Become the Person You Want To Be

Dear Springboard:

It’s only the end of February and I’ve already given up on my lofty “goals” for the year.

I’m not losing weight, exercising or even meditating.

Plus, I’m not listening better to my staff members as I had promised.

It feels crazy to give up already.  How to make the changes I say I want?

Sign me,

Not in The Habit

Dear NiTB:

You’re not alone. There is a reason why gyms sell annual memberships.  They know the crowd will have thinned by this time of year to just the consistent regulars.

It’s interesting that you sign off referencing “habit.”  A core message of the current best seller Atomic Habits, by James Clear, is that even small changes (hence, atomic) with small incremental increases over a long time can yield significant gains.

Imagine getting 1% better every day for a year.  Or, if you shifted your direction on a map by 1 degree and progressed that way over a long period of time, you would end up in a very different place.

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The book suggests we look at systems versus goals.

With goals, we have a metric to achieve and once we’re there, we create another goal and so we’re always in pursuit of what we think will make us happy.  The satisfaction of achievement is fleeting, and elusive.

Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.  A system consists of the action steps we take in pursuit of a goal.

I remember an English teacher in high school telling me: do the work and the grades will take care of themselves.

How do we create a system and what sustains it?  Our individual system will be the outgrowth of our personal set of beliefs and so it becomes about our identity.

A personal example is that my number one rule for myself is to show up.  That becomes:  I’m the type of person who is a dependable because I am very consistent in showing up.

When we repeat behavior, it becomes a reinforcing loop. Habits shape identity, and identity shapes habits.

Over time and with consistency, one is no longer looking for a change, but instead just acting like the person they believe (or want) themselves to be.

True behavior change is about changing our self-identity. The reason we stick with a new behavior is that it becomes part of our identity.

And so it follows that the biggest barrier to positive change is identity conflict.

Good habits can make sense rationally, but if they conflict with our identity we will fail to maintain them.

The bottom line with atomic habits is that they are not about having something. They are about becoming someone.

Here’s an interesting and individually challenging dynamic to this: to get the results we want, it requires we create a system based on honoring values we say (if only to ourselves) are key to us; it means we must demonstrate our commitment to a value or principle and be faithful about it.

How to act on this?

The author’s two-step process for change is:

1.    Decide the type of person you want to be (honoring your values and principles)

2.    Prove it to yourself with small wins

Not sure when to begin to answer the first question? Ask yourself:  what kind of person could get the outcome I want?  What would _________ do?

For a deeper dive and a practical understanding of how to act on these ideas, I suggest checking out the book.

It breaks down how a habit is constructed with a cue, craving, response and reward.

Plus, there is considerable discussion on the strategies involved in the recommended four steps to creating a positive habit.

1.    Make it Obvious – Ensure the cues of good habits are visible.

2.    Make it Attractive – Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

3.    Make it Easy – Prepare your environment to make desired actions easy (leave exercise clothes out, e.g.). Downscale habits until at least a portion can be done in two minutes or less (very doable as an initial start and later as a minimum for continuity).

4.    Make it Satisfying – Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete a habit. Track your habits to monitor progress. Never miss twice in a row because missing becomes the new habit.

We’re not throwing goals out with the bathwater.  Goals still have a role and are good for setting a direction. The key is that systems are better for making progress.

The invitation is to decide what kind of person you want to be and then live into it with value-based habits.

To successfully make big changes. . .

. . . start small.

Let Go. . . Or Be Dragged

Dear Springboard:

My boss runs a weekly meeting with all of his team.  We’ve been meeting first thing Monday morning for as long as I can remember.  

Last month, he changed the time to Friday.  He said it’s so we can review the current week, get set up for the coming week, and remove any barriers to our jumping in Monday morning.

I’m having trouble getting used it this change and am feeling a little resentful about it.

Sign me,

Liked the Way It Was

 

Dear LTWIW:

You’re not alone in struggling to embrace change. Change can be challenging:  it requires us to let go of what we know and take a risk on an unknown. One fear is that we may lose what we have and not get what we want.

While the personal experience of change can be very complex, I want to focus on one aspect of it: Letting go.

We get attached to what we know and find comfort in that familiarity and this is true even if we have complaints.  Think of all the things we hang on to even when they don’t serve us anymore.

When I make a mistake, I beat myself up.  Sure, it’s useful to acknowledge the misstep and learn from it.  So, when am I going to put down that big stick and practice some self-compassion and let go?

When someone wrongs me, I get angry.  In my resentment, I relive the negative experience again and again – all without any impact on the other person.  When will I have the courage and intellectual honesty to find and accept my role in it and then let go?

When I assign a task at work (or make a request at home) if I don’t feel confident about the outcome, I might micromanage the follow through. That usually backfires and generates conflict which interferes with the result I’m seeking.  When will I take actions and let go of the results?

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Self-limiting beliefs hold me back and I can let them defeat me before I even try. I need to let go of the self-doubt and remember examples of personal positive experiences to shore up my self-confidence.

Expectations can be a set up for disappointment. I need to let go and start with a beginner’s open mind.

