5 Step Checklist for Behavior Change

You can’t get a personality transplant but small behavioral changes can make a big impact. A 2% Shift in direction will affect your Destination

1. Once you have noticed how your intent is different than your impact, articulate the gap.  Put words to where you are now, and where you want to be.  This helps you to understand the nature shift and makes it real.

Old Behavior ___________________

New Behavior ___________________

Start Date: ______________________

2. Notice when you might practice your new behavior; define triggers that will soon remind you to do your new behavior.


3. Try on your new behavior in a safe environment.  Do your new behavior every time you get a trigger in a safe environment.

 4. Try on your new behavior in an “unsafe environment”.  Promise yourself to do it ONCE –  Once a day, once per opportunity, define a minimum for yourself and reward yourself every time you do it.

Minimum: _________________________________

5. Discuss the upside of your new behavior with a sympathetic champion of you.  The more you remind yourself of the benefit, the more you will be inclined to do it.

Who to talk to: ___________________________________________

 TIPS For Trying on new things:

  • Tell the people you feel safe with that you are trying something new.  Prepare to be teased. Teasing is good, generally people who like/love you tease you.
  • Ask for help in tweaking your new behavior
  • Ask for support  in identifying triggers, and in holding yourself accountable
  • Breathe deeply to avoid freezing up
  • Keep your feet on floor and feel your feet when you feel scared.
  • You will not be good at your new behavior.  You will fail, and you will feel foolish.  However, you will not die so keep trying and you will get better.  I promise.
  • Stick to one thing. Try on new things one at a time.  You can make a lot of changes, just not all at once.  Give yourself a chance to master one thing first, then you can move on to the next thing.


Taking the “UN” out of Un-Leaderlike Moments

It is perfect that this blog post coincides with a live cast with yours truly, Madeleine Blanchard,  that The Ken Blanchard Companies is sponsoring at 10 am Pacific today, October 30th. In the workshop we examine some of the ways you can increase your self-awareness and minimize behavior that you know might be weakening your leadership effectiveness.

So our blog readers get the Readers Digest version!   If you think you could be a better leader pay attention to:

Intent and Impact – Make sure you are having the impact you intend, watch people’s faces!  If you make an impact you do not intend, STOP, call it out and deal with it right in the moment. 

Habits – Take a look at what you complain about – that will give you a clue as to what bad habits you might have.  For example, if you are always late and complain about the traffic, you might have a habit of blaming circumstances for things that you actually have control over.  This will undermine your credibility as a leader.  

Also, you may have good habits – habits that you developed that have made you successful but might now be holding you back.  Take a look at what you do that has always worked that it might be time to let go of.  Best book on this topic:  Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Strengths – You heard it before and I am saying it again:  the more you are able to leverage your strengths, the more powerful you will be.  There are several ways to assess your strengths, you can buy StrenghtFinder 2.0 by Tim Roth and it provides you with a code to use for an online assessment.  You can take a free assessment immediately at the VIA Institute on Character website.   Another book:  Standout by Marcus Buckingham.

Blind Spots – you have ‘em but they’re blind spots, right?  So you don’t know you have them.  Ask someone you trust what they think yours might be.  Or, look to the spot where you have pain – an ongoing conflict you have with someone else, or an intractable problem, and ask yourself, “What am not seeing about myself that could be at the root of this?”  Painful, yes, but so much better to get the harsh beep from the person you are swerving into than actually get into a car wreck.

Limiting Beliefs – There is a good chance that you are a less than great leader because you are still playing small.  Cut it out.  Seriously, listen to the nasty voices in your head that hold you back by asking “Who do think you are?” and then talk back to them and tell them to shut up.  What limiting belief do you have that you would you challenge if you heard it from a friend?   

OK.  So what do you do if you really want to change a behavior?  Next week, I will share a 5 step plan for behavior change. Stay tuned!

The Truth About Coaching

Casting a Critical Eye on Coaching must-read article on executive coaching in Chief Learning Officer magazine. This strongly supports everything we know to be true about coaching in organizations and thus our methodology and approach.

Their short story: There are proven benefits to coaching as a leadership development tool if engagements are structured, transparent and their effectiveness measured.

Our short story:

  • The coach is only as good as the players’ readiness, willingness and ability to shift and grow.  Coaching is best used to help good people be great, not to stabilize the “problem people.”
  • The goals for coaching must be crystal clear for coach, client and organization to know if it has been successful.
  • Coaching is an extremely broad and multi-purpose tool – like a Swiss army knife – and the task at hand must be clearly defined so the right tool can be deployed. And as great as a Swiss Army Knife is, sometimes you need a wrench, meaning: coaching is not right for everyone all of the time.
  • There are ways for the correct people in the organization to get good information about the coaching without betraying confidentiality.  It takes a little work and a lot of finesse – for more information on this go to Ace Coaching Alliances

We have devoted our lives to coaching and we are thrilled that the information about how to best leverage it in organizations is becoming more and more clear!

Meet Your Brain

For my final post in the series on the books that have made the biggest impact on my coaching practice, I choose Your Brain at Work by David Rock.  It outlines the implications of all the recent research in neuroscience to the way we function at work – as employees, as bosses.  There are several terrific takeaways from it, notably, that the pre-frontal cortex – the front of the brain where complex calculations take place, decisions get made and self regulation gets handled – is easily exhausted.  It needs a great deal of rest and glucose.  Our ability to think clearly, make good decisions and manage ourselves erodes steadily over the course of the work day. 

David Rock also shares his model expressing what people need for their brain to be at its best, known as the SCARF Model:

Status – a clear sense of our own self worth and the acknowledgement of this perception in our environment is critical to our brains feeling good.

