If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it fall, did it make a sound? This is the general conundrum behind why it is critical that you take the next two steps of the Leadership Is a Contact Sport behavioral change model very seriously. You've absolutely got to do them or this whole process just isn't going to work. So, what are they? They are involve and change.
Involving is like advertising. You have to tell everyone exactly in what area you plan to change. You've said you're sorry, you've apologized for the behavior, now you're going to tell people you're going to do something about it. This is a tough one, because it's a lot harder to change people's perceptions of your behavior than it is to change your behavior. That's because people view you in accordance with their existing stereotype.
For example, if you think I'm an arrogant jerk, then everything you do, think, or feel about me, will be filtered through that perception. Within this framework, it's almost impossible for me to be perceived by you as improving, no matter how hard I try. But! (This is the case of "But" being a really good word to use, despite the previously described, "No, But, However" bad habit discussed in my Teaching Leaders What to Stop series.)
Anyway, your odds of being perceived as getting better greatly improve if you tell people you are going to try to change. Suddenly your efforts are on their radar screens. If you tell everyone how hard you are trying and repeat the message week after week, your odds improve again. Your odds improve even more when you ask people for ideas on how you can get better. People become invested in you and they are paying attention to see if you are using their suggestions. With all of this advertising, people start to accept the possibility of a new you, and you have pointed everyone's attention in the direction of the falling tree.
Change is simple, but it's not easy. It's hard. You have to do it. You have to put in the time and effort that it takes to change. That's one of the big reasons why I take what I do so seriously. When people commit to getting better, they are doing something difficult and heroic. There isn't a quick fix or easy solution. Lasting goal achievement requires a lot of time, hard work, personal sacrifice, ongoing effort, and dedication to a process that is maintained over years.
So, you're committed, you're ready, you're willing to change. What holds you back? What might keep you from following through on your commitment to change? It comes in the form of a dream that most of us have had. I have this dream often. It goes like this:
You know, I'm incredibly busy right now. In fact, I'm busier than I've ever been. I feel overcommitted. My life even feels a little out of control. We're working on some unique challenges now, and I think the worst of this will be over in a couple of months. After that, I'm going to spend a couple of weeks, getting organized, spending time with the family, working out. Everything is going to change then and life won't be crazy anymore.
Have you had this dream? How long have you been having this dream? How's it working for you?
If you want to change anything about yourself, the best time to start is now. Ask yourself, "What am I willing to change now?" just do that. That's more than enough. For now.
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Please view the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog. The next short video in the series Involve & Change: Leadership Is a Contact Sport accompanies this article. I'll post these blogs once a week for the next 50 weeks. The series will incorporate learnings from my 38 years of experience with top executives, as well as material from my previous research, articles and books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, Coaching for Leadership, and Succession: Are You Ready? The blogs will also include material from my exciting new research on engagement and my upcoming book Triggers (to be published by Crown in 2015).