I often meet with managers who tell me about people in their teams who “need to change”. They tell me “Fred needs to be more X and less Y, Sue”. Whilst this is often said with good intent, I know as well as you do that telling Fred he needs to change does not mean he will.
We all know this because, let’s be honest, most of us have a list of things we think we ‘should really’ change, in our head. Personally, I ‘should really’ eat less chocolate and go to bed earlier having drunk more water during the day. Some days I am “good”. Most days, I am “not good”.
Indeed, some of our own ‘shoulds’ will be things we have been told about at work (or even have agreed to do in an appraisal). Yet you and I know we are never go to change really.
In my career, I have at various points been “told about” things I “should do”. These include:
• Sell more stuff to clients
• Not wear a jumper in the office (I was a surveyor. It was cold)
• Be more like Dave*
So, why on earth did I not change to sell more stuff, whilst being more like Dave, and never wearing a jumper? Well, in truth because I did not want to. When I am cold, it makes me perform really badly as I cannot concentrate. I hate selling with a passion and I couldn’t stand Dave*.
It could well be that doing these things would have made me the next Alan Sugar but even if I wanted to be ‘Siralan’, I still would not have changed. But why not? What make us change (or not change) and who gets to decide?
Well, of course the answer is that we get to decide.
And we decide whether we want to change our behaviour, whilst asking ourselves either outwardly or sub-consciously “what’s in it for me?” based on our own wants, goals and values. So, if this choice is indeed an individual’s, if we want to influence others to change, what do we need to do?
In responding to this question, I did not want to refer to the copious management books I’ve read on change and influence. Instead, I’ve reflected on what has made me change and improve my own performance at work over the last 27 years.
This is what I have come up with. I have taken notice and changed when:
- The feedback or suggestion for change has genuinely come from an interest in me and my development – not to meet the other person’s own ends.
- The suggestion for change shows the other person knows me well. The opinions I listen to the most are from people that understand me. They know what gets me out of bed in the morning. They know not to ask me to sell more or not wear a jumper when I am cold.
- The other person has asked me what I want and truly listened to the reply.
- I trust and respect their opinion. Most of the time, this is built upon them demonstrating behaviours that I respect over a consistent period of time. They may be good at something that I want to be good at, so I respect their skill as well as the way they do things. They role model. I might even want to be a bit like them.
- They tell me why they think it’s important and what it will mean for me. By telling me why they believe I need to change, this helps me make a decision over what’s in it for me and I can make my own decisions. “If you sell more, you are more likely to make the next promotion” gives me something to consider and I am empowered to choose. How important is the promotion to me? Are there other ways of getting the promotion? What is the benefit and what is the cost to me?
This is of course a personal list, so I invite you to reflect on your own ‘what makes me decide to change?’ question and then ask yourself how you could use your reflections to help develop and work with those around you.
*not his real name 😉