7 Steps For Creating Lasting Change
Are you ready to accelerate your leadership skills? Do you want to create movement in your effectiveness? Is there a person whose leadership effectiveness or lifestyle you want to emulate? Are you so busy surviving your day, that focusing on improving your leadership skills is postponed to someday far in the unforeseen future? Do you find that when you ask for feedback, the information you receive is not helpful? If you are ready to generate immediate traction with your leadership development, this blog post is for you!
I consider myself a life-long learner. I am constantly seeking opportunities to read books, attend training sessions, workshops, conferences, and study the works of successful leaders. I know I'm not the only one. Thousands of people invest in themselves or their teams by bringing in consultants, presenters or sending individuals to training. What's frustrating to me is that more often than not, when people return to work, there is no change in behavior or the change lasts for a short period of time.
I recently heard someone compare learning and "knowledge gathering." The gentleman pointed out that most often, when people attend seminars, read books, or study, they really aren't learning; they are simply gathering knowledge. In order for learning to take place, a behavior has to change. I couldn't agree more with the speaker! Knowledge is great and it can be powerful. However, it is ONLY powerful when it is tied to action!
Through my own experiences, I've learned that unless there is a stressful circumstance that requires an immediate change in behavior like a life-threatening situation or illness, threat of losing a job or income, behavior change is hard… VERY HARD. I've attempted to change a number of my behaviors to advance my leadership skills, improve my health, or deepen my relationships. What I've experienced is that when I focus on one behavioral change at a time and have a system in place for accountability, only then will I make the change I desire. In this article, I share with you 7 steps to create the change you want to make. It won't be easy, but at least you'll have a framework to explore.
1. DECIDE THE CURRENT REALITY ISN'T WORKING
The first step in creating change is to decide you're not going to stay where you are. Something about your current reality is no longer working. Perhaps none of your clothes fit, you’re embarrassed by what you see in the mirror, you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, you want more control of your work schedule, you want a platform to share your ideas, or perhaps you feel disconnected with others and notice that you are disengaged in the most important relationships. Whatever it is, you feel miserable and know that you have to make a change in order to escape your current reality.
2. DETERMINE YOUR NEW IDENTITY/DESTINATION
Once you’ve identified that a change is necessary and are ready to move forward, the second step is to decide WHO you want to be. (Taking on an identity is more sustainable than simply setting a goal). Perhaps you want to be the person who feels comfortable in her clothes, or specifically wear a size 4. Maybe you want to be the person who successfully manages a project, or the leader who creates a cohesive team. Maybe you want to be the expert people seek when they need advice about a certain topic. Whoever it is that you want to become, get clear on who that person is and what she does that inspires you to become more like her. Questions to consider as you create a visual of this person are:
· What does this person do to be successful?
· What does this person do in her free-time?
· What does this person like to eat?
· Who or what kind of people are in this person’s social circle?
· What are this person’s challenges?
· What makes this person laugh, cry or scared?
· What keeps this person up at night?
· What is this person thankful for?
· What is it about this person that resonates with you?
· Why do you want to become this person?
· What will becoming like this person give you?
Once you’ve identified who it is that you want to become, write an identity statement using present-tense language. In other words, write it as if it is already true. For example, if your goal is to get fit and lose weight, the identity you may want is “I am a strong woman who wears a size 4 in jeans.” If you’re working on getting your team to speak up and share their ideas, the identity you could be seeking is “I am the leader who listens.”
Once you’ve created your identity statement, practice saying it. It may feel awkward since it is not yet true. However, by repetitively saying it, the reticular activating system in your brain will start doing its work to make it a reality. This identity statement is much like an affirmation statement. When said on a regular basis, the Law of Attraction will work for you! Additionally, by connecting and owning the identity statement, you are more likely to engage in behaviors that align with that identity.
3. FOCUS ON ONE THING
Now that you have a visual of WHO it is that you want to become and have created an experience where you can connect with that person, your job is to choose ONE behavior that will move you closer to becoming that person.
Research has proven time and time again that we humans cannot multi-task or focus on more than one thing at a time. This is in direct conflict of the messages we hear from our parents, teachers, and inspirational speakers. They tell us we can have all things at any time. It is simply not true. In order to be successful, we must focus on ONE thing at a time. Study any great leader and notice that it is ONE thing that sets that person apart from others. They focus on ONE thing and make great strides in that area instead of making small strides in many areas. Step 3 is to choose ONE behavior that you will focus on for 90 days in order to create momentum.
Using the identities from Step 2, “I am a strong woman who wears a size 4 in jeans” a focus could be staying within a calorie allowance. For “I am the leader who listens,” a behavior change could be to hear everyone’s ideas before sharing your own.
4. TAKE DAILY ACTION
Imagine for a moment that you want to get into shape and that rather than spending 30 minutes in the gym each weekday, you decide to block one day each month as “gym day” and spend 10 hours on that day getting your workout in. Seems ludicrous doesn’t it? What’s funny about this is that this is how we approach change!
When I was learning the piano, I hated practicing so rather than spending 5-10 minutes each day, I crammed for 2 hours just before the next lesson. In school, rather than spending time each day to work on projects, I waited until Sunday evening and hoped that whatever I accomplished before bedtime was “good enuf.” In college, I crammed for exams with ritual all-nighters. Meanwhile, my sister and friends who spent time each day working on their skills excelled in school and activities. Virtually any skill that is hard to learn requires many, small moments of focused action. The action in and of itself, will not get you the outcome. However, it gets you moving towards it.
