3 Steps to Lasting Change

Telling someone to change without helping them to change their environment rarely leads to success. ~Kerry Goyette

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

I’ve been wearing a Fitbit, every day, for the past three years. Why? Because I wanted to change to a more consistent exercise routine. Simply wanting to change my routine wasn’t enough. I needed to change my environment. For me, wearing a Fitbit has done the trick. I continue to wear it even after three years because without it, I’ll be back in my old environment and may then slip back into my old ways. I need that new environment to change and to maintain my new behavior.

Exercise and diet are two personal examples of behavior change that nearly everyone has attempted at some point. The basic behavioral factors that help us to make these changes are the same behavioral factors that help us change our attitude at work, relationships with colleagues, productivity, and our ability to lead more effectively.

We need to find ways to change environmental factors that trigger unwanted tendencies. Note the choice of words here, unwanted tendencies. I’m not talking about completely losing your cool and yelling at team members. (Although that is certainly an issue that should be addressed.) I’m talking about some of the subtle tendencies. Changes in even relatively small habits that can make a big difference. Kerry Goyette suggests three steps to lasting change.

3 Steps to Lasting Change

1) Identify the problem. It begins with self-recognition.

We need to become aware of when we are engaging in counterproductive behavior. When X happens, I tend to say or do Y. Unfortunately, this recognition typically happens when team members, subordinates, or staff survey results are raising concern or frustration. This may require an intervention or one-on-one coaching.

2) The impact of the problem, or social recognition.

When I say or do Y, that leads to _____ (negative impact on others, both individuals and groups or teams). Once you’ve owned the problem, through feedback you can begin to unpack how this behavior is impacting others.

3) Create environmental checkpoints to support the desired change, or design a new structure.

What can I change in the environment so when X happens in the future I will say or do Z instead of Y. Change is hard. I would argue that subtle changes are even harder because they are habits; things we do without even thinking.

What can we change in our environment that causes us to pause, and think, before we act? This could involve tracking our behavior in writing—when X happened today, what we did, and the result. For some, seeing metrics is what they need to change. For others, maybe it’s simply using a new phrase to begin their comments so they speak up more frequently in meetings. We can all benefit from continuously examining our behavior and identifying subtle adjustments that can make a significant difference. It’s all part of leading with bold grace.

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