Trucks at Work

Changing behavior

Wise men read very sharply all of your private history in your look and gait and behavior.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Changing your behavior - especially as a manager in the trucking business - is no easy task. But it‘s something many business experts say is vital, especially if a manager‘s ingrained work habits are counterproductive. They also caution that to achieve change it must be done in small amounts over time and must occur in a positive manner, or the change won‘t take permanent root.

Professor Jerry Osteryoung of the college of business at Florida State University has a good take on how behavior impacts business output in his work with entrepreneurs. So I‘m going to let him give you his view on the subject. Professor Osteryoung, the floor is yours:

”Our behaviors are important aspects of how we function each and every day. For example, we do not have to think about brushing our teeth every day. We do it habitually as it is a very good behavior. However, not all behaviors are good. If one of our behaviors is coming in to work late, this is certainly not a good habit.

We were helping a very successful entrepreneur get through some rough industry and economic conditions. He was a fantastic salesperson, but he was spending most of his time doing the clerical work that was necessary to process all of the orders. After spending much time talking to him, we decided that he needed to spend much more time in the selling mode; however, he felt that every second he was selling - which he loved - something was not being done back at the office. He had developed the behavior that the clerical work had to be done before he could do any selling.

Changing someone‘s behavior is not an easy task at all. Just ask my wife who has been trying to change certain behaviors of mine for close to 40 years without any success. Most people will only change their behavior in a crisis (which I can personally attest to) or if they are given a goal with very small, achievable steps. For example, if you want someone who has never exercised before to exercise 30 minutes a day, the best method is to give him or her a series of small steps. You could have this person do five minutes a day for a week, then increase it to ten minutes, and so on.

In the case of this entrepreneur, it was clear that in order to change his behavior, we had to devise a series of very small steps leading up to a big goal at the end. We suggested that he spend just two half days in the field selling, a plan that he admitted would not affect the way he processed orders. I told him that I wanted to follow up with him in a month.

At the time of our follow-up meeting, I told him what a terrific job he had done and that I was so proud of what he had achieved. I, also, told I knew that this very tough for him. During this meeting, I, also, increased the expectation by encouraging him to now spend three half days in the field and begin looking for someone else to process his orders. In subsequent meetings, he gradually spent more time out in the field and less time in the office.

I was trying to change a behavior that had grown to be habitual and was killing his business day by day. The entrepreneur followed my suggestions, and I can now report that he spends 80% of his time selling, and he has hired a part-time assistant. Not only is his business flourishing, but being free to do what he really likes and what he is really good at has made him a much happier man.”