Transferring Knowledge & Skills from Training to Real Life: Mini-Segment #5, Behavior Management Series

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Situation: Your employer is providing training in new behaviors and it is expected that all training participants learn and apply these skills on the job. Management’s desired outcome for this training is that everyone will work together so as to strengthen work relationships within and across departments, with an emphasis on building mutual respect, trust and teamwork. Enabling learning and change is a critical investment most organizations view as essential today.

In our scenario, the training includes a variety of different behaviors, using specific techniques for interpersonal interactions and team effectiveness, such as the following:

  • Giving Feedback constructively
  • Accepting Feedback or criticism effectively
  • Building and fostering a work atmosphere of trust, friendliness and teamwork with colleagues company-wide
  • Sharing information and helping to solve problems as a participant in daily team update meetings
  • Handling complaints from customers
  • Interviewing job candidates

You know you already have some great work relationships. You also realize that even though the behaviors and skills in the training are positive, behaving somewhat differently will feel weird; you can see good things could come from those changes but you’re reluctant to change your approach with people who already know you and who will also see you behaving differently with others. Plus, there are a few people you don’t really like, and who don’t like you. It’s going to be hard to change the way you deal with one another.

Are you feeling a bit uncomfortable about implementing these new behaviors?

When we complete a training program that has different approaches and techniques for interpersonal communication, leadership behavior or even the use of new systems, we often have intentions of applying what we learned in a training program. But, when we return to work, our environment and pressing job responsibilities are unchanged. We begin to feel uncertain, because our knowledge of the new techniques and behaviors is new and somewhat tentative. It’s probably going to take more time to get work done as we begin to apply new ways of doing things on the job.

In addition, we’re a little uncertain about dealing with people and issues using new skills we haven’t locked in yet, when things are actually happening, real-time. And, each day that passes without applying the new skills, brings greater probability that we will not implement the new behavior at all, barring an event that pushes us into doing it. It’s quite easy to leave the training and the new skills behind and return to work as usual.

Sometimes organizations create such an event by turning off an old system, for example, on a pre-communicated date, forcing everyone to change. But, when it comes to leadership practices and other interpersonal behaviors, there is rarely this type of a cut-off date for the people to make change.

This is not a new problem.

It’s not uncommon for people to find themselves outside their comfort zones in when training is provided with the intention of educating and preparing people to make changes in their behavior.

Let’s take a quick look back at earlier Mini-Segments in this series, starting with what drives our behavior. If we look at Mini-Segment #1, B.J. Fogg’s Behavior Model, we can see Motivation on the left, vertical axis and Ability on the lower, horizonal axis. In the heart of the model is a curved line, the Action Line. When Motivation and Ability join to become a strong force, you’ll be above the Action Line and you’ll do the behavior when Prompted. To refresh yourself on Mini-Segment #1 clink this LINK:

You don’t have to be high in both Motivation and Ability, but these two elements when combined need to be strong enough together for you to be above the Action Line. The key point here is that strength in one element can make up for a little weakness in the other. When you’re above the Action Line, you’ll do the behavior when prompted. When you’re below the Action Line, you will not do the behavior when prompted.

Set Yourself Up to Succeed

It’s time for some self-reflection. If you’re going to make these behavior changes, you’ll need to be well aware of where you are in relation to the Action Line, so that you’ll know how to position yourself to succeed.

A good starting point is to assess your Motivation and Ability to do the new behaviors.

Motivation: Ask yourself questions such as these, to assess your feelings about the new behaviors–and write down your answers:

  • How will it benefit you to adopt and master the new behaviors?
  • What would make it feel good to do them, short-term and long-term?
  • What positive impact could you anticipate for doing this well; what effects would there be on your job satisfaction, your work relationships, your credibility, your own performance, your reputation, and how you’re valued as an employee?

Are there benefits to doing these behaviors well that outweigh the challenges of leaving your comfort zone? Circle and highlight them.

Ability: Ask yourself questions such as these, and, as you did above, write down your responses:

  • How easy will it be for you to do these behaviors? The factors that most dramatically help to make a behavior easy to do include the following;
    • Increase your skills:
      • For new behaviors, this means practice. Practice with a partner, a small group who shares your focus, or jump in with both feet and practice real-time, with the people you work with. Find a coach to work with you. Sometimes companies will provide internal or third-party coaching to support employee development.
      • Commit the techniques to memory. Create tools such as flash-cards or self-quizzes. You need to know the techniques to do each tiny behavior that is part of the general behavior, such as knowing the techniques for giving feedback constructively–without needing to look them up or knowing how to conduct an interview effectively without having an interview guide in hand.
      • Teach the behaviors to someone else. This is a very effective path to mastery.
    • Make the behavior tiny. Break the general behavior into small pieces that you can do easily:
      • Use preparation or starter behaviors; an example I used was for vacuuming the house, I cleared all the small items off the floor and set up the vacuum cleaner.
      • Scale back the behavior; instead of vacuuming the whole house, I started with one room.
      • Scale back the timeframe; I started with the plan of getting myself to do it one time. When I succeeded, I did it again, and gradually increased to different spans of time, more rooms and to a “from now on” timeframe.

Next, write your Recipes. Choose your Anchor Behavior, a habit that is already locked into your workday, and identify the last tiny behavior of that Anchor. That’s your prompt for a new behavior. Just make sure the Anchor Behavior and Prompt provide a logical moment for you to do the new behavior. To refresh yourself on Anchors, Prompts and Recipes, click this LINK:

Adding new-to-you behaviors is more challenging than adding behaviors you’re familiar with doing. To refresh yourself on this, click this LINK: Set yourself up to succeed by adding new behaviors at your own pace, in bite-size pieces. Give yourself time to master these behaviors and make them automatic. A little at a time works best.

Track your progress, focus on learning and continuous improvement, and you’re well on your way.

Turn Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones

Sometimes, in order to make new behaviors effective, we have to stop some current behaviors. To refresh yourself on stopping behaviors that either conflict with or undermine your new behaviors, click this LINK:

In addition, there are times when the skill of Self-regulation is the key to stopping a behavior and replacing it in one step. Refresh yourself on this tool by clicking this LINK:


The highest performers in an organization are those individuals who have the agility to adapt early to change, build and broaden their knowledge and master new skills. Organizations need people who can continue to learn and grow, who can acquire the knowledge and apply the skills needed today and into the future. Adapting, learning, growing and applying new skills are all change-management capabilities that are critically needed today, by individuals as well as organizations.

Tell us: was this series what you thought it would be? Does it have tools and information relevant to your success? What could we do to make this a more powerful resource for you?

Copyright 2021 by Rosanna M. Nadeau

Sources/Recommended Reading:

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