The Driving Force behind Behaviour Change: Insights from our Everyday Leadership Summit

We know that L&D professionals spend their entire working lives focusing on the development of others. At AchieveForum we are firm believers in the power of collaboration and are making it our mission to not only open up leadership support to all employees, but to bring together a community of learning practitioners.

By looking beyond our own organisations and tapping into the rich, but often elusive, resource of the peer network, learning professionals can generate ideas, support each other, and co-create learning solutions.

Cue the birth of the Everyday Leadership Summit event series.

Behaviour Change, Adaptive Collaboration, and Discovery. Three pillars we believe are critical for the advancement of leadership development and the L&D industry. Open exclusively to members of our Alliance Community (plus a few special guests), we run immersive, experiential events designed to:

  • Give learning professionals the space to think creatively about their own challenges
  • Make deep connections with their industry peers
  • Prompt ideas to take back to the business with regard to engaging and developing others 

Driving Behaviour Change Summit – Event Recap

Getting ready to kickoff the summit

When you think ‘magician,’ what images are ‘conjured’ up? (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) Perhaps children’s parties, white rabbits, and unconvincing wands?

Or maybe not. In May 2019, the truly amazing Greg Devereaux flew in from Vegas to kick start the AchieveForum ‘Driving Behaviour Change’ Summit in London, where a group of passionate and insightful talent professionals were gathered for three days of experiential learning.

Before we look at key takeaways from the event, let’s consider this. Why focus on magic at a behaviour change event for L&D? Entertaining, yes. Memorable, definitely. But there’s much more to it than that. The magic we enjoyed was a catalyst for the following observations about workplace behaviour:

  • Focus on final effect without boundaries
  • Look for the ‘ta-dah’ moment – the unexpected success
  • Be genuinely likeable and look to make an impact early
  • We’re all looking for connections, and it’s trust and credibility that build them
  • Reflect on what connection looks like as an introvert – tailor your approach to make it personal and relevant for everyone
  • Identify allies who can help you build credibility
  • How safe the person feels is critical

Day One: It’s a VUCA world

Some say that VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) is an over-used acronym. It’s perhaps a victim of its own accuracy in describing today’s world, making it seem almost too obvious and yet too vague to be helpful.

The truth is that unless we delve deeper into our reactions to experiencing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we are unlikely to be able to offer the best of ourselves, or enable others in our organisation to do the same.

Without giving away the details (who knows, you may find yourself experiencing it one day too), we sent our participants out onto the streets of Shoreditch, East London. For those that don’t know Shoreditch, the area is vibrant, quirky, and eclectic. In the not-too-distant past, it was a deprived district, left behind as much of the rest of London became synonymous with wealth. The turnaround is extraordinary, and has resulted in a fascinating place that stimulates the senses; a place where anything goes.

As the group gathered under the trees at Arnold Circus to present back following their assigned activities, they thoughtfully and creatively demonstrated the effect of VUCA and provided some valuable insights into how it relates to behavior change in the workplace.

  • It’s okay to have a period of indecision and doubt
  • We protect ourselves during VUCA – through escapism, not taking it seriously, rejecting what’s happening
  • Allow time to reflect – try not to always be so focused on the end result
  • Asking for help is crucial
  • You can’t just think of the outcome – but you do have to consider it at some point!
  • Ultimately, there is a delicate balance between reflection and action, and you need to make space for both

“Got to say I’ve had a brilliant three days with the AchieveForum team at the behavioural change Summit in London. Made great connections with some amazing L&D & HR professionals – we had magic, we debated, we shared, we explored, we had fun.”

Day Two: The Calm of Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

The following morning we headed off for a purposeful change of scenery. The hustle and bustle of East London was replaced by the tranquility and beauty of Kew Gardens. The theme for day two was exploring behaviour change as it relates to complex systems.

Again, spending time out and about, this time in the stunning glass houses and world-renowned gardens, was an integral part of being able to take a step back, soak up our surroundings and find meaningful connections in the world in front of us. Back in the historic Cambridge Cottage (home to the first Duke of Cambridge) the group got stuck into a deep-dive of our primary research around workplace behaviour change, and the role of learning professionals.

Here are some of the key reflections:

  • It’s easy to confuse ‘complicated’ with ‘complex’ – and there is a difference
  • We need to feel free to try things that might not work
  • Critical to deliberately allow ideas to emerge
  • Create a framework to create balance
  • Be brave – easier said than done, but a common theme throughout all of our thoughts on change
  • Let yourself explore without having a detailed plan

Day Three: Connecting the dots

If the first two days were about gathering material, data and thoughts, the third day was about bringing it all together.

In a world café format, we asked the following questions and through open and honest discussion (among a group of professionals now feeling a sense of personal connection with one another) a number of key themes emerged.

Q1: What might it look like to structure a change effort that embraces the reality of uncertainty and complexity?

  • Find the ‘eye of the storm’ within the uncertainty
  • Allow failure to happen – and learn from it
  • Recognise that success might look differently than you first planned
  • Reframe your message for different audiences
  • Understand people need to feel safe to change
  • Change is critical
  • Model VUCA in a safe environment
  • Structure to enable emergent thinking
  • Don’t just talk to people who agree with you and deliberately ask for opinions from different people
  • Trust is vital to embrace the uncertainty – it’s so important to have a team who has your back
  • Network to leverage talent and experience
  • Probe, involve, emerge – move through these phases, whilst remaining curious and non-judgemental

Q2. How do our roles as talent professionals need to adapt and change to meet the challenges of behavioural change in this VUCA world?

  • Be an L&D adviser rather than a broker
  • Understand the need behind the perceived need
  • Talk to right people whilst designing – consult with the participant group, their line managers and direct reports, as well as senior stakeholders
  • Connect business with people – be the expert on how to enable people to drive business results
  • Stop chasing tech – build genuine connections
  • Get out of content – focus on process of learning
  • Explore people analytics – how can data help to make decisions about your workforce
  • Personalise learning for your business – and for individuals (the opposite of the ‘sheep dip’ approach)
  • Balance the business needs with the individual leaders’ needs
  • Stop answering questions – ask more, and don’t underestimate the power of empathy
  • Stop always saying yes
  • Synchronised approach across leadership levels – build a common leadership language
  • Become the conscience of senior leaders
  • Start enabling relationships across the organisation

Q3. How would I like key stakeholders in the business to describe the role I play in the success of change initiatives in my organisation?

  • Opposite of transactional
  • Solver of business problems
  • Enabler of solutions
  • A confidant
  • Recognising that business issues are all about people
  • Changing behaviour through changing emotions
  • Making everyone feel part of the solution
  • Finding the value that each person can bring
  • Providing inspiration for the change
  • Offering a safe haven for senior stakeholders
  • Showing that L&D really understand the business

What next for our participants?

We hope that through the Alliance, and personal connections, this is just the start of a number of fruitful relationships. Each participant left the Summit with a new way of looking at behaviour change, a new network of peers to help, and a practical behaviour change toolkit. Next up for AchieveForum? Almost time to start preparing for our Adaptive Collaboration Summit in 2020!

“I’ve learnt a great deal and met some amazing people. A special thank you to the AchieveForum team for making it a fab learning experience. Hope to stay connected and looking forward to the virtual sessions.”

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