Conventional wisdom has it that people resist change. This is a half truth because when it comes to human affairs there is a law of nature that negates this conventional wisdom. Simply put, this law states: “People will do something – including changing their behaviour – only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values”.
Most people’s resistance to change can be overcome by invoking this natural law. Everyone, even the biggest ego in the room, has a hot button that can be pushed – that button is self-interest. It usually boils down to four items that are the standard payoff for success: money, power, status, and popularity.
If we can adopt, for once, the definition of success to mean more money, power, status, and popularity, then 99.99% of people on this planet want it. To achieve it though, you need to change some things. The most important change you need to make is how you interact with other people - people do, after all, do business with other people!
Here are some of the most crucial changes you can make in relation to how you interact with others:
Get Feedback: Make it your business to know how you come across to other people – get feedback! In the business world, the first formal bottom-to-top feedback mechanism was the suggestion box. A more recent development is the 360-degree feedback, which is solicited from everyone at all levels of the organisation. There are however other ways to get feedback simply by paying closer attention to the world around you. Here are five:
- Make a list of people’s casual remarks about you. Examples are “That was really clever” or “You’re late”. Keep on with this day after day at work and at home. Eventually you’ll compile enough data about yourself to establish the change challenge you face.
- Observe how people deal with you. Do they listen when you have the floor or are they drumming their fingers? A variation of this is to make sure you’re the first person to arrive at a meeting. Observe how people respond to you as they enter. Do they pull up a chair next to you? Or do they barely acknowledge your presence and sit across the room?
- Complete the sentence. Pick the one thing you want to get better at, and then list the positive benefits that will come to you and the world if you achieve it. For example, “If I get in shape, one benefit to me is that …” - complete the sentence. As you get deeper into this exercise, your answers will become less politically correct and more personal. That’s when you know you’ve hit on an interpersonal skill that you really want, and need, to improve.
- Listen to your self-enhancing remarks. None of us is immune to this. What do you boast about? It’s possible that if you assess this alleged strength you are bragging to yourself about as closely as your friends do, you’ll probably find that it is not a strength at all, but a weakness. Maybe you shouldn’t be bragging about it at all.
- Look homeward. Your flaws at work don’t vanish when you walk through the door at home!
Feedback tells us what to change, not how to do it. When you know what to change you’re ready to start changing yourself and how people perceive you – you’re ready for the next step: telling people you’re sorry.
Advertise: After you apologise you must advertise. You have to declare in what areas you intend to change and be your own press secretary in the process. You can’t just apologise and say you’re trying to be better just once – you have to drill it into people repeatedly, until they’ve internalised the concept. Here’s how to be your own press secretary:
- Treat every day as if it were a press conference during which your colleagues are judging you, waiting to see you trip up. That mindset will boost your self-awareness enough to remind you to stay on high alert.
- Behave as if every day is an opportunity to hit your message home – to remind people that you’re trying really hard.
- Treat every day as a chance to take on all challengers. There will be people who don’t want you to succeed, so be a little paranoid. If you’re alert to those who want you to fail, you’ll know how to handle them.
- Think of the process as an election campaign. You don’t elect yourself to the position of “the new improved you” – your colleagues do!
- Think of the process in terms of weeks and months, not just day to day.
Listen: Eighty percent of our success in learning from other people is based on how well we listen. Most people think listening is a passive activity – not true! Good listeners regard what they do as a highly active process – with every muscle engaged, especially the brain. There are three things good listeners do:
- Think before they speak and put their thoughts precisely into words.
- Listen with respect
- Gauge their response by asking themselves. “Is it worth it?”
The ability to make a person feel that he/she is the most important (and only) person in the room is the skill that separates the great from the near-great. The great ones do it all the time.
Express Gratitude: Thanking people works because it expresses one of our most basic emotions – gratitude. When someone does something nice for you they expect gratitude – and think less of you when you withhold it. The best thing about saying “Thank you” is that it creates closure in any potentially explosive discussion. What can you say after someone thanks you? You can’t argue with them! You can’t try to prove them wrong! You can’t get angry or ignore them!
Follow up: You need to go back to all your co-workers every so often and ask for comments and suggestions. If you do this regularly, say once a month, your colleagues eventually begin to accept that you’re getting better – not because you say so but because it’s coming from their lips.
Follow-up is the most protracted part of the process of changing for the better. It goes on for 12 to 18 months. It’s the difference-maker in the process. More than anything follow-up makes you do it, because by engaging in the follow-up process you are constantly reminding yourself of the need to change, tweaking your change tactics, and as a result you are changing.
The real reasons behind change are seldom about money. They are predominantly about happiness, relationships, following dreams and meaning. Look ahead don’t look behind. Look back from your old age at the life you hope to live. Change begins today and in every tomorrow that follows.
Coaching Tip:Monetise the value that changing yourself would yield.
Remember that internal misjudgements are six times more likely to cause failure than external factors. Success in business, as in life, is all about getting the fundamentals right … and the actions you take! Money is an outcome, not a purpose!
Makes you think, doesn’t it!
Today is not yesterday. We ourselves change. How can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful; and if memory has its force and worth, so also has hope. Thomas Carlyle
Relationship Pearls Anthropology, defined as “being interested, without judgement, in the way other people choose to live and behave,” is a strategy geared toward developing your compassion. It replaces judgement with loving kindness, and can make you less frustrated by the actions of others.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.