Leaders: Do you have the courage to jump?

(Originally written and published for the LeadChange Blog)

Leaders: How are your people skills?  The better question is “How would your team describe your people skills?”  While you may be able to acknowledge this is an area you could use some improvement, setting “soft skill” goals may feel like trying to grab a handful of jello.

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If you were my client and I asked, “Do you have your goals to be a better leader (or communicator) clearly defined, written down and measurable?” I will probably hear your eyes roll into the back of their head. Perhaps you may have set goals in the past and not achieved lasting change. Not because you lacked understanding or even desire to change, but because of failure to follow Steps #2 and #3 of the change process. (Click here to read Step #1 and #2 and #3 in the previous post on Leadership, Frogs & Goals).

Change is simple, but not always easy, unless you follow all three steps. And repeat.

Step #3: ACT

Understanding alone is overrated. We’ve all decided taking action is a good idea. But we are still sitting on the log. Change requires ACTION. Understanding or having the awareness of why your sarcastic tone is caustic , or why you should quit smoking, drinking too much is a necessary first step, after you announce your intention to change to others, you must now jump off the log.

The key to making lasting behavioral change is simple: small actions over a period of time result in SIGNIFICANT LONG TERM CHANGE. You’re not perfect; you are going to slip up. When you do, ACKNOWLEDGE IT OUT LOUD and MOVE FORWARD.

Here’s how:

#1. Small change counts more than you think. While you may think you have a problem finishing something, I will propose you may actually have a STARTING problem instead. Here’s your challenge: Can you do anything for 5 minutes? Sure you can, so start there.

Here are a few idea starters: Walk, ride a bike, stretch, meditