The adage is almost always true, if there is any constant, it is change. As leaders, we must be ready at any time to shift gears in response to things outside of ourselves—market forces, competition, the labor pool and more. But what do we do when something within ourselves must be changed? There isn’t a single person who doesn’t have something they would like to change about themselves no matter how adept, influential or experienced they are. Yet as a leader, we are so often our only source of true accountability. Though we coach and manage others, who else is there to coach and manage us? So often, it must come from within, yet change can be so difficult on one’s own. If you are seeking to change something or adopt a new behavior or action, how can you stack the deck in your favor and make it more likely that you will succeed in making changes that become positive lasting habits?
Let’s look at an example. Say for instance that although you are a skilled leader and coach, you struggle to arrive at work at the time you planned. Maybe that’s earlier than others, maybe it’s on time, maybe it doesn’t even matter but whatever time you set, you seem to chronically miss. In order to meet your goal of arriving at work at the time you planned you need to first identify the specific behavior/action you are intending, in this case, arriving at your planned time. Second, you must break this behavior into smaller “units.” So for instance, that might look like putting out your clothes the night before, waking up as planned or a few minutes earlier, showering, dressing, breakfast, the commute in and parking. Third, after identifying the smaller “units” of your intended behavioral change, you must make a plan to tackle them individually if necessary in order to accomplish the overarching goal. Fourth, you must identify the obstacles that are likely to get in the way of achieving your goal. Maybe your closet is a mess making you resistant to putting out your clothes the evening before. Maybe you get distracted because your kids don’t have their own things ready for the day and you are using time you haven’t allotted helping them get out the door. Perhaps you need to prepare a quick breakfast that you can grab and go each morning ahead of time. Finally, you must build in some rewards and incentives for meeting both the smaller “units” and the overall behavior. These reinforce your efforts and make it more likely you’ll make cement these changes.
So let’s say your goal is to take better care of your physical health. You break the main goal into smaller “units” like eating better, going to the gym and making and keeping recommended preventive care for medical, dental and vision health. There are likely obstacles to each of these and even sub obstacles. Take working out, you’ll need to identify the best time for you to go, have your things ready to grab with, for instance, an extra set of gym clothes stowed in your trunk for when you forget. You might need to make sure your phone is charged and that you have headphones with you. And you’ll need to allot some short term and long term goals like a massage, some new music or athletic clothing to stay motivated as the changes become habits.
Even if you surround yourself with good advisors the reality is that leaders must be both self-motivated and self directed. And nowhere is this more challenging than changing entrenched behaviors within ourselves. By understanding the best strategies for effective behavioral changes, you can stack the deck in your favor and set yourself up for success.