“I told them what they should be doing! I don’t know WHY they aren’t doing it!”

At some point or other, we’ve all been guilty of thinking or of saying something along those lines. “Guilty?!” you might protest, “But I’m the boss! They should be doing what I’m asking them to do!”

It’s true that the role of our employees, direct reports and teams is to execute what we ask them to do. But, as managers and leaders, it’s also our job to give them the tools they need to be successful. Without our leadership, it’s hard for teams to make changes that stick. With that in mind, take a look at the first two sentences again.

Notice the logic? “I told them… why aren’t they doing.” What’s missing here?

Let’s assume that the thing you’ve “told them” to do is something new that your team hasn’t ever done before. Creating a point-to-point logic statement from command to action over-simplifies the journey people have to take from new information to behavioral change and ultimately undermines our efforts.

Making that leap from telling to action is the fatal mistake at the heart of many management and performance issues and, when it’s happening within our sales teams, it shows up directly in our numbers.

So, How do we fix it?

The first thing we need to do is to look at how we think about learning and its relationship to action.

From Learning To Action: The Fastest Road to Lasting Change

Remember the old adage, “measure twice and cut once”? Or maybe the even more common one, “haste makes waste”?  We dilute our results when we rush the process.

It’s not easy to learn an entirely new behavior, to uproot an old one or, even better yet, to do both simultaneously. When you’re launching a new process, asking people to fill out more paperwork or expecting new action, change is essentially what you’re asking your team to do.

Depending on the depth of change you’re trying to create, it helps to look at each step along the way and to accept that in slowing things down, you will actually create faster and more lasting outcomes.

Three Phases of Creating Change

There are three phases of learning and creating change in an organization: Information, Implementation, and Integration. In our initial example, we jumped from the first step, the informational stage, all the way to the last step, integration. Here are the missing pieces.

1. Information

If you find yourself constantly having to crack the whip, threaten and engage in disciplinary measures, odds are you have rushed the fundamental Informational stage. If you’re seeing alarmingly high turnover rates, low morale and a lot of complaining, it’s time to reevaluate and press the reset button in a big way on this stage.

During this first phase of learning, people need to: hear new information, understand it and translate it from an abstract concept into a personally meaningful “what does this mean for me” statement. This is the time for buy-in to happen and for all of the answers to the when, what, why, where, how and who questions to be provided.

If you do not create buy-in or provide context, nobody is going to be buying what you’re selling and the change will either never happen at all or will take hold for a brief time and then flame out very quickly.

When managers complain that their teams aren’t following through on doing something that they have been asked to do, this is the first place I look. If nobody “gets it” either from an understanding level or from a “why should I want to / care about doing this” perspective, forcing the issue ends up being the only way to try to drive the desired behavior

2. Implementation

Implementation is the where the rubber hits the road. It’s where information translates into action. This is the time when the “what’s in it for me” becomes really important. Compensation plans and incentives factor highly into the success of this stage as does training and coaching.

For example, let’s imagine that you’re rolling out a new in-home sales process to your sales team. Everyone has been told about it (at least three times prior to launch) and has been thoroughly trained on the new steps. They understand what they are supposed to do, they have the form to follow and they have even understood the potential impact on their earnings if they execute this new plan well.

Launch day arrives. You push the button and the new sales process is live. Everything should go as smoothly as silk and the close rates should start rocketing and money pouring in. Right?


You just STARTED the implementation phase and you have a long way to go before your team hits integration. Research shows that instilling a new habit can take anywhere from 21 to 66 days. That’s the time you’ll need to work hands-on with implementation of your new “thing” — whether it’s a full-blown process, a mindset shift or simply some new paperwork or software you expect your team to use.

During the Implementation phase, you need be the biggest cheerleader of your new “thing”. You need to nurture your team, to keep course correcting, to build their confidence and to help them see the results you promised.

This can be the rockiest time of any new roll-out because, I’m sure you’re heard the phrase, “old habits die hard.” Well, it’s true. Change is hard and repetition is the only way to make it truly lasting. When you’re asking someone to change, be it a tiny change or a huge change, you have keep at it and continue to support them.

Momentum is your greatest asset in this stage, so use it! This isn’t the time for the proverbial stick, it’s the time for the carrot.

3. Integration

If you’ve succeeded at providing enough information and your team is motivated to buy-in to your vision, you’ll have an easier time implementing the change you wish to see.

Integration is the third and final stage of this journey from new concept to lasting behavioral change. Unlike the transition from Information to Implementation, there is no hard line in the sand where Implementation ends and Integration begins.

Integration is the gradual process of building a habit. You know the habit is finally formed when this “new thing” has just become a part of your team’s process. You, or your team, can’t remember a time when they “did it the old way.” Congratulations! You’re in the Integration stage!

Integration is the time for small tweaks and fine-tuning, if needed. Now, you can add new competencies on top of the solid foundation. Going back to our Sales Process example, this is the time when you can teach some of the finesse written between the lines of the step-by-step process.

When you’ve mastered the three-phase approach to launching new ideas or processes in your team, you will feel the results. Stress will decrease, results will increase and your team will love you for it!

If you’re looking for change in your organization, we can help. Book a Business Breakthrough Call today to find out about programs, coaching and consulting to help you grow in a manageable way.

Madeleine MacRae

Madeleine MacRae

Madeleine works with dealers and manufacturers in the Home Products and Professionals industry. She helps clients grow their businesses using the same systems and structures that the top companies use.
Madeleine MacRae
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