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 enjoy our work more?
This article will be particularly relevant 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 manager 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 managers. He wants to change but finds it hard. The answer ‘just delegate!’ doesn’t seem to have worked! Is there anything he can do?
Without getting into all the technical stuff, we need to understand 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.
Here are some tips on creating new 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).
- 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) to reprogramme your subconscious. Look at this diagram every day. It might take a few weeks (don’t forget your existing programme 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 in a law firm, 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 another executive 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 person who demonstrates the attitude or behaviour you’re seeking to emulate, picture them at the relevant times. Ask yourself ‘what would they do?’Then do it! You will be surprised how different your behaviour will be.
Sherwood’s team of coaches come across many of these situations and we have helped hundreds of people make some startling transitions.