Certainty – we crave certainty the way we crave sugar or any other reward.  We will avoid uncertainty at all costs.

Autonomy – it is critical that we feel as much control over our environment as we are capable of managing; loss of control is interpreted by the brain as a serious threat.

Relatedness – we will naturally find what we have in common to increase relatedness, we will move toward people with whom we can relate believing them to be like ourselves, and away from those to whom we cannot relate making them “other”.

Fairness – is as rewarding as food or sex, and when things are perceived as “unfair” it causes us to feel an intense sense of threat. 

 For more on The SCARF Model check out some of David’s YouTube videos.  The book is also a really fun read, and there is a lot more that what I can share here!

The E-Myth Revisited

As a fledgling coach with a private practice, back in the day when if you said you were a coach the inevitable question was “oh, what sport?” a book that made an earth shaking difference was the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.  If you are in business, thinking of starting a business or have a friend or loved one who is suffering in a business, this book is a must.  There are several brilliant ideas in this book including:

  1. If you have started a business, you are either a technician (that’s what I was as a coach, so is your friend who loved to knit and started a knitting shop), a manager (the guy who understands the processes and systems that a business must have to succeed – people who buy franchises are usually managers) or a visionary (the person who sees a gap in the market place – Don Fisher started The Gap because he couldn’t find a pair of jeans, Steve Jobs wanted computers to be friendly).  You might have a little of the other two but you are primarily one of these and if you are going to succeed you need to partner with others who have the other two or find a way to grow yourself enough to get the other two covered.  It is stunningly simple and true.  The crazy thing is that as I have moved out of the small business world into the corporate world, I find that the same holds true for leaders inside organizations who need to be “intrapraneurs”.
  2. As a business owner, you need to find a way to spend as much time working on your business as you spend working in your business.  Obvious?  Maybe, but in 1995 I didn’t know it.  Again, totally applicable to people in organizations.
  3. Anything that works in the business must be systemized and if possible automated.  You have to do this so if you get the flu and can’t make it in,  the whole house of cards doesn’t fall down.  You also have to do it so you can grow.  It was the compelling evidence for how important this is that made me start my own coaching company with coaches using my system to coach the audience I had mastered.  And finally, I have used this maxim again and again as a manager in a much larger machine and it has served me well.

Michael Gerber has many other books out and has an institute and all that, but for sheer straightforward simplicity for people who maybe don’t think of themselves as “business” people, this book is a bible.

Going With the Flow

Flow : The Psychology of Optimal Experience  by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  (pronounced mee-high  chick-sent-mee-high, my friend David Rock told me that, and he is important because he wrote one of my top books The Brain at Work) is another book that stopped me in my tracks.  Published in 1990, my copy is old, much dog eared and underlined.  The author is more recently widely known as a pioneer in the Positive Psychology arena, and his early work outlined in Flow was required reading for coaches because it was solid research about what makes people feel good.  Absent real problems like psychological damage, war or pestilence, people were coming to coaches with the objective of optimizing their existence and more specifically, their time at work.  Csikszentmihalyi says that in his studies, when people reflected on their most positive experiences they seemed to share one if not all of these characteristics:

  1. “ the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.”
  2. we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.”
  3. The task has “clear goals and
  4. Provide immediate feedback
  5. There is deep but effortless involvement that shuts out the noise of everyday life
  6. We are able to exercise a sense of control over our actions
  7. Self consciousness disappears, but sense of self emerges more strongly after the experience is over
  8. The sense of time passing is altered; minutes can seem like hours, or hours can feel like minutes.” (Harper, 1991, pg. 49)

Csikszentmihalyi’s theory was that to achieve flow we needed to maintain the balance between the level of challenge of the activity, and our skill level – if the challenge is too low, we become bored, if it is too high we become overly anxious.  Each individual needs to monitor their own challenge level to keep it optimal to stay engaged. 

This rang so true for me, and it was extremely useful in work with clients who were clearly bored, but judging themselves for it, thinking they had perfectly jobs and should be happy.  Not so!  To stay in Flow, it is critical to constantly be raising the bar.  This is not totally true for everyone all the time, but for some people, some of the time, the model is extremely useful.

For more information on Flow

Habits Make All the Difference

The promise was books that rocked my coaching practice that are off the beaten path. OK, so maybe this one isn’t that original, and I must have stumbled on  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey in Barnes and Noble because I can’t remember who recommended it.   But I have to say that from the day I read this book, I changed some habits that utterly altered the trajectory of my life.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that when I started doing what  Covey said (and let’s be clear, not everything, just a few things made a huge difference) my business took off, my household became more orderly and calm and my quality of life shot up.  I developed a reputation for being freakishly productive.  I feel that almost every other “self-help” book that came after this one simply fleshed out some of the good ideas that were here in the first place.  

In the section called Put First Things First, the 4 box quadrant probably made the biggest impact on me.  The idea is that we all can put every single thing we do into one of the four quadrants. 

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important QUADRANT I
crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects
prevention, Principle Centered  activities, relationship building, recognizing and leveraging new opportunities, planning the future, recreation
Not important QUADRANT III
interruptions, some calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings, popular activities
trivia, busy work, some mail, some  phone calls time wasters, pleasant activities

The ones who spend the bulk of their time doing things in the “important” quadrants are simply going to have a much higher life satisfaction quotient.   This very concrete model gave me the courage to say no to things that did not fall into the Quadrants I or II.  Today, I let people assume I am extremely busy (everybody does) and if pressed I will admit that I am no busier than anyone else, just extremely focused on what is most important to me and ferociously choosy about what I focus on.  Don’t tell anyone.