the problem with change

10/08/2012

by pamela welling

It’s well documented that the problem with change is getting it to stick- we’re all smart enough to know that the most accessible of tweaks in our lifestyles could make all the difference to our quality of life- we should sleep more, eat better, exercise more and drink less booze. We’ve seen evidence that shows the smallest, most incremental of steps can move the needle in ways unexpected when it comes to our happiness. But despite the high profile research and plethora of advice, it’s still exceptionally hard to make change stick.

As coaches we have all sorts of tricks, tactics, ideas and theories we implement when supporting our high impact, high demand clients as they navigate change. But when it comes to our own careers, it turns out us coaches are just as mortal as the clients we support. Change is hard. And recently I’ve been experiencing that first hand. In my professional context I’ve gone from being an individual contributor to being part of a team, and my inner Kayne doesn’t like it. It’s hard to go from thinking about running your own show to having to consider others, to making decisions for the team and decisions for the good of the team. It means trade-offs, and sometimes the results of those decisions are not in my best interest, I find I have less time, I’m less efficient and the mini me Kayne I mentioned earlier is reacting to the reality of not having things go all of my way all of the time.

So, being a good coach I remind myself of the science behind the situation- change is hard, this we know. But anything worth doing is hard- this we also know, so how do we mere mortals reconcile our desires with our reality?

Firstly, identifying the underlying forces working against our desire to adapt and flex are key- As we think about re-routing our established neural pathways towards desired behaviors, it’s good for us to remember that old habits die hard and new habits take time and deliberate practice to form. One of the easiest tricks we recommend our clients use to help form these new habits is the SMART goal. SMART goals are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time bound steps we can take towards changing our behavior. Attainability is the key when it comes to these goals, and ideally we recommend clients get a friend or colleague invested in their success to keep them focused on the down days.

Secondly, Understanding our own Achilles’ heels can help- as I think about my new team scenario, I know my Meyers-Briggs (or MBTI) ‘type’ will impact my communication, approach and mindset. Knowing my style and hotspots will help me navigate those moments when I’m resisting going with the group.

Finally, we can all leverage our communication channels to help us figure out how to work with those around us. For me, I’ll use my brain trust to help me understand where  my team is at, but also to make sure they understand my preferences, my thought processes, my MBTI type idiosyncrasies. All going well, the next time I struggle to keep my inner Kayne in check, my new work mates will make like Taylor and stay as calm, composed and gracious as she did at the VMAs, and I’ll remember the strength that comes in numbers. Go team!

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