Change management

Trigger Happiness

Hello, Community! You haven’t had a newsletter from me in over a month! I had the most amazing sabbatical/vacation of my life, which I will tell you about as soon as I close the loop on this series. In this final installment on Behavior Change, we talk about the ignition spark, or change trigger. Triggers are critical to help initiate and reinforce new behaviors. So, without further ado…

When I hear the word “trigger”, it brings to mind the concept of being influenced to do or say something involuntarily. Or a gun. So my mental model of the word is mostly negative.

However, triggers can be a good thing when they are intentional and you are trying to wisely change or influence a behavior. You can actually design your environment and your day to include positive triggers to keep you on the path you desire.

First of all, there are obvious triggers like alarms and announcements. In this modern digital age, all the reminders, pop-ups, and banner ads can be really obnoxious. They are also ineffective most of the time.  For a trigger to work, it needs to have three key characteristics:

  1. Noticeable – Keeping your workout clothes in your passenger seat is a good trigger to get to the gym, but putting them in the trunk won’t work as well. Noticeable means it needs to be in front of your face.
  2. Associative – When something is associative, it always reminds you of the same thing. A broccoli sticker on your fridge will remind you to eat five servings of vegetables, but a picture of a puppy doesn’t, no matter how cute.
  3. Timely – Timeliness is the holy grail of the marketing industry. Activate the right trigger precisely when you are ready and able to respond, and you probably will. A note on the front door to remind you to grab the kids’ permission slip is helpful, but a note in the same spot reminding you to pay bills, not so much.

Without becoming Pavlov’s Dog, you can use triggers in your life to serve you and make your life easier.

BJ Fogg Behavior Model, Stanford University

BJ Fogg Behavior Model, Stanford University

Let’s say you want to remember to take stretch breaks at work. We know our posture gets worse as the day wears on, and how healthy it is to give our eyes a break and move our bodies, if even for 10 seconds. But who remembers? Well, if you set your phone or computer timer to play your favorite dance tune every half hour, it might motivate you to stand up and move!

Along the same lines, if you want to stop a behavior, you can remove a trigger. When my mom wanted to quit smoking, she had to remove her biggest trigger – her morning coffee and cigarette. Not able to give up her coffee at the same time, she made it in a travel mug to take with her so she couldn’t sit down next to the ashtray. Later, she removed the ashtray.

Use technology to your advantage, and trigger yourself for change!

This is the last installment in our series on the causal factors of behavior change, based on the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM). The FBM shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of these three elements is missing.

I hope this series has given you a good basis for looking at behaviors that you want to stop, change, or adopt, and to begin designing your environment in support of that goal. Make it easier for you to do the right thing, and you can make change happen in your own life.

And hey, here’s a trigger right now! Click in the comment section below to share your ideas for positive triggers and to let me know what you think of this series. I’d love to hear from you!

Core Motivators

Change is hard.

“The only constant is change.” — Heracles of Ephesus

It is both validating and frustrating to me that I am not the only one that continues to struggle with getting things done within the context of life balance. Let me explain.

We all struggle with getting things done.

In order for our lives, and our work, to progress the way we want them to, there are certain things that actually need to be accomplished. Do you want to improve staff morale? You need to get executive buy-in, establish a baseline, identify interventions, etc. Is it time to implement an important change? Your to-do list includes performing a needs assessment, writing the business case justification, drafting the project charter and communication plans, etc. Usually, there is more to do than we can fit into a day.


In fact, everyone seems to be drowning in “To-dos.”

Whether at home or in the office, having a list that is too long is overwhelming and anti-motivational. Narrow your to-do list to just 2 or 3 important items you want to accomplish today. That means 2-3 items that, if you get just those done, you will feel accomplished. (Have more? Narrow them down by setting boundaries.)  

In our last newsletter, we introduced you to the research of Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford University. We talked about increasing your ability to make a change by utilizing the six simplicity factors to help you succeed. Odds are, you are trying to improve something in your life right now, so making it easier to do, setting yourself up for success, is a mindset you can practice immediately. But what about those big changes you haven’t started yet?

How do you turn a “To-do” list into a “Done” list?

To actually get going in a work environment — to reach down inside and find the strength and energy to change direction — there are three core motivators you should know about: Sensation, Anticipation, and Social Cohesion. Each of these has two sides: pleasure/pain, hope/fear, and acceptance/rejection. ( Knowing these not only makes it easier for you to get going, but can also help you motivate your team and organization.

