In my executive coaching work with clients, we often work on changing specific behaviors. Clients want to learn a new behavior or stop doing something that is counterproductive. Behaviors are often part of the client organization’s competency model and each competency has specific behaviors outlined.
I was recently training an accountant who wanted to be more optimistic. He wanted to change his story about how bad things were at work and challenge some long held assumptions. He wanted to focus more on the company’s solutions than the problems.
We incorporated some of Byron Katie’s work. Think of a specific thought you want to change, and ask yourself the following four powerful questions. You may find yourself thinking and acting differently.
the four questions
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do you react when you have that thought?
4. Who would you be without thought?
How difficult is it for you to change your behavior? Do you find changing people’s behavior a challenge?
All leadership comes down to this: changing people’s behavior.
Alan Deutschman at Fast Company (change or dieMay 2005)
Changing people’s behavior is the most important challenge for business leaders who compete in unpredictable environments.
The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture or systems.says Dr. John P. Kotter, a retired Harvard Business School professor who specializes in leadership. The heart of the matter is always to change people’s behavior.
What works and why is change so incredibly difficult?
A Fast Company article, change or die (May 2005), reveals that when faced with a health crisis like heart disease, only one in nine people make the changes necessary to live longer.
Minds are hard to change, yet many aspects of our lives are geared towards doing just that. We are faced with a supplier who needs to respond more quickly, a subordinate who must perform a task in a different way, or a colleague who must recognize the importance of our project and commit to it. We clearly recognize the need for others to change their minds and act differently. We also know that we need to change our minds at certain times.
Many of us are professionally involved in the business of changing people’s minds. A CEO, executive or team leader must convince and secure commitment; a salesperson must close the sale and persuade consumers to think differently about the new product’s features; consultants and coaches need to change their minds to motivate groups and individuals to perform more effectively for better results.
Why are our brains wired in a way that seems to resist change so tenaciously? in his book How the way we talk can change the way we work (2001), authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey describe the process of resistance and how the natural tendency of our bodies and minds is to return to what they were used to doing, which is a process called homeostasis.
In this new millennium, with increasing discoveries about the brain, has cognitive neuroscience uncovered clues about what it takes to help people change the way they think so they can modify their behavior? Professor Howard Gardner, a lifelong researcher and expert on the mind, believes we have reached this point:
Of all the species on earth, human beings are the ones that specialize in voluntary mind-switching: we change other people’s minds, we change our own. We have even created various technologies that allow us to extend the reach of mind shifting: powerful mechanical devices such as writing instruments, televisions, and computers. In the next decade, the mindset shift will continue and, in all likelihood, accelerate. changing minds2004.
Working with an experienced executive coach trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating leadership assessments like the BarOn EQi and CPI 260 can help you reframe some of your thinking. He can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to happily commit to the company’s strategy and vision.