THIS is why your communication skills training doesn’t stick…

By Heather Campbell

Yesterday I arrived at work without one critical piece of kit – my mobile phone!

This was a big deal. I had lots of calls to make and plenty I was expecting to receive too.

But more than making and receiving the calls (there were ways around that) I just felt that the day wasn’t quite complete. Google Maps, text messages, emails on the go… even reminding me to breathe once an hour 😉 – my phone is an extension of me.

I guess you can empathise! And I’m sure that, like me, you wonder how you ever managed without your mobile, even as you complain that it rules your life.

But it wasn’t just this that I noticed. What really got to me was how many times I automatically reached out my hand for my mobile – simply out of habit.

Habits are powerful and they’re hard to break. Habits are so intrinsic to us that we don’t even recognise we have them, most of the time.

Understanding just how powerful habits are gives insight into a key reason why investing in developing leaders’ communication skills doesn’t bring the sustained change HR hopes for.

You see, we talk about changing communication behaviours but when it comes to changing the way we communicate, we’re not changing behaviours – we’re changing deeply embedded habits. Habits that we’ve been laying down since birth.

Now, just imagine you could attend a workshop on decreasing dependency on your mobile phone. At the workshop, you’re given all kinds of useful knowledge on the need to change and what to do to change; you’re even given a chance to practise some skills. (I don’t know what, mind you – maybe picking up your pen every time you want to pick up your mobile!)

You leave the workshop motivated to change, excited about the new knowledge and skills you’ve learned. But the next day, when you’re back in your normal world, and you get that itch to check something on your mobile… you find your resolve to change dissolves. The habit is stronger than your good intentions, and you find yourself back into your usual patterns.

You’d have to work really hard to overcome that itch. To work that hard, you’d have to really want to change your habit. To really want to change your habit, you’d have to see significant benefits that matter to you.

Getting leaders to change the way they communicate is no different.

Maybe you want leaders to lose the habit of directing and start coaching instead. Perhaps you’d like your leaders to stop avoiding tough topics and deal with the problems instead. Maybe you need leaders to stop talking so much and listen to what people have to say.

To get the sustained return you need on your investment, you need to help leaders understand what communication habits they need to break and then give them a really powerful reason to break those habits – one that’s powerful enough to make them want to change the habits of a lifetime.

Interested in finding out the kinds of powerful reason that actually work? Drop me an email and let’s talk!

[Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at]

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