Have you ever felt that you have done all the right things – set strong goals, communicated them, made sure everyone understands – but the same ineffective habits keep getting in the way. 

It could be:

– employees not speaking up when something doesn’t look right ; or

– managers just saying “yes” when they don’t really think that’s the best way to do it; or 

– follow-up action steps not being set after a meeting so nothing gets done.

Goals identify what we need to achieve; how we choose to do the work is behavior, and if we want results, we need to consider both.  So it’s not enough to just set goals.  You also need to analyze whether there are any behaviors that are impeding your progress.

Here is one simple, but immensely effective way to create behavioral change that will change results.  I learned this from a chief scientific officer at a biotech company.  Every January at the R&D offsite he would unveil his new theme for the year – a behavioral change mantra that would impact the way work got done.

Human listening


An example of one of his themes is “Listen to the Data.” 

In biotech, the R&D costs are extremely high so any project that the company decides to pursue beyond the preliminary stages must be 100% successful. 

However success also means that a project needs to get cut as early as possible if not showing results so additional funds are not spent pursuing an unlikely candidate. 


Intellectually that makes sense, however for a scientist who “owns” his/her project and enjoys the “intellectual pursuit” of making something work, it is very difficult to “give up” and accept the “science isn’t working.”  Hence, to promote that behavior he set the mantra “Listen to the Data.”

After explaining the meaning and purpose of the mantra at the January offsite, he would use the phrase consistently throughout the year – in his department meetings, his one-on-ones with research directors, executive meetings.  There was no need for lengthy explanations – everyone knew what it meant – and hearing it repeatedly caused the listeners to sit back and really consider what the data was saying.  And if the data consistently showed it was not working, then it was time to cut the project.  It really worked!

Think about it – after a few times hearing the words “listen to the data” wouldn’t you start:

  • thinking about it before, rather than after, your meeting?
  • using the phrase with your direct reports and colleagues?
  • changing the way you behaved?

Every company has its own unique mantra that would help increase business productivity.

Need help determining your 2015 mantra? 

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