What New Year resolutions did you make? Have you already fallen off the wagon?
Why is changing a bad habit or creating a new habit so hard?
The brain is a prediction machine, it loves habit! Can you imagine what it would take to consciously think about everything you do? Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand! Notice all the things that are a bit harder or strange, you’ll probably have to even stand differently!
So what happens at new year’s? We take firmly cemented habits and without preparation we decide we will change ALL of them. If only it was that easy!
There are a few tips though.
1. Only choose 1 or 2 habits to change. Changing habits requires you to be very conscious of what you are doing and is tiring for your brain.
2. Piggy back onto existing routines. Always watch TV in the evening? Well if you want to become more flexible put an exercise mat on the floor of the tv room. Stretch while you are watching Netflix or scrolling on Facebook.
3. Introduce a behaviour that will support what you want to do. Want to eat more healthily? Start by keeping a food journal (an honest one), is there a pattern of when you are likely to eat better/worse? That gives you the areas you need to target rather than your whole menu.
4. Find a buddy. Know someone already in a good routine? Join in. Latest studies are showing that you are likelier to keep to new habits if you are friends with people who also value it.
5. Tell people what you are trying to do and ask them to check in on you. Social pressure is very powerful.
6. Focus on progress, set an achievable goal and work towards it daily, repetition is key.
7. Any other habits you have that will work against you? If you can’t resist the chocolate aisle when you are shopping then get your groceries online.
Know that it gets easier! Willpower is also a habit, the more you exert it the stronger it will get!
This is the third installment in a series that is focused on your role as a change manager when you are brought in late on a change project and it’s not going well. I welcome your feedback.
In my previous post Who is in the lead? I shared what I think is important in the composition of the guiding team, the next big question for me is – How will the future be different and how will we get there?
The articulation of the vision and goals of the change is a vital step. But sometimes the guiding team overlook a few things that can cause the project to lose its way. Get up high! Look at the overall picture, what can’t be seen from the dancefloor but can be seen on the balcony?
So if you are the change consultant and are trying to see if this is an issue some questions to ask the guiding team are:
Can you describe what is changing and why in 1 minute? A lot happens in those unofficial communication opportunities.
Do the objectives exist? You’d think this was an obvious one but sometimes they haven’t been finalised. Are they meaningful? Are they measurable? Are they agreed?
Is there competition between priorities in the company?
Is there a budget problem that might be causing decisions to be made more slowly?
It’s incumbent on the change manager to ensure that this change is the right one to address the problem. Change managers are in a great position to provide this unbiased advice, they have a balcony view of the project and how it interacts with the rest of the company.
As the Change consultant, particularly if you’ve been brought in once the project is underway and things are going off track, where do you start? This series of posts is based on the knowledge and experience I’ve had while working in the change space. I’d love you to share your experiences, what you’ve noticed and what works for you.
In my previous post Part 1: Harnessing the passion I talked about the importance of capturing the passion that has led to this change but also being wary of the passionate leader that may not see the impact on others. Now assuming you’ve covered everything in the previous post and you have the message clear and the personality and passion of the leader isn’t the issue, what else might be happening to make the change project falter?
Often the issue is what is often referred to as the guiding team. The composition of this team is vital. Do they have power, expertise and credibility to lead? Is there a high level of trust? Questions I ask include:
Is there a dominant personality on the team that stops others from voicing concerns or different opinions?
Do the guiding team feel they GET to be involved or HAVE to be involved?
Is the guiding team committed in action and words?
Do they have strong networks?
Is there a team that you’ve missed that needs to be represented on the guiding team?
Does the team have a shared documented objective? This is not the same as the change objective.
A strong guiding team includes a diversity of skills, functions, departments and levels of authority to assemble a powerful speedy force for change. Front-line workers must be involved in the guiding team as do people who can bridge disconnected groups.
Next week, we’ll look at how the importance of scoping and objectives can sometimes be overlooked and how to assess whether this is the issue causing the project to stall.
Are you in a change role and would like some coaching or mentoring?
How often have you seen a passionate leader and champion of change fail to get traction, get sidetracked and then throw their hands up in the air?
As change leaders/facilitators we are often brought in when the change is in crisis or there is a risk that the change will fail completely, and just sometimes, this is caused by the runaway train level of passion from the leader – think Jamie Oliver School Dinners! *
Sometimes the most passionate person is not the best choice to lead the change even though they think they are. Why? Because in their passion and rush to implement, often transformational change, they fail to see the impact on others. That passion needs to be harnessed though! So how?
Working with the leader of the organisation or the sponsor of the change is critical to understand why it is so important, this will form the basis of the compelling story that will move people to action. Document it, if the sponsor is visibly passionate then get it on a podcast or video! Here are some questions I have found useful for the change sponsor and that will help sell the message:
Why is the status quo unacceptable? When did it become unacceptable?
What is the evidence that we can show?
How is this new? Different? Important?
How can we maintain the urgency with executive and staff?
What are the opportunities and risks?
So how can we share that passion? Really fleshing out all the drivers for the change is vital. The questions above will to build that message to inspire others. Next week we’ll talk about what comes next!
Have you got a change you are passionate about delivering? Would you like to work with me to deliver it?
Email me: email@example.com
*Jamie Oliver was so passionate about introducing healthy food in to schools that he didn’t consult with staff, students or parents because he assumed they’d be as passionate as he was. In the series you see parents handing takeaway food through the school fence so their kids weren’t forced to eat healthy food.
My last post ( And so I begin (or is it continue?), on my crooked path )talked about the crooked path or the scenic route to get to where you want to be. This is also important when you are reflecting on change that is impacting you or if you want to change the way you react to something.
Let’s talk about the pause button. Between stimulus and response there is always a gap to pause. Sometimes that gap is so small that we barely notice it. If we ignore it completely then we form a habit of always responding that way. The brain loves habits. Tick – one more thing I don’t need to process! So what does this mean? Well it can mean that every time a situation/image that makes you react emotionally is presented to you you make that stimulus- response connection and it gets faster and faster. Quick to anger? Quick to fear? Quick to have any emotional response? Ask yourself why. It’s in that pause we can change. It’s not easy. It requires a lot of concentration and brain processing but if you want to make a difference maybe start here?
Let me give you a behavioural example. You want your lawn to grow. You also want to catch your bus and you are running late. It’s much faster to walk across the lawn than stay on the footpath. You now have a line across your lawn where you always walk. But when you are late for work and you need to rush to get the bus it’s not the executive part of your brain that you are using, which is the part that weighs up the pros and cons, so you resort to habit. The more you take the short cut the easier it is, the way is smooth, and well worn. This holds true for emotional responses too. So if you find yourself asking ‘why do I always respond that way’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t said/done that’ ask yourself – Am I taking the easy way out? The familiar? The choice that will give me consequences I know I can already live with? Or am I ready to change? Am I ready to take the longer less convenient path?
What habits do you have that you’d like to change?
In todays political climate, how do politicians and others tap into these fear responses?
As I make a huge leap from the public sector to self employment I’ve been reflecting on my last 17 years in WA Health.
I have been lucky to have many opportunities to work on projects that make a real difference in people’s lives and have an employer that was supportive of flexible work arrangements while I had young children. I’m still passionate about making change in ways that really matter and that will be my focus over the next 12 months.
One of the earliest pieces of advice I received still holds true and is particularly pertinent in the Change space. That advice was to agree on where you were going/what you were trying to achieve with the people you needed to negotiate with, then be prepared for the crooked path, for the path to significant change is rarely a straight line.