Good vs bad

Getting the Most from Small Changes

For anyone trying to achieve new goals, you likely know about the idea of taking small steps. Yet when you want to improve your leadership effectiveness, those steps are hard to identify, much less work on.

Almost every client I have had the opportunity to work with has found value in a simple concept I landed on many years ago. You see, leadership development is all about behavioral change. Want to be a better leader? Make some changes in the way you show up.

How do you do that?

It goes without saying you have to identify the behavioral change that is desired. Once you get a firm grasp on the significance of the change, then you can break it down into actionable steps.

Here’s where the rub happens. Actionable steps aren’t always easy to define. You know you want to change the behavior you identified, but grasping ways to do it can be hard.

My mystery method involves locking into a word picture. Shift the idea from deep inside your head to something that can be seen as more tangible.

Here’s a real example. One client confessed to struggling with managing conflict. Whenever it became evident that conflict might arise, they would get physically ill thinking about it. We had spent several sessions talking about the need for their approach to conflict to change, yet we came up with no tangible way to get there until I suggested the following solution.

I asked one more time if they really wanted to change. The answer was a resounding yes.

Next I suggested a fresh mental image. I asked if they recalled the cartoons with the two figures standing on each shoulder. In the classic cartoon, one character was a devil, the other an angel. The struggle between good and evil.

In this case I suggested the two characters stood for the old behavior versus the new, more desirable behavior. I asked my client which character should get more attention and energy. The answer was the new behavior.

Upon thinking about the word picture, my client said “Wow, all of a sudden this is not an emotional issue for me. It seems like something where I have a choice.” I agreed.

They went on further to say, “It’s odd you suggested that picture to me. I use those characters for other things. The one with better behavior is all buff. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about allowing them to help me with this too.”


The Examples Go On

I once used the idea of a switch to demonstrate a behavior change. Sensing a situation was brewing, the client agreed to think consciously about a switch (like a light switch). On or off was good or bad in terms of the desired behavior they were working on.

There have been many others. But one point I want to stress is this. You have to find tangible ways to impact effect change in your behavior. Leaving your goals to fuzzy visions and ideas won’t work. Get a picture in your mind, name a thing to remind you, carry a rabbits foot, whatever it takes to make change tangible.

Whenever the moment arises that the new behavior is needed, use the thing to remind you about the change you want to make.


Introducing the WHY.os. Learn YOUR why, how, and what that drives your passion and motivation.


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