the first two steps in the model (Reduce and Relate). Unfortunately, companies (and leaders alike) rarely require any type of ‘Reflection’ on the message being delivered. In this vein, there is a belief that if we send employees an email containing this new slogan every week, that it’s going to be enough to change behavior. And guess what? Behavior rarely changes with sustained magnitude. You may get a short-term change but rarely is change sustained without an employee’s ability to step-back, reflect on how their life will change if they act on the change requested, and most important, find peace and comfort that the message being delivered by their company or leader is, indeed, worthy of acceptance.

PEX Network: What is your key piece of advice for process professionals as they head into the office today?

William Greenwald: My advice is to recognize that “mindsetters make a difference”. This is not about process. It's not about competence. It's about people. We have a responsibility as leaders to take that seriously. We shape people's lives. They bring their work home with them. If we're toxic, they bring that toxicity home.

I've always said, leadership is the hardest thing in the world. It doesn't matter if it's hierarchical or title-driven. It's tough stuff. But we have to take it seriously. There's too many bad behaviors going on right now. There are too many leaders getting away with bad behaviors, who are rewarded for the wrong things.

Those that are rewarded intrinsically for the right things are the Mindsetters. They're the ones who don't need incentives or rewards. These are the people who truly want to put others before self. These are the Servant Leaders in our organizations…they are Mindsetters that understand that mindset matters. They know mindsets can be positively shaped. They recognize that Mindsetters make a difference! Indeed, extraordinary leaders understand that by putting their message through the Reduce, Relate, and Reflect filter, their message will genuinely INSPIRE, INFLUENCE, and IMPACT those they serve. And, that’s pretty cool!