At this time of year, children are returning to school and parents need to let go. Kids leave for college to become young adults and need to let go of their high school years.

In my executive coaching, my niche is to support managers as they transition to roles of greater responsibility.

To be successful, they must let go of some familiar ways of managing to make space to be available for new ones.  Examples include more delegation, coaching their direct reports to their own solutions, intentionally shifting to a broader, more strategic perspective.

The more I think about it, the longer my list gets of things I want to be able to let go of.  There are a few that I do want to hold tight:  my key relationships and the core values that inform my purpose and day to day decisions.

I want to develop the capacity to both fully engage and appropriately let go.

Yes, there is an inherent vulnerability in letting go.  I like to believe the future is friendly and it’s worth the risk.

So LTWIW, while you may have liked the meeting schedule before, the invitation to you now is to accept that we live in a rapidly evolving world that rewards flexibility and resilience – in a word, agility.

 

Let Go to Gain Control

Dear Springboard:

I recently got a promotion. I was really excited at first – more money and a better title. It was great. In my old job, I had people reporting to me and now there are people reporting to them. 

It sounds goods but the problem is my workload has exploded. I’m working really late, plus weekends and still missing deadlines. AND, I’m more than a little peeved that when I’m burning the midnight oil, I’m the only one here. The rest of my “team” is long gone.

Sign me,

Overwhelmed

 

Dear Overwhelmed:

First, congratulations on the new job! I’m sure it’s well deserved.

It sounds like a familiar scenario. You’ve taken on more responsibility on top of what you were already handling.

One of the toughest challenges of taking on a bigger role and thriving is the importance of shifting gears.

There are a few dynamics here. First, to keep all your current duties and add new ones is not sustainable.  There is only so much time (and energy) available. Keep in mind that every time we add something new to our plate, we must let go of something else.

Second, what made you successful in your previous job will not work in your new job in the same way. If you stay involved in the day to day operations of your direct reports or their staff, you can’t be available to do what is expected of you in your new role.

Let’s say in your old job you were very hands on; you worked alongside your staff, you checked details and ensured that deadlines were met. Now that you have broader responsibility, you cannot be in the weeds like you were before and still be available for your new duties.

What this comes down to is that you need to let go of your old role. Many people find that challenging.

One issue is that some of their identity is enmeshed in the old role.

Another issue is the skills they developed and came to rely on. They say, “You’re telling me to stop doing the things that worked so well and got me this far and start operating in a way that is new and, to me, untested? Do I have that right?” Well, yes.

As an example, now that you have both direct and indirect reports, you need to get out of the weeds (read: out of the way) and let your direct reports manage their staff.

First, by doing this, you will have the bandwidth to start leading: see the bigger picture, communicate a vision and set goals, engage key players (in multiple directions) for buy-in, and set the pace and direction for executing.

How to accomplish all this? The answer is delegation.

This means that instead of having the comfort and control of being hands on, you empower and trust others to do the work. It can be hard to let go when we think we could do it faster or better — OR, faster and better. But, if you hang on, you can’t be available for the requirements of the new role.

I would recommend that you start small and hand over some tasks that are lower risk. You might also target tasks that take a lot of time and don’t require much skill. Repetitive items are also a good choice.

You’ll need to hand over bigger projects, and soon, to get real impact.

You can make a list of activities and score them on a scale of 1 to 5: noting the time alleviated from your schedule; the time involved in training; and whatever specific competencies are needed such as being good with spreadsheets or strong interpersonal skills.

To delegate effectively, we can’t tell just anyone what to do, walk away and expect it to be accomplished as we wish.

It’s important to know the strengths of individual staff members and assign accordingly; give clear instructions and deadlines; provide the necessary tools and resources. It’s a plus to provide context for how the task fits into the bigger picture; it can make something mundane feel less so.

I’m a big believer in checking in along the way to inquire on progress, answer questions and offer encouragement.

Here’s a tip: delegate the outcome you want but not exactly how they need to get there. This is important because the other person might have a better way to accomplish the task. They will feel better about the task being their project and you can sidestep micromanaging.

It helps to anticipate that someone doing a task for the first time or two will take longer. So, prepare to be patient. When they’re finished, thank them and show appreciation. And, if the work is noticed by others, don’t claim credit for yourself, instead recognize the efforts of the people who actually did it.

So, the bottom line: take action and loosen your grip.

That means delegate and let your staff own the work. You’ll have less control over the details and how exactly things get done, and gain control over the bigger picture and setting the agenda — what your new job is really about.

Success is yours if you delegate.

Take the Wheel  from Your Saboteur

Sandy was walking down the hall to the office of his boss Jim.  He was ready to present his big idea. It could make a significant difference to the company and be a game changer to his career. He had worked late nights and weekends to polish it.

As he got closer, he thought: Jim might think my idea is off base…maybe way off base.  No way would the company take a chance like that.  Who am I to be upsetting the way we do things?  Jim isn’t going to be comfortable with the risk and will get mad — at me.  This could be bad for my career, even my job.  This is a mistake.

So . . .

Sandy stopped in his tracks and went back to his desk.  He put the carefully prepared document in a file and closed the drawer.  He never proposed the idea that might have catapulted the company over the competition and launched him to a new level of responsibility.

What happened in that hallway?

An internal voice, we call a saboteur, inner critic, gremlin or The Committee, whispered in Sandy’s ear and planted a big dose of doubt.

So, as Sandy made up a negative story that his next move was going to be dangerous, maybe even a career-killer, his dream crumpled.  Worst of all, his saboteur convinced him to do nothing, to not even try.

Who or what was that saboteur and where did it come from?

The saboteur is that inner voice that serves as an internal warning system to avoid danger.  It means well in trying to keep us safe but is woefully out of date and actually can do serious harm.

Some believe the source of this voice goes way back to when we were prehistoric hunters.  That rustle of leaves might have a large and dangerous animal behind it; an internal voice said don’t go investigate and so live another day.

Others believe we devise coping strategies when we are very young children and then continue to use them despite being adults in radically changed circumstances.

While not the first to expose the pernicious saboteur, Shirzad Chamine has written a very accessible book, Positive Intelligence, and offers a free assessment as well.

Noting that our mind can be our friend or our enemy, Chamine’s assessment determines one’s Positive Intelligence Quotient, a score represented as a percentage of how much of the time your mind is your friend or your enemy.

His research has determined that a score of 75 is a tipping point.  It means that your mind is serving you about 75% of the time and sabotaging you 25% of the time.  Above 75, we are uplifted by the internal self talk and below that, we are being dragged down.  He says that a dramatic 80% of individuals and teams score below this critical tipping point.

What are some strategies to deal with this saboteur?  Start with awareness.  When we notice an internal message holding us back, we have a choice to override it.  Without the awareness, the saboteur is driving the bus and making decisions for us.

Consider the difference between:  “I think I’m going to make a mess of this.” and  “My lying saboteur thinks I’m going to make a mess of this.”

The challenge and the opportunity?  Take the wheel from your inner critic.

Chamine offers his assessment for free at PositiveIntelligence.com.  The feedback is nuanced and worthwhile.  Your results are immediately available and will be followed up with a series of unobtrusive emails offering messages and brief exercises to reinforce the awareness and learning.

As we increase our awareness of that inner voice, we give ourselves a chance to restore choice.

Full disclosure:  I let my own saboteur be loud and bossy while writing this, causing the post to be delayed.

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Recent blog posts.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Self pity:  Resentment (resistance) about what is

Compassion:  Acceptance of what is

Success for you 

Mind the Gap: Your Path to Greater Fulfillment

Bob’s keynote at the conference went well.  As the clapping died down, the rush of elation felt like a victory.

By lunch, his mood had slumped and he was feeling alone and, actually, a little resentful.

Two days later, he noticed himself thinking, “I put a lot into that presentation and I didn’t get any help at all.”

When Bob contacted me about coaching, he was restless and irritable.  He said he was working as hard as ever and feeling discouraged.

The long hours at the office and time on his computer at night was taking a toll on his family life.  His wife felt slighted and his kids mumbled that he was grumpy all the time.

His routine felt like a grind.  All that effort at work and the results were good but there didn’t seem to be any teamwork or appreciation for what he saw as his sacrifices.

To get our coaching started I asked him to complete an exercise called the Wheel of Life, which offers a simple and effective way to gauge someone’s current level of satisfaction.

Think of a pie cut into eight wedges, where each wedge represents a major domain of your life.  The categories include:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Friends & Family
  • Significant Other/Romance
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Health
  • Physical Environment
  • Personal Growth/Spirituality

Then rate your current fulfillment for each one on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s quick, easy and provides a “snapshot” of today’s level of satisfaction.

Bob reported moderate to low satisfaction with his job (5), his relationship with his wife (6), his family time (5), and even with fun and recreation (3-4).

For the second part of the exercise, I noted to Bob the rating of 5 that he gave to Career and asked him to imagine what a 10 for him would look like.

This is a basic coach technique; we invite a client to imagine an ideal outcome and then hold that vision as a goal. Next, after acknowledging where we are now, we collaborate and devise a strategic action plan to close the gap and make the vision a reality.

The Wheel exercise helped Bob get in touch with his current level of discontent and start the process of identifying solutions.

We quickly pinpointed the focal point as time.  Bob had been promoted into a bigger job with more responsibility and he hadn’t fully embraced his new role.

We worked together on establishing priorities, improving time management; and then, delegating and coaching his direct reports to take on more ownership.

The transition took some time.  As Bob’s staff members took on more responsibility, they developed new competencies.

Bob got out of the weeds and began to lead more and manage less.  He felt less stressed out and was able to enjoy his family again.  He also stopped bringing the ghost of an unhappy home life to the office.

We know that simply completing the Wheel exercise will not turn around major issues.  It can be a useful tool, however, to highlight areas of dissatisfaction and facilitate the process of identifying paths to greater fulfillment.

The challenge is to mind the gap.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

Don’t be a prisoner of your past. 

Be a pioneer of your future. 

Lead for your success.