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Mark Craemer No Comments

Bringing about behavioral change is often at the root of what it means to successfully lead others. This is because leading often requires helping shift the way people act to produce the desired results. Helping others to change their behavior is not always easy, but you can certainly grow to be more successful at it.

Much of my coaching work begins with data gathering where I ask probing questions of my client and the people they work with and around. This fact finding begins the process of more fully understanding the strengths and opportunities for my client to grow in their leadership.

This inquiry often reveals my client needs to improve their ability to actively listen, demonstrate empathy, build rapport, and effectively influence to bring about behavioral change in how they lead. Turns out these are the very components of the Behavioral Change Stairway Model developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to negotiate with violent felons.

The FBI hostage negotiation techniques can be just as helpful for leaders to bring about a change in the behavior in those they lead. These techniques need to be conducted in the following order so let’s look at them in detail.

  1. Actively Listen – Seek first to understand, then to be understood as author Stephen Covey wrote years ago. It’s about making the other person feel heard. And truly listen for both what is said and what is not said.
  2. Show Empathy – Join with the other person to demonstrate that you are not there to judge but to help support them as they face this situation. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can really feel and relate to them and their predicament.  
  3. Build Rapport – When rapport is present, the other person also feels your empathy, which leads to greater trust. Try to create an equal give-and-take between the two of you despite the power dynamic that is always present between a boss and employee.  
  4. Create Influence – With trust you have now earned the right to begin to offer solutions to a problem and/or recommend a course of action.   
  5. Initiate Behavioral Change – The previous four steps enable the action of initiating behavior change. Once this is initiated, it is then necessary for you to encourage and support so the change is sustained.

Demonstrating that you care personally can bring about change in a professional setting. This is true in our professional lives just as it is in our personal lives. As a leader, you need to appeal to both thoughts and feelings to change people’s behavior.

“It’s a road map for satisfying people’s social-emotional needs that nudges them toward a solution drawing on their cognitive abilities,” according to Ethan Kross, author of the book Chatter: The voice in our head, why it matters, and how to harness it. “While law-enforcement negotiators are naturally trying to defuse dangerous situations and arrest criminals, their work bears some similarities to coaching someone we care about through a problem. In both cases, there is a person who can benefit from the right kind of verbal support.”

Succeeding with behavioral change is vital for leaders. Following the steps in the Behavioral Change Stairway Model developed by the FBI for dealing with hostages can make leaders in organizations successful with bringing about behavioral change with their employees too.

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