There’s a saying that goes something like ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got’.  This is something that applies to a number of local authorities I’ve worked with where the leadership are frustrated that their people aren’t being ‘more commercial’, ‘more customer focused’, ‘more innovative’ – the list goes on – but have been unable to crack the problem.

The first thing to do is to unpack those phrases and what exactly it is managers want from their staff. Most of the time the desire is for culture change, but whether it’s commercialism, customer focus or innovation, telling people to be like that, sending everyone on a training course or even restructuring the organisation around those priorities won’t achieve the change needed.

A change in culture needs to be driven by a change in behaviour. And behaviour, and therefore behaviour change, is determined by three factors. For the sake of helping me remember them (!) I call them: Skill; Will; and Fulfil.

Skill.  This means that an individual needs to have the capabilities or skills to undertake the new behaviours that are required of them. They may already have these skills, or it may mean that they have to ability to learn them. It’s quite likely that these skills have been untapped.

Will. For me, this is the most important of the three factors. This is about understanding what motivates and drives someone. It’s about what makes someone want to get up in the morning and do a good job. Sometimes these may be about someone’s mindset or habits, often it is about the choices they make. Essentially it about the things that energise people.

Fulfil. OK, it’s a clumsy term, but it means providing the right environment and opportunities for people to be able to behave differently. Change doesn’t work when a person is being told to be entrepreneurial, but there is a failure to change attitudes to risk or blame if things go wrong. Or when an organisation wants to see people seize opportunities and be more agile and responsive, but doesn’t overhaul its laborious, bureaucratic processes.

How often do we hear ‘We’ve given them some training, we’ve created a new organisational structure, why is nothing changing?’ The Skill and the Fulfil have been (kind of) handled, but changing behaviours needs all three of these areas to be considered, but the one that is most regularly overlooked is Will.

Will is probably the area that goes unaddressed because it can be thought of as the most difficult. You can see and touch a training course or a structure chart, but to understand what motivates people, what energises them and what their strengths are is more complex and yet the key to unlocking behaviour change and therefore culture change. It is this approach which makes a really important contribution to career management and development.

I have seen in practice that once managers understand their people’s strengths and the strengths needed for the jobs they aspire to they can have a truly meaningful conversation about ensuring there is a really good fit. And when people know and feel that they are playing to their strengths they have much more ownership of their job and their career as well as feeling empowered to make the right decisions.

At C.Co we believe that behaviour change is key to solving a whole range of organisational issues. We are experienced and professionally accredited to support individuals and teams in taking a strengths based approach to development, using the Strengthscope® approach. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you just drop me a line at