Step 4 is to spend 5-10 minutes EVERY DAY with ONE behavior that will move you closer to your new identity. (Beware of your tendency to set the bar high. Your daily action should be reasonable in order to create immediate success). In the example of “I am a strong woman who wears a size 4 in jeans,” you could start by tracking your food intake for one meal. Saying that you will do this for every meal, every day could lead to failure and frustration if you miss one. In the case of becoming the leader who listens, the daily focus could be listening to one person’s thoughts, opinion or ideas before sharing yours. An important quality about your daily action is that you want to make sure it is simple, something easy to achieve because you want to set yourself up for success early on. Achievement will come if movement is occurring.
5. SET MILESTONE FOR MOTIVATION
On any given day, 90% of our time is spent on existing activities so learning something new requires quick, focused, daily action. Making the ONE daily action quick will prevent it from getting lost with all the other things on your schedule or to-do list. Additionally, it will help keep you motivated.
Another way to stay motivated is to plan small incremental milestones. Each time I have arrive at one of those milestones, such as receiving a badge on my Fitbit, getting a high rating on my performance review, or achieving a higher status in my professional development, I have received validation and encouragement. It is these milestones that let me know I am making headway towards my goal. As a result, this builds my confidence and affirms that I can become the person I’ve identified in Step 2.
Decide now what 2-3 mile markers you will set as milestones so you can recognize the progress you’re making and write them down. Using the example of “I am a strong woman who wears a size 4 in jeans,” a milestone could be a smaller number on the scale, or the need to purchase a smaller size jean. Another indicator could be that people are commenting on how great you look. For the example of “I am the leader who listens,” mile markers could be noticing others who are normally silent are now speaking, people ask me what I think, or meetings are longer because everyone is sharing. It is important to pick a number of milestones, or indicators, so you’re not relying on one single factor as a measure of your progress. Making a permanent change is going to take time so setting 2-3 milestones will help keep you motivated.
6. INCORPORATE FEEDBACK
In some cases when it comes to making a change, it is not enough for us to see our own progress. This is especially true when it comes to improving our relationships or leadership skills. Those that we are in relation with, whether personally or professionally, also need to see it. Up until now, the steps to making change have all been about what you can do to create momentum. Now, it is time to take into consideration what others are noticing. This is where you learn if your daily action is moving you towards the identity you want. How are people experiencing you? This is the point you ask for feedback.
When it comes to asking for feedback you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to give it. You can do this by being specific in your question. In the example of being the leader who listens, a question to ask is “I am working on listening. What is ONE thing you’d suggest I do in the next meeting that would help with this?” Or “I am working on listening to other people’s ideas before sharing my own. What is ONE thing I can do to ensure people speak up?” The key here is to ask for ONE thing and to do this many times with different people each week. You want to get lots of information so you have a clear image of what people are noticing. The next step is to decide how you’ll apply the information and adapt what you’re doing if necessary.
7. GET A QUICK WIN
When I leaped into the coaching business, I was excited and motivated. I couldn’t wait to improve the lives and leadership of those who wanted my help. A few months into this new career, my excitement decreased. I started to wonder if I made a mistake. Rather than signing contracts every day, I was lucky if I signed a contract every month! People told me they found value in their breakthrough session and could see the benefit of being in a coaching relationship, but it just wasn’t the right time or their finances were tied up in other projects. Then, it happened. I met a woman and we hit it off immediately. She was a go-getter and was ready to make changes. During our work together, she loved who she was becoming and the balance she was creating between her demanding job and her personal life. She attributed her success to our coaching partnership. As a result, she referred her colleagues and friends to me. Soon after, business started to take off.
The challenge with what I experienced is that I was looking for a client to validate what I was doing. The lesson I have since learned is that I shouldn’t rely on other people’s achievement in order to measure my own success. Rather, it is much more beneficial if I set myself up for success by creating small, quick wins. These small, quick wins are what keep me motivated. Using the examples in this article, small wins could be tracking a meal on Fitness Pal or staying within the calorie amount. In regards to the leader who listens, a quick win could be simply asking one person for his thoughts on the topic.
In summary, there are 7 steps to create lasting change. It all starts with deciding that what you’re currently doing is no longer working. Once you’re committed to making a change, the next step is to decide who you want to become. Remember, designing an identity has longer lasting results than setting a goal. Once you’ve connected with WHO you want to become, you’ll want to choose ONE behavior to focus on for the next 90 days. You’ll take daily action on that ONE behavior. Keep it simple, spending 5-10 minutes each day to work it. In order to make sure you’re making progress on your path to the new identity, set marks of measurement. Affirm your progress by asking for feedback. Ask those who are impacted by the change you’re making for ONE thing you can do different. Use the feedback you receive to affirm your progress or make an adjustment. Finally, be sure to set yourself up for success by creating small wins. Keep things simple so you can easily and quickly achieve these wins as a way of staying motivated.
Now that you have 7 Steps for Creating Lasting Change, what will you change?
My call to action for you is create your small win now. What is ONE thing you can do right now that will move on the path to becoming the leader you desire or having the life of your dreams? Perhaps it is going through and spending time with one of these steps. Maybe it is printing this article or sharing it with another person. Maybe it is visiting EmpoweredCoaching.com and scheduling your breakthrough session. Whatever it is, go get that small win… NOW!
Atomic Habits by James Clear
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
The One Thing by Gary W. Keller
Great at Work by Morten Hansen
The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney