A first step in addressing any behaviour is understanding why people do or don’t do it - what they get from doing it as opposed to doing something else, and what prevents them from doing the behaviour you’re trying to encourage.
Those in authority sometimes tend to give out “medicine” based on what they feel is “best”. This is a mistake: people won’t do something unless they see there is some value in doing it. Make it clear − in terms of benefits that they clearly see - what doing it will achieve.
Reasons need not be about narrow self-interest. Nurses are traditionally altruistic, and will be motivated by things such as being able to deliver better patient care.
Don’t assume the benefits are clear, particularly at a time of increased stress for the profession. Spend time understanding your team to ensure you can provide reasons they care about.
You’d be surprised how many managers don’t make it clear what they want their teams to do - because it’s too abstract or ambitious, or they don’t understand it themselves.
Articulate a clear behaviour goal that you can explain and measure easily. If you have a good understanding of those you expect to do it, they’ll be able to achieve it.
As a manager, your job would be a lot easier if your team was formed of similar personalities, all of whom could be encouraged to do things in the same way.
But individual personalities vary drastically. For some, information communicated verbally or in writing will be enough. But for many, this won’t do. You may alienate the more anti-authoritarian; even the best intentioned may struggle − the burden of everyday life, or the appeal of simply carrying on as before, should not be underestimated.
If you’ve spent time understanding your team and have a proper grasp of their needs and values, you’ll be able to employ a range of methods that suit them best.
If, for example, a lack of confidence is a barrier, you can introduce some training. If it’s too great a workload, you can do some reorganisation. These will be much more effective than a prescriptive approach - and will have the added benefit of bringing people with you, rather than dragging them behind.
For some people or issues, you may not be the best person to deliver your message. If you don’t have credibility with your team on a particular issue, don’t be the one to deliver the message - find someone who has.
Finally, understanding your team may reveal shortcomings in your approach. If you want to sustain change, you must be ready to do things differently.
John Bromley is director of the NSMC (thensmc.com). He has 20 years’ experience of managing complex behaviour change programmes. He has worked at the Department of Health, setting up the Social Marketing Development Unit and developing national clinical strategies.