Achieving a Positive, Measurable, and Meaningful Change in Behavior

Updated on May 21, 2020
Carolyn M Fields profile image

Carolyn Fields is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, and all around bon vivant.


The Goal of Training and Professional Development

Being in the business of training and development, it’s often easy to get so wrapped up in the minutiae of class schedules, participant workbooks, and visual aids that you forget the “goal” of it all. Simply put, training, coaching, and/or professional development are all about achieving a positive, measurable, and meaningful change in behavior. As with many of the great truths of our time, it’s easy to say, but much more difficult to implement. The trick is in maintaining focus on what you hope to achieve, and having the discipline to follow-through with your plans.

But First, the Pre-Conditions

There are a few pre-conditions that need to be met before you can begin the change process. It’s important that the person making the change:

  1. Is willing to make a sincere effort to change. In a word, the person is willing to make a “commitment.”
  2. Hasn’t already “written off” any possibility of making the change. In other words, if you go in with a “what the heck, I’ve tried everything else” attitude, don’t bother.
  3. Possesses the fundamental intelligence and integrity needed to make the change. If not, it may be a waste of time.
  4. Is part of an organization and/or is in a situation that is headed in the right direction. If the person making the change gets it together, but is surrounded by others who are floundering, a lot of energy can be misdirected.

Eight Steps

If you have read very many books on executive coaching, one theme will keep coming up again and again. You need to have a process for achieving desired behavior change, which I would like to share with you now that we have all the pre-requisites in order. Here is an eight step approach for making a positive, measurable, meaningful change in behavior:

  1. Identify the desired attribute(s). Narrow the list down to one or two behaviors to be changed. You don’t want to try and make too many changes all at once. It will be overwhelming.
  2. Determine who can provide meaningful feedback. Shoot for a balanced mix of individuals. Don’t just pick your friends. Find people who will be willing to give you candid information.
  3. Collect feedback. If possible, have an outside party coordinate this part, so that it will be as candid as possible.
  4. Analyze the results. Look for key strengths as well as areas for improvement. Take your time with this step. Be certain not to focus on just the negatives.
  5. Develop an action plan. Be specific, and talk in terms of behaviors rather than abstract ideals. For example, don’t say “I want to improve my communications skills,” but rather say “I will use active listening during my interactions with others.”
  6. Talk individually with each person who provided feedback. Ask for additional suggestions. Be as open as possible, and don’t become defensive.
  7. Develop an ongoing follow-up process. It’s critically important to seek timely feedback, in short, frequent doses. Don’t wait for the “annual review” process or New Year’s Resolutions. Try instead for a quick hit of five minutes, every month or two.
  8. Review the results and start again. That’s right, start again. You’re either growing and improving, or moving backwards. There is no such thing as standing still.

Time Issues

How often have you heard someone repeat that familiar refrain, “I don’t have time for that?” How often do you say it yourself? And yet, is that really what we mean to say?

Everyone on this planet we call Earth has the same amount of “time” available in any given day. Sure, depending upon where you are located relative to the equator, you may have more or less daylight, but in our modernized and mechanized world, we’ve generally agreed upon how we count the hours and minutes in a day—and we all have the same amount.

So, how is it then, that some people have “time” for doing certain things, such as professional development or self-improvement, and other people “don’t have time” for such things?

I submit to you that it’s really more a matter of priorities than it is a matter of “time” in the absolute sense. Some people “make time” to learn and develop, while others couldn’t be bothered. Some people spend hours and hours on Facebook, while others are watching football, while still others are reading a book or taking a class. It all comes down to priorities.

Next Steps

Well, now you have it, the eight steps to meaningful change. Trust me, it requires more discipline than talent, more integrity and commitment than behavioral science expertise. The next steps are up to you.

Have you ever used a formalized change process before?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Submit a Comment
  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    14 months ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thank you, Poetikaly. Glad you found it helpful!

  • profile image


    14 months ago

    Hi Carolyn,

    This is a great motivational Hub here. I like your tips and instructions. It's easy to follow and broken down in such a way that can only help someone stay on course or get back in that ring.

    Being realistic with any goal is a great way to start things off like this.


  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    22 months ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thanks, Larry.

    Yes, you can't truly change your nature, but you can change your behavior.

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    22 months ago from Oklahoma

    Very interesting thoughts.

    To my thinking you don't change your nature, but you can alter it for the better.


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