Where Are You Today and How Did You Get There?
If you’ve tried changing in some way and you’re succeeding, congratulations! Doesn’t it feel great? Reward yourself somehow. Whether you prefer a steak dinner, a massage, a night of dancing with your friends or an overnight stay at a hotel with your spouse or partner, give yourself some sort of pat on the back—again and again.
But, remember that it’s important not to become overconfident and begin taking these changes for granted. What happens when you do that? You guessed it, you regress. Things have improved because you’ve been changing something. According to Michelle Weiner-Davis, “to maintain your changes, you must maintain the attitudes and behaviors that have generated them.” Have a clear picture of what you’ve already accomplished and what you haven’t so that you don’t waste time trying to fix things that are already fixed. This will also prevent you from overlooking important successes that may lead to further success.
However, if you haven’t been successful so far, you may need to try more than one strategy and stay with your plan longer. You might need more time to carry it out and fine-tune it. Success requires diligent effort over weeks and months. Recall what worked and do it again. Keep your plan in place until you’ve replaced negative behaviors with good habits. This blog post is a summary of chapter 13, Leadership Success in Spite of Stress. Here is the link if you want to learn more:
Continually Assess Where You Are Today & How You Got There
We need to continually reassess not only who we are, but also where we are in relation to our goals. At certain times our strategy may need to be tweaked. For example, I ask each of my coaching clients, “What do you say to yourself when you feel stuck? What self-talk gets you unstuck or motivated?” A client may tell me that she finds herself thinking, “You’re doing it again. You’re sitting on your pity pot. Now, get off!” They may tell me, “When I hear myself saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t,’ I ask myself, “Can’t or Won’t?” then I say, “Just do it.” I keep a record of these prompts and questions. Then I repeat their words at just the right times-when they need prompting.
Write your goals down on at least a weekly basis. Come back to them again and again, reviewing what you wrote down. Then ask yourself: On a scale of one to 10, where 10 represents your goal, completed, and 1 represents the worst things have been, where are you today on the scale and what did you do to get there? What do you need to do to move up that scale? Ask yourself this question periodically. Keep evaluating your progress.
If you make a habit of regularly reviewing your goals this way, you’ll be more successful. This habit will help you maintain good progress and give you a written record of your progress. It’s important to know how you are doing and where you’re headed. But you also have to know how to continue any success you’ve achieved so far. That’s where so many people fall short: understanding how you got there, how to keep it up, and how you should improve your plan.
Because initial changes are usually slow and small, you may not notice them or consider them significant. But be very attentive to these initial changes. After all, these first small actions frequently lead to lasting and promising solutions.
Gwen was an ambitious up-and-coming vice president. She was well versed in business and had risen quickly through the ranks. Marissa, the president of the company, was in the process of working out her retirement plans. From a business perspective, Gwen was the logical heir to be groomed. But there was a problem. Marissa had huge shoes to fill. She was much more than just a great leader. She had a clear vision of where she wanted to take the business five or 10 years from now. She had the intuition to predict the power of trends. She could strategically use them to give the business a competitive edge. Although somewhat tough, she was an excellent “people” person. She realized three things: Customer service is just as important as quality products; people join companies but leave supervisors; in their competitive market where few people have the technical savvy they desperately need, they can’t afford supervisors who turned off employees.
Gwen was different. No matter how competent her team members were, she was slow to delegate tasks to them. When Gwen finally did delegate, she continually second-guessed people, reversed their decisions (thereby insulting them), or took a short-term look at business ventures or operations. She, too, was a micro-manager.
Since Gwen was the obvious choice to become the next president, Marissa asked me to work with Gwen. She asked me to justify coaching by telling Gwen that Marissa was considering Gwen as her successor, but that Gwen had some issues to address. Gwen’s goal was to become the president. If getting the promotion required her to become the type of leader Marissa preferred, she was all for it. Because Gwen was so resourceful, she quickly and easily came up with clear, specific objectives and action steps to meet that goal. But I couldn’t seem to pin her down to do the actual footwork. Nor did she identify specific benchmarks for evaluating her progress.
I confronted Gwen, but she claimed to be too busy. She said that a structured plan was too restricting. Oddly enough, strategic planning was one of her strengths. But, she resisted putting together a personal change program. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for change. Mistakenly assuming that business acumen alone would win her that position, Gwen presumed the president’s job was hers. It was a sure thing.
I challenged Gwen with the fact that she really didn’t buy into Marissa’s concept of leadership. Instead, she was merely giving lip service to it, making marginal changes when more substantial change was required. I confronted her resistance by saying, “I wonder if you’re doing the same thing you’ve always done because you don’t truly believe in the goal. Unless you look closely at where you are in the progress of meeting your goal, unless you define exactly what you need to do more or less of or what you need to start, stop, or continue doing, we’ll have to terminate your coaching.”
As a result of this “cattle prod” into action, Gwen decided to make substantial changes in her management style. Here is how she answered the Magic question mentioned above: “I guess I’m at about a 4 or 5. I’ve been reading some management books. I know what I need to do differently. But something is blocking me. Maybe you’re right. Perhaps I’m not really buying into Marissa’s way of running things.
We referred back to her 360 feedback assessment which revealed specific behaviors needing modification. “Let me see …,” she began, “…what I could do to move me up a notch or two on the scale is … involve direct reports more collaboratively in decision-making … ask subordinates for suggestions and delegate without second-guessing, mistrusting, or other forms of sabotage … recognize each of their individual needs and working/learning styles when coaching them … give my team members constant corrective feedback on the quality of their work. I need to acknowledge their contributions and reward them for achieving results. I guess I could also be a “servant leader”, ask them what they need from me to get their job done, how I can add value to their work, and what management style would help them the most.”
Don’t fall into the “end results” trap—focusing only on the final destination and losing sight of the journey along the way. In summary, be sure to evaluate your progress each step along the way to meeting your goal(s). Tracking and measuring involves asking yourself what’s working and what’s not. Keep doing what’s working and stop doing what isn’t. Look closely at each strategy and determine whether there’s something you should start doing, stop doing, do more/less often, or do differently.
Celebrate every little victory! Give yourself a reward for each increment of success. Have a family celebration or buy yourself a treat for each small success. Successful people find reasons to celebrate every day! Like that journey of a thousand miles, you must celebrate—really celebrate—each step along the way!
Author, Trainer/Facilitator, Executive Coach
LPI (Leadership Practices Inventory) Certified Coach
DISC Certified Behavior Analyst
AdvantEdge Success Coaching & Training
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