Samantha Woolven October 22 2019

Blended learning: making behaviour change stick

Blended learning is an approach that drives a real change to the way people behave.

When you consider investing in any leadership development programme, what really matters is whether it results in the desired behaviour change for you, your business, and your leaders.

The trouble is, when teaching people new behaviours we can’t expect them to adopt these new ways of working straight away. When back in their original environment, it becomes even harder to make these new behaviours stick - and stickiness is what counts.

Making something stick means that people come back to it time and time again. Like an earworm of a song, they can’t stop thinking about it, and that persistence is what makes them actually DO something differently. An effective leadership development programme teaches people more than how to just think about leading well. A good leadership development programme gets people to practice these new leadership behaviours until they become habits. A great leadership development programme helps your leaders make these habits stick.

Behaviour change doesn’t just happen

No matter how thought-provoking the workshop, the blog you read, or the speech you applaud; all too often, leadership development is constrained to separate sessions, outside of your every day. You may have been introduced to the greatest idea since sliced bread, but this quickly goes out of the window when you open your emails or re-enter that weekly meeting. 

The forgetting curve starts the minute you leave the room, put the book down, or get up to get your coffee. What your leaders need, whilst they are developing and arguably beyond, are reminders, gentle nudges to help them remember that they wanted to do something differently because it sounded better.

The tipping point of behaviour change is when a new way of doing something becomes habit. But old habits are hard to break and new ones take time to stick. The busyness and noise of everyday work makes it very easy for weeks to pass; before you know it all that learning is something written in your notes but no longer in your head.

Making better leaders

Leadership development programmes will not make you better leaders. Only you will make you better leaders - and most of the time you (meaning me, them, and us too) will benefit from some additional help.

Research tells us that new habits take 66 days to kick in properly. Automation is key to making new behaviours stick. Mastering those split second decisions, being able to catch your own natural responses as they happen, and overcoming will-power fatigue - all become easier and more consistent when you have your inbuilt habits working for you.

Practice, Practice, Practice AND Feedback

Flipping new behaviours into habits that work for you takes time and - unfortunately - a lot of practice. Each time you try out a new behaviour, your neurons are firing away, creating new pathways across your brain. This pathway creation is one of the reasons why your brain feels tired when you try something new, you’ve had to do it consciously. Wherever possible, our brains take the easiest and most direct root - they like to do things unconsciously. Our brains like to save all of their energy and thinking power for our survival, like running away from that sabre-toothed tiger over there. 

So, in order to get our behaviour change to stick we need to turn our new ways of working into unconscious habits. This is where great leadership programmes are worth the investment. 

Great leadership programmes are designed with the end in mind. Great leadership programmes get your developing leaders to practice, practice, and practice their new behaviours - they get them to practice these behaviours until they stick. 

Practising new behaviours back in the office won’t always go to plan. Especially when new, behaving differently may feel uncomfortable and you’re sure to get things wrong. When you feel like you’re tripping over yourself, wanting to do better but things keeps getting in your way, this is when it may seem easier to go back to your old ways of doing things and give up on developing your leadership. Our bodies don’t help with this need for perseverance. The discomfort from trying something new and feeling more vulnerable, can equate to feeling “unsafe” in our brains. When we feel unsafe, our brains are likely to trigger a similar hormone reaction to facing that sabre toothed tiger: we freeze, flee, or fight. In the light of day this seems silly, but it explains why behaviour change can be so hard to achieve. 

Regular, trusted, and truthful feedback can help us when this “unsafe” feeling sets in. By setting up clear structures to ask for and receive feedback we can dip our toe into the new behaviour gently and safely. We don’t need to dive in head first and it creates opportunities for us to learn from our tiny mistakes, rather than fearing that the proverbial will hit the fan.

Blended learning and you

The key to making behaviour change stick is being clear in your own expectations, asking for direct feedback, and creating regular opportunities for you to reflect on what’s working well and what could be better. Great leadership development programmes help you do this too. 

All of our behaviours are triggered by cues in the world around us. It’s why we write ourselves notes reminding us to do things. It's why we set reminders on our phones and block out time in our calendars. These are all cues, or ‘nudges’, that trigger us to take action.

When it comes to making behaviour change stick; regular, timely, and well-positioned reminders - nudges - can make all the difference. Nudges interrupt the forgetting curve, reminding people of what they’ve learned and what they intended to do about it. Nudges include additional learning to provoke thinking differently, a challenge to practice, or small positive reinforcements (yep, that’s feedback again) around the change you’re working to achieve. Blended learning makes is easy for you to issue these nudges AND track how you’re doing wherever you are, at whatever time you think about it, on whatever device is in front of you. 

What this looks like in practice:

t-three’s blended learning approach takes all this into account. Rooted in the science of behaviour change and shaped by our many (many) conversations with real-life leaders over the last 20 years; our unique blended learning approach successfully drives this adoption and maintenance of more conscious leadership behaviours.

Step 1 - Provoke: An outcome-specific micro-learning nudge lands well before your leaders even step foot in our workshops. We provoke their thinking early, so that they can show up well prepared and already on the right track. 

Step 2 - Plant: During all of our workshops we get leaders to practice each new idea first. Once they’ve given it a go, seen what works well for them and identified where they individually would like to improve, we get them to set a defined and personal goal. Using our dedicated platform they set this goal AND selected the people back at work who are best placed to see this change in action. These people will help hold the leader to what they said they were going to do and provide specific, timely, and truthful feedback on how they’re doing with it. 

Step 3 - Practice: As we’ve said, it’s all very well learning something new and thinking its a good idea - the trick to making it stick is being able to do it in the workplace. Following each new piece of learning leaders are challenged to turn this learning into action. Delivered straight to their inboxes, our tailored nudges offer specific examples of where your leaders can practice what they’ve been exploring in the workshop. The expectation is that they bring back their experiences of this putting this challenge into practice for support and challenge within their learning set.

Making behaviour change stick

Sustainable behaviour change doesn’t happen overnight and is not easy to do well. Transforming your leaders is a long-term process requiring a conscious and targeted investment of time, thought, and money from you, your leaders, their managers, and the business as a whole. The catalyst to getting the quickest and easiest return on that investment is to support your leaders with the right tools and support. Blended learning can make the behaviour change you need to see within your leaders stick now and for your future. Talk to us to find out how we can help you help your leaders today. 

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