A Relationship Culture: Sustaining Behavior Change
by Chuck Maisch - President, Süd-Chemie Inc.
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Süd Chemie Inc. (SCI) management believes that our business success depends in large part on the individual and collective performance of our employees. In 2008, SCI implemented SDI training with the objective of improving employee performance. Key elements of employee performance are their ability to effectively interact, relate, collaborate and influence each other (inside and outside our company). By improving these behaviors, we expect employee performance to measurably improve. In addition, this training helps minimize non-productive behaviors and reduce destructive behaviors that negatively impact employee morale and productivity.
WHY SDI?The tool we chose for this training is SDI® (Strength Deployment Inventory®) offered by Personal Strengths. We evaluated a number of instruments and options aimed at helping employees understand their behavioral strengths and weaknesses. Each had a unique focus and approach. We discovered that most tools assess an individual’s behavior or preferences with focus on the ‘intrapsyche’ (internal wiring or personality). SDI is focused on the motivation that drives behavior. SDI is not a personality test and does not attempt to judge the good and bad traits of an individual; in fact, it helps participants recognize that style and behavior differences are positive and most importantly, to more effectively interact with people whose motivational strengths are different from our own. While SDI has a positive focus on individual behavioral strengths and motivation, it teaches the very important lesson that motivational strengths ‘overdone’ become weaknesses. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of SDI from the business perspective is skills learned to help participants effectively deal with and resolve interpersonal conflict.
SUSTAINABILITYCreating awareness as to how interpersonal relationships can improve is a first step but this is not enough to ensure lessons learned will result in sustained improvement. Once we create awareness, the next step is to teach and develop new skills that will help employees improve their interpersonal effectiveness. Our goal is for employees to continually work on improving their interpersonal skill development. SDI training incorporates skill development activities designed to develop ‘muscle memory’ that not only inspires behavior change but it causes sustained behavior improvement. SDI training will help us reach, teach and inspire SCI employees to improve their interpersonal effectiveness long term.
PHASE I (REACH)The first step in SDI training is reaching employees by creating awareness (self-discovery) about motivationally driven behaviors. Employees learn about the motivation behind their own behavior as well as the motivation that drives the behaviors of others. They also learn that their personal motivational strengths when overdone (even mildly) can become weaknesses. The challenge is for employees to learn to exhibit the most effective behavior that will achieve the most positive outcome when interacting with others. This requires behavior modification that is sometimes counterintuitive to an individual’s natural behavior tendencies. In an effort to achieve the desired outcome, natural behavior patterns must be modified or even abandoned for a more effective behavior approach. Awareness as to the behavioral approach that is most effective for a given situation is invaluable but may not alone cause effective behavior modification. Like all newly acquired skills, appropriately modifying behavior requires skill development and practice with constructive feedback and ‘modeling’ from managers as well as colleagues.
PHASE II (TEACH)The second phase of SDI training at Süd-Chemie involves teaching skill development that not only serves to increase our employee knowledge and awareness of behavioral impact, but it begins the behavior changing process. This phase incorporates experiential exercises and activities (learn by doing) that teach employees to readily choose and apply the most effective behaviors.
An element of SDI that makes it stand out from other 'psychometric' tools is Conflict Resolution. SDI helps individuals understand and recognize that the reason behaviors change during conflict is that an individuals' motivation also changes during conflict. SDI provides invaluable insight into the motivation behind behaviors during conflict and most importantly provides tools to help individuals more effectively resolve conflict.
Phase II has a significant focus on learning and practicing conflict resolution skills in a 'safe' environment. A growing and diverse organization encounters interpersonal conflict daily. When handled poorly, interpersonal conflict impedes success, destroys personal motivation as well as the effectiveness of teams; and it often stifles the generation of new and progressive ideas. Dealing with interpersonal conflict effectively improves the synergy of teamwork, accelerates the development and adoption of new ideas and enables an organization to grow and improve performance.
At Süd-Chemie, this phase is initially focused on supervisor and management level employees, providing advanced Relationship Awareness® training and skill development. After completing this phase of training, participants will be well on their way to developing the skills necessary to improve their personal interaction effectiveness. They will also be equipped to better identify and influence positive behavior changes of their direct reports, having a measurable positive impact on job performance.
Employees that participate in Phase II of SDI training will be equipped to help others learn and understand motivation as it relates to behavior and how relationships are affected. Nearly everyone who participates in this level of SDI training is eager to share what they have learned with family and friends. Following the belief and philosophy that "to teach is to learn twice," Personal Strengths has agreed to allow the participants who have successfully completed this phase the opportunity to have a friend, family member or 'significant other' take the SDI instrument for the nominal cost of the materials. The participant will then have the opportunity to explain (teach) the theory and concepts of SDI. This not only serves as a powerful reinforcement initiative, but in most cases it has a positive impact on these outside relationships as well (a benefit that most employees really appreciate).
During Phase II of our training, we began the development of a core team of SDI Champions who became certified in SDI facilitation and reinforcement. This internal team is utilized to provide cost effective reinforcement training to our broader population. Our goal is to not only protect and preserve our training investment but to develop a company culture that emphasizes the value we place on effective interpersonal relationships.
Non-management employees who attended Phase I training will attend Phase II training in 2010 and this will be delivered primarily by the SDI Champions. Extending Phase I & II training to the remaining SCI employee community is also planned for 2010 utilizing our internal SDI Champions. In addition, new hires and new managers receive their SDI training from SDI Champions as well. SDI Champions will continue their development by becoming SDI Level 2 certified as they become the primary resource for SDI reinforcement to the Süd-Chemie community at large.
PHASE III (INSPIRE) - THE COACHING COMPONENTPhase III introduces 360 SDI Feedback, Emotional Intelligence 360, and the SDI Expectations Edition as core inventories. Supervisors learn how to lead effectively by applying feedback they receive from Relationship Awareness inventories.
Applying the skills learned in Phases I & II, Managers learn to coach employees in SDI skills (Borrowing, Influencing and Conflict Resolution) utilizing a structured coaching model. This model is a proven method for teaching leaders/managers how to help employees effectively apply Relationship Awareness skills. Leaders learn a Coaching Skill Model (Plan, Observe and Effectively Provide Feedback) that utilizes planned conversations and Conflict Resolution with employees. Leaders plan for coaching opportunities, Observe employees in action, and apply Feedback Skills in this structured coaching format.
SDI feedback is incorporated into the SCI Performance Evaluation Program (PEP) to ensure this becomes a standard by which all employees are evaluated and developed.SDI is being incorporated into other company training initiatives (wherever practicable). The SDI Champions continue to build and develop reinforcement initiatives to further instill and inspire Relationship Awareness Theory as a cultural foundation of Süd-Chemie. We will continue to reach, teach and inspire SCI employees to behave in a manner that enhances productive personal interaction through on-going SDI reinforcement.
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