Making Change Stick

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Neena Newberry, MBA, PHR, ACCFebruary 8, 2012

My son recently learned to tie his shoelaces. I distinctly recall that intense look on his face as he focused so hard on each step in the process, to make sure he did it all just right. I’m sure you haven’t had to put that level of energy and focus into tying your shoes in years because you have reached that point of unconscious competence (where it’s second nature). However, you may have other things you want to master or change to take your leadership and performance to the next level.

When I coach leaders, my goal is to help them make the desired changes, and make them stick. As you might expect, there is a method to the madness. So, today, I want to share three tips that may expedite the change process for you.

1. Remind yourself what’s at stake

Usually when you want to make a change in behavior, it’s because something much bigger is at stake. Let me explain what I mean. For example, I recently coached a client who is so smart that he often goes into mindreading mode. In other words, he keeps interrupting others because he “knows” what they are about to say.

He has finally come to realize the negative impact that this has on his relationships and wants to make a shift. At the end of the day, this isn’t about him wanting to be more polite and waiting patiently for others to finish. As a leader, this is about him building commitment by showing respect and valuing his team’s ideas. And for the business, it’s about delivering on the business goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. By keeping in mind what’s really at stake, he is much more motivated to follow through.

2. Recognize that others won’t notice immediately

As you put in the time and effort to change your behavior, you might feel frustrated when others just don’t seem to notice. Remember that with the day-to-day distractions in their lives, most people will take a while to notice. And when they do, it may take time for them to trust that you can sustain the behavior change – and that has less to do with you and more to do with human nature.

3. Set aside time to assess your progress

Last but not least, take time to understand what’s working for you and what’s not. By deliberately looking for the evidence, you will notice what’s working and will think about how to more proactively put it into play. Although change takes time, this approach will make change stick much faster.

So, whether you are making change on a small or large scale, identify one strategy you want to put into play for yourself this week. What small step will you take to make change stick?

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