The first core motivator is Sensation, with the dual nature of pleasure and pain. It is very motivating to do things that would avoid pain, like addressing performance issues so you don’t get fired. On the other side, being recognized for your achievements is a pleasure that motivates most professionals.

The Anticipation motivator is slightly more abstract, with the outcome not being as certain. We can hope that the new product will bring in more customers, and so we give it a try. The fear of something bad happening to your bottom line can also be motivational, prompting a change of course or intervention.

Social Cohesion motivation is gained from the sense of acceptance you feel from your peers when they support your project or idea. Fear of social rejection, however, can keep you from expressing a concern or challenging an idea in a group meeting.

There are many ways to motivate yourself, and others, to change.

When you spend quality time thinking about the changes you want to make, and applicable human motivators, you improve your chances of success. Here are some ways this knowledge is directly applicable in your work life:

Pleasure: Can you show how there will be recognition by peers or an outside agency?

Pain: Can you demonstrate how frustrating it is to work under current circumstances?

Hope: Do you reflect your belief that this change will make things better?

Fear: Do you have examples of what could happen if you don’t change?

Acceptance: Is everyone else in your field doing this already?

Rejection: Will your vendors, customers, and competitors look askance at you for not changing?

These are just some examples to think about within the context of the three core motivation categories in the Stanford behavior model. Change is hard, and having a toolbox full of direct interventions can support you and your team in the absence of more intrinsic motivation.

In our next newsletter, we will talk about how to kick off a change by utilizing triggers. In the meantime, I’m sure you have a list of things you use to personally motivate yourself, like mine here.

I would love for you to share your motivational techniques in the comments section below. I’m always looking for new ideas!

Motivating Myself

My toolsGit ‘Er Done

With all this focus on getting things done, especially those big projects that have been weighing me down, I reached out to my tribe to solicit ideas. I wanted to know how people motivate themselves to do things they don’t necessarily want to do.  There are plenty of things that are important that need to be done (taxes come to mind), but getting up the gumption to sit down and complete them can sometimes seem impossible. Here are some of the things recommended by the people I know, as well as some uncommon things that have worked for me in the past:

My Anti-procrastination Toolbox

  • Set up my workspace: Clear the desk/table, get water/tea, put on music
  • Find “Accountability Buddies,” people who love you enough to help hold you accountable
  • If there’s no distraction-free space at home, schedule time on my calendar to go to a coffee shop
  • Turn off notifications on my phone and close my email programs
  • Chant, meditate or even take 5 deep breaths before starting work to set my intention/attention
  • Envision doing the task for someone I love
  • Ask for help from groups I belong to, friends, and/or my circles
  • Lean on what others appreciate about me to get the job done (strength, connection to others, achievement, vitality, etc.)
  • When stuck, do 20 jumping jacks (get heart rate up) and/or have weights nearby
  • Take breaks/do something else for 15-20 minutes instead of getting lost in email or social media
  • Procrastination is our emotional response to a task. Sit with the feeling and see what comes up.
  • Use a voice recording program to brainstorm ideas & get started on writing stuff. It’s easier to edit than create.

This list has really helped me stay focused on the mountain of writing I’ve committed to do, most notably my upcoming eBook! (Stay tuned for that!)  Do you have even more ideas? I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below.

Making Lasting Change

BJ Fogg, Stanford University

BJ Fogg, Stanford University

Yep, it’s that time of year.

Here it is, February of a new year, and I return from my writing hiatus to be inundated with messages of self improvement and change.

All the magazine covers are touting New Year’s resolutions and promoting solutions for the most popular ones: lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy, etc. I am happy to see topics that include meditation, gratitude practice and being a better parent/partner/person, but do these articles really make a difference? They show up, year after year, and still the numbers for how many people keep their resolutions is abysmal.

How do you even make a permanent improvement in your life?

There are many studies on human motivation, behavior and change. Despite what you see on the magazine covers, the popular idea of repeating a new behavior for 15, 21 or 31 days for a permanent change is a bit simplistic. Let’s talk about a more realistic framework for making real, lasting change.

First of all, let’s assume you’ve thought about your life and decided on a SMART goal for improvement, right? That’s a goal that is Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. An example of rewriting a goal to be SMART is going from “I want to be more healthy,” to “By summer, I want to be able to climb three flights of stairs without being out of breath.” Look to for additional help. Note that this process can be equally applied in business and in your personal life.

The real challenge is how to make a change “stick”.

The magazines are purchased because they promise quick solutions to (e.g. “21 Days to Great Abs.”) The research of Dr. BJ Fogg, Stanford University, honors that is is not always that simple (or we’d all have great abs). There are three core motivators, six simplicity factors, and three type of triggers that combine to give the statistical likelihood that you will succeed in implementing a behavioral change. ( The mathematical formulas look pretty complex, but the good news is that you can just focus on increasing the odds in your favor. Today we will discuss the simplicity factors.

You set yourself up for success by making your desired change as simple as possible.

Simplicity is defined as the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost. (“Cost” is your most scarce resource.) From the list below, decide which resource(s) you have the least of, which is/are your biggest personal and situational roadblocks, and which you can address to make a positive change more likely to stick.

  1. Time – I’ve never heard anyone say they have plenty of time, but certainly starting an exercise program during finals or holidays is putting additional obstacles in front of you. Can you break up your change into smaller chunks you can fit in? Is there a creative two-fer (2 activities in one) you can create, like dancing while brushing your teeth or stretching while waiting in lines?
  2. Money – 99% of us don’t have ‘enough’ money, so let’s just take that off the table. If your change absolutely takes an increase in money, then that’s an entirely separate goal to look at. Let’s assume there is a more creative solution at this point and not use money as an excuse.
  3. Physical Effort – If it’s a big rigmarole to go home, get your stuff together, change into workout clothes, drive to the gym, put your stuff in a locker, etc., the odds of you attending that class is pretty slim. But if it’s across the street for where you’re going anyway to pick up the kids, and you keep workout clothes in the car, you just might make it.
  4. Brain Space – How much do you have to think about it? Is the workout bag in the front seat where you will see it? Can you set an alarm or recurring calendar event so you don’t have to rely on your memory?
  5. Sociability – Is everyone else doing it? You are more likely to walk during your work breaks if other people are. Find those people. Hang out or connect with “buddies” that have similar goals to you, as the accountability and support will help you stick to it.
  6. Routine – If something is so opposite to who you are and how you live your life, it will be hard to incorporate it. Instead of starting some new class, put on hyper kid music and dance around the house.

The goal is the result, not the activity.

Do you really have to walk, lift weights or do push-ups to be healthier? In reality, these are just a few ways to reach an end goal. Find something that fits you, your lifestyle and your priorities, and you’re more likely to succeed.

There are a lot of demands on our time, resources and brain power.

I personally have been trying to get eight hours of sleep every night since my children were born. That was over seven years ago. But each stage of their growth, especially since there are two of them now, presents its own challenges with regards to my sleep. But I keep trying, mostly because I now know how fundamental good sleep is to all other facets of my life: health, mood, brain function, etc.

The point is to keep trying different things until you find something that works for you and the behavior you’re trying to change. With sleep, it might be moving your bedtime up half an hour, finding a bedtime routine that calms your brain chatter, herbal supplements, reading a boring book, or in times of desperation, temporarily leaning on medication. (Yes, sleep is *that* important, as I wrote about here.)

Yes, but what does any of this have to do with being a change agent superhero, Tess?

Why on Earth do I write about personal growth-type topics when my company primarily focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses implement effective, intentional change? I was asked that question (more or less) over the holidays. My answer? Look in the mirror. Who do you think *makes* those changes?

I support you because I support what you are trying to do. I encourage you to redefine success as the journey itself and acknowledge that you are taking the road less traveled. You are part of the small percentage of the population that is constantly looking to improve yourself and your world. You are a seeker and an improver. Take pride in that. I know I do. And I’m proud that you’re on this journey with me.

Please share some of the ways you make change easier on yourself in the comments section below!

Video introduction to OmniConsultants!

Welcome to the OmniConsultants blog!

When I started telling people I was starting my own business, saying I was going to be a consultant wasn’t enough. “But what are you going to do?” they asked. Well, the majority of my professional skills, marketing, communications, training, process redesign, strategic planning, etc. can all be applied to the area of business known as change management. Change is happening all the time, to all of us, but organizations usually act in a reactive manner, even when they know a change is coming. However, when you proactively plan for a change, any change, you decrease the stress of your workforce and increase the likelihood that the change is an improvement. Otherwise, your change will either completely fail, or work for a few months and then fade away. In our OmniConsultants introductory video, I explain some of the basics of change management, which I will expand on in future posts.

Thanks for watching, and please feel free to comment and share!

Looking forward,