How do you get participants’ managers on board with supporting the change that your programs are designed to create?

It’s a mouthful for sure. 

The context is you have participants currently enrolled in your program and they are learning new things. 

They are excited to put said new things into practice. 

They’ve landed on why the content and the change matters to them and they have a plan in place to implement these changes over the next 30 days (and beyond). 

This time period where individuals are trying out new things is a fragile one. When they go back to their day-to-day to implement new behaviors it’s imperative that their manager is on board with them going through this learning curve. 

If they aren’t, their manager runs the risk of being a derailer for that behavior change, instead of an enabler. 

This is because their manager has come to expect certain behaviors, certain speeds of work, and certain outcomes from the people on their team. 

When participants begin to act in a different way, there is going to be a learning curve. 

They are going to enter into a state of (conscious) incompetence as they work through that learning curve until they get to a point of conscious competence and then, ultimately, unconscious competence. 

And one ill-timed comment from a manager can cancel out the whole thing.

How the learning session (and the learning process that follows) are positioned to the leader becomes incredibly important in helping them switch from being a blocker of behavior change to being an active supporter and champion of that behavior change. 

Two quick tips can help make this process a smoother one. 

1. The manager needs to understand what’s in it for them

To be clear, this is not the same as “what is in it for the participant” or even “what’s in it for the organization”. If the participant comes back from their session excited about putting this new thing into practice most leaders – particularly time-starved ones – will immediately think of this change in terms of how it’s going to impact everything from productivity to delivery timelines. 

While it’s important for the participant to know what’s in it for them, it’s equally important for the leader to know what the benefit of the participant’s behavior change will be for them. Help paint the picture of the (soon to be) future state, specifically through the lens of how it will make them feel/act/look.

This is about getting to the endpoint of the new competencies that are going to be realized as a result of the individual’s behavior change and how those new competencies will lead to an outcome that matters to the leader. 

Getting clear on what KPIs the leader is measured against is incredibly valuable so that you and the participant can reframe the outcome of the program to that end state and, in an ideal world, even provide the leader with a sense of how long that new reality will take to create. 

2. Your program needs a system for linking the participant’s behavior change to the manager’s KPIs 

Point 1 (above) is about helping the leader see the benefits of the program through their own lens. 

Point 2 is about providing them a method by which to (a) see the changes as they’re happening and (b) support those changes, where appropriate.

Actionable’s Habit Builder is one such vehicle. The Habit Builder is designed to assist the participant with making the changes they desire (based on your content) and to activate the social support system so critical to embedding lasting change. The manager is very much a part of that system.

Just like one ill-timed comment from a manager can kill an individual’s fledgling behavior change, so too can a message of encouragement help them stay the course.

If you can help your participants’ leaders get into the headspace of it being in their best interest, (as well as in the company and participants’ best interest) to support these new behaviors you will have encouraged someone to become an enabler of change for their team, rather than a derailer. While this is a small part of the behavior change process, it has the potential for big impact. 

Actionable is on a mission to help boutique consultancies scale their business by giving them the tools to prove and amplify their impact.

If you’re serious about focusing on impact, we’d love to show you how we can help. Book a time to talk with us.

We can’t wait to meet you.