The Connection Between Beliefs And Behavior
Article | Accountability Insights
The beliefs held by people in an organization which are manifested by how they think and act, are the primary determiners of their personal behavior and actions inside that organization. If you change people’s beliefs about how they should do their daily work and help them adopt the new beliefs you need them to hold, you will produce the actions you need them to take. We are talking about “organizational beliefs,” in other words, the beliefs people hold about what matters most to the organization, how people get ahead, when people receive recognition or reward, why people get fired, and what their bosses really care about.
We refer to them as Cultural Beliefs because, taken collectively, such beliefs define much of an organization’s culture. Therefore, if you really want to change the actions of individual people on a team or in an organization, you must focus, first and foremost, on their beliefs. Pay attention to the beliefs of your people, or their beliefs may hinder your ability to achieve results.
Consider the following example: The director of nursing for a large medical center, we’ll call her Margaret, was struggling with a pesky problem. Her nurses were obtaining “next of kin” information on patients admitted into the Emergency Room only 42% of the time. This percentage was unacceptable to Margaret because “next of kin” was often an invaluable source of information for determining optimal treatment of a patient. To address the problem, Margaret developed what she considered to be a leading edge training program, based on industry best practices, to change the behavior of her nursing staff. Ninety days later, after all 2000 nurses had gone through her day-long training program, Margaret conducted another survey of ER operations to find out how her training program had affected the collection of this data. To her utter frustration, “next of kin” information was now being obtained 47% of the time. Minimal improvement. After a lot of introspection and receiving some effective coaching, Margaret acknowledged that her training program had done little to change a basic belief held by her nurses. What was the belief? Obtaining “next of kin” information when admitting a patient into the ER is of little importance and low priority when compared to immediately addressing the patient’s medical symptoms/condition.
To change this belief, Margaret realized that she would have to do more than training or communicate her desired actions. She would have to create new experiences for her nurses that would convince them of the importance of obtaining “next of kin” information for ER patients—new experiences that would change their belief about obtaining “next of kin” information. Once she realized what she had to do, Margaret spent the next 8 weeks telling and retelling a few heart-rending stories to her 2000 nurses; stories that captured real experiences about how the “next of kin” information helped to save lives in the ER.
After sharing these experiences, Margaret’s team of nurses were obtaining “next of kin” information 92% of the time. What made the difference? Their beliefs about obtaining “next of kin” information had changed, which brought about a dramatic change in their actions.
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