Getting Started with New Leadership Habits

May 9, 2024 David Witt

One of the biggest challenges we face when learning new things is taking that big step from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

“It’s a step-by-step process that begins with knowledge, then attitude, and finally, behavior change,” says Blanchard leadership expert Randy Conley. “Moving through this process successfully requires a focus on both the mindset and the skill set needed for the new behavior.

“This dual focus is built into the learning designs we use in the leadership development programs we create at Blanchard,” says Conley.

“As an example, we have created some new tools for the one-day design of our SLII® program that focus specifically on turning new leadership knowledge into new leadership behaviors. These tools help to address the root causes of why the knowing-to-doing transition can be difficult. Leaders who are learners need three things: reminders, practice, and support.”

Leaders Need Reminders

“Unless you are a great notetaker, it’s easy to forget key points and important details of what you learn,” says Conley. “If you are like most people, you have a good grasp on the general concepts, but gaps in your knowledge appear when it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice. You know it’s important to set clear goals with your people and it should be a collaborative exercise, but what was that prompting question again?”

Leaders Need Practice

“In our imagination, we can see ourselves putting the new behaviors into use gracefully: We set goals collaboratively, we have great conversations where we diagnose a person’s levels of competence and commitment on a specific task, and we skillfully apply the right levels of direction and support in response,” states Conley.

“In real life, however, we may find ourselves struggling. We join a team member on a Zoom call to do some collaborative goal setting, but we don’t know where to begin. We want to diagnose development level, but we’ve never really done it before. And the only way we really know how to help someone with their goals is the way we’ve always done it.

“This is where leaders need some very specific direction—and a detailed plan for exactly what to do. It directly mirrors what is taught in the SLII® leadership development program, which identifies that we all go through four stages of development when learning a new task. When we first start out, we are an Enthusiastic Beginner. When we discover the task or goal is harder than we thought it would be, we move to the Disillusioned Learner stage. As our skills slowly develop, we enter the Capable, but Cautious, Contributor phase. Finally, when we have achieved both high competence and high commitment, we are at the Self-Reliant Achiever stage. We are experienced and successful with the task or goal.”

Leaders Need Support

“Nothing crushes new ideas faster than the pressure of everyday responsibilities. Developing new leadership habits is no exception,” says Conley. “As a leader, you need space to develop new skills. You need extra time for practice and retention. And you need support and encouragement from your own boss because you’re doing something new and it might be a little rocky at first.

“One of the tools I like in the new one-day design of SLII®, co-created by my colleagues Vicki Halsey and Pat Zigarmi, is a short video—kind of a ‘Dear Boss’ message—that participants in the new SLII® leadership development program can share with their immediate manager. The message asks leaders of participants to understand that their direct report is a new learner getting ready to try new things.

“It can be hard admitting that you’re not completely skilled in some aspect of your job. It’s nice to have a third-party advocate to lean on when you need to ask for a little extra time and space with your boss.”

Turning New Concepts into New Behaviors

Learning something new is both exciting and challenging. Unfortunately, a lot of good ideas never survive to become new behaviors because we forget to address the realities of creating new habits. But, with a little practice, it can be done.

If you would like to explore some of the ways Blanchard is helping leaders turn new management concepts into new leadership behaviors, join us for one or both webinars we are conducting this month. Both webinars are free. Use the links below to register.

Becoming a Best Boss: Moving From Intention to Action

On May 15, leadership expert Randy Conley will host a webinar on Becoming a Best Boss: Moving From Intention to Action. You’ll learn how to apply different tools and strategies for becoming the leader you want to be!

SLII® One-Day Learning Design Overview

On May 31, Dr. Vicki Halsey, co-creator of Blanchard’s new one-day design of SLII®, will take participants on a look inside the new program design. You’ll get a chance to see how these concepts are built into the new SLII® program design!

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for Blanchard®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

More Content by David Witt
Previous Resource
Think You Made a Terrible Hiring Mistake? Ask Madeleine
Think You Made a Terrible Hiring Mistake? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine, I recently hired a new member for my team. She was great in the many rounds of interviews, ...

Next Resource
Generative AI: Separating Truth from Hyperbole
Generative AI: Separating Truth from Hyperbole

We are the ones who have ultimate control over AI. It is up to us to figure out how to make it do the work ...