The Key to Trigger Change in Your Behavior

Recently I was leading a workshop for managers on how to coach their employees. One exercise had them paired off, taking turns coaching each other on a work-related issue each is facing. I asked them, in particular, to use an approach where you:

  1. Do not provide a solution by directing, advising, telling, etc.
  2. Instead, use questions and suggest possibilities so that their client identifies alternatives and comes up with their own solution.

I sat in on one pair where the person in coaching mode was really struggling. She had listened to her client’s challenge but the only response she could think of was to tell him what to do. “This is driving me crazy” she said. “I know I’m not supposed to solve things for him but I can’t imagine any other response that isn’t me telling him what to do. I realize now that this is what I do all the time, provide answers for other people’s problems!”

In the midst of her angst, frustration and feeling of failure, I said to her, “In fact, I think you are doing great. Look at what you just discovered, how strong your default tendency is to tell your colleague what he ought to do. Were you aware of this before today?” “No,” she replied.” “Well,” I said, “that’s huge progress on your journey to master the non-directive approach.” We then proceeded to review some questions and phrases that she can use instead to get the other person working on their problem.

It’s true for all of us. We can’t begin to change one of our habitual approaches until we first become consciously aware of our current (default) approach. To do this we need to adopt a new perspective, that of a third person observing us as we interact with someone else.

That’s what this woman in my session had begun to do. She was watching herself fall back on her tried-and-true method: directing. Now she’s ready to consciously, in awareness, and in real time, experiment with other, more effective strategies. With repetition and practice these will gradually become her new default style.

I was privileged and touched to be there at the moment when her awareness expanded. It was my personal high for the entire day.


Changing On The Job by Jennifer Garvey Berger What I’m Reading

Changing on the Job by Jennifer Garvey BergerI have just returned to this. It is a dive into the subject of adult development and its direct link to leadership effectiveness. I regard this as one of THE two cutting edges (along with neuroscience) of leadership development. The book first explains the various levels of adult development and then speaks particularly to those of us whose roles support the growth of people in organizations–BTW, this includes you, managers. Changing on the Job comes recommended by both Bill Torbert and Robert Kegan, two giants in the field.