We are who we are! Can’t change! Take us or leave us! Right? Well, possibly. But what would it look like if we could change? Would we be more effective and possibly even enjoy our work more?
This blog will be relevant for you if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions:
- I have good days and bad days with certain people
- Certain situations can bring the worst out in me
- I know what I should be doing but find it hard sometimes motivating myself to do it
- I’ve given up trying to get on with some other partners in my firm
- I wish I enjoyed my work more
- I wish I could be more effective working with some people or in certain situations
For example, a senior associate might know that he should be delegating more, but struggles to do it and ends up working long hours doing the work himself. He also gets feedback that his style is demotivating some of the junior associates. He wants to change but finds it hard. The answer ‘just delegate!’ doesn’t seem to have worked! Is there anything he can do?
Another associate gets terribly nervous doing presentations. Just the thought of doing them triggers more shallow breathing which makes her voice ‘wobble’ which adds to the feeling of dread. Is there anything she can do to break this pattern?
Without getting into all the technical stuff, we need to understand the basics of what drives us as human beings. We are who we are because of genetics (nature) and experiences (nurture). All this leads us to a set of beliefs about who we are, what we’re good at and what we’re not good at. These then influence us hugely in our workplace and determine what we think in certain situations, how we feel, how we behave and the results we get.
This cycle becomes a pattern which we often repeat, thereby making the pattern more pronounced. It’s like we’re carving a deeper groove. Sometimes the pattern works for us and helps us achieve the results we’re looking for. Sometimes it’s working against us. What psychologists have demonstrated is that we can revisit these beliefs and patterns and choose other ones. It’s as if we can learn to cut a new groove.
Cutting a New Groove
Here are some tips on creating new and potentially more effective patterns of behaviour:
- Try to notice what your patterns of behaviour are. Ask yourself how you compare to others. Ask for feedback. This will help you see any blind spots (we all have them). Ask your HR Manager for advice regarding psychometric tests (e.g. Myers Briggs, Insights etc).
- Practise centering yourself. Yoga and Pilates point out the strong link between mind and body. They advocate having a strong core and the use of breathing and relaxation to get in touch with the best we can be. This can be particularly helpful in situations in which emotions might be running high.
- Use goal mapping – a technique that uses words and images in a diagram to appeal to your whole brain (rather than just the rational side). Look at this diagram every day. It might take a few weeks (don’t forget your existing way of thinking and behaving will have been reinforced over several years), but you should find that you will make the transition to a new way of looking at yourself and a new way of working with others.
- Plan ahead more – the idea here is to put into your calendar the action that you tend to avoid, thereby increasing the chances of it happening. A partner, who knew she needed to do more marketing, wrote a day out every month to write articles, arrange to have coffee with clients etc.
- Get others to nag you – in the early days in particular we are going to find it hard making changes to how we work. So get support. Perhaps your PA or a partner can help you. Rather than having this one-sided, David Maister advocates giving each other nagging rights. So they help you and you help them!
- Notice the triggers – to avoid negative behaviours, try to notice what brings them on and avoid those pre-conditions. Failing that, try to notice when you’re starting to feel annoyed and move to take a break so you can cool down rather than erupt!
- Model yourself on others – if there’s a partner who demonstrates the attitude or behaviour you’re seeking to emulate, picture them at the relevant times. Ask yourself ‘what would they do?’ Then step into their shoes and do it! You will be surprised how different your behaviour will be and the different results you’ll get.
- An associate noticed that she didn’t feel so nervous presenting if she chose not to see it as ‘presenting’ but simply talking about something.
- For the associate needing to delegate more, it helped when we saw the other person as somebody who was helping and learning and not someone who was likely to get something wrong.
- Many associates notice that they feel more confident and behave more credibly when they chose to see the talent and experience that they have under their belt – rather than focussing on all the things they don’t know.
Would it help if you looked at some situations differently?