The Easy Button

Recently, one of my clients in a desperate attempt to remedy one of his “blind spots” simply said: “Can you just give me a book to read so that I can get over this?”

How many times do we find ourselves seeking an “easy button” to navigate through gnarly growing pains?! We may think the latest best selling book or motivational seminar will be THE remedy for whatever is holding us back – professionally or personally. Needless to say, learning, growing, and working on ourselves is seldom that simple. That is like equating an aerobic workout with buying the membership to the gym. Unless we break a sweat, the membership will do little to improve our percentage of body fat, blood pressure, or muscle tone.

Darn it – if there were only an easy button to help us on our self-improvement journey as leaders! Well, there isn’t.

Becoming an effective leader takes effort. Sure, there are books and numerous materials that absolutely shed light, offer new perspectives, and outline prescriptions on how to become all we can be. Yet, from my experience, we have to put forth some sweat equity to really change and grow. There are steps that we individually must take to enable and sustain true change in our lives. No one else can do it for us – any more than someone else can lose the 20 lbs we want to lose for us!

So – for those of us who have answered that wake-up call – what are a first few steps we can take to change the behaviors that are holding us back?

1. Look in the mirror. Yep – that can be the hardest part. Honest, candid feedback from our peers, managers, colleagues and friends can certainly help us “see the warts”. And then we have to be brave enough to own the reality of their perceptions. That is the first step: see it, hear it, accept it, and embrace it.

2. Create a vision for where you want to be. Without visualizing our future state, it will be hard to know when or if you ever get there. I love to ask clients to write their vision of where they would like to be (or how they would like to be) 1-2 years into the future – AS IF they were already there! That is an amazingly powerful exercise and helps to crystallize our end game.

3. Take baby steps. Every sustainable change can typically be broken down into small parts. For example, if an executive has a hard time being succinct in his commentary at a Board meeting; he could be well served by breaking it town into sound bites which will resonate with the other directors. The same is true with other more tangible actions – working out, meditating every day, etc. If we just break it down into manageable steps, we are moving forward. Forward momentum is critical.

4. Be present in the moment – and become practiced at observing ourselves. Often, we don’t even know when we are behaving or responding in a non-effective way. We get into our habitual routines – whether this be how we listen to others (or not), how we speak to others, how we acknowledge others…this list is infinite. We simply are not paying attention to our own behaviors. When we can become more conscious and awake to our daily interactions, we can respond and retrain our brains to embrace the new behaviors.

5. Have an accountability partner. Most of us don’t tell people when we try to change – just in case we fail! We don’t want to be embarrassed. Yet, actually telling folks can be the key to our success. This is where coaching can come into play as well. When we know someone is counting on us AND supporting us – we try harder.

In a nutshell, there is no easy button to improve and grow. It takes being awake and aware of what needs to change, having the desire and discipline to make the change – and then, most importantly, DECIDING to change. Making the decision to do something about it is the ultimate critical success factor.

What tips do you have for those of us needing and wanting to change, yet are struggling to make the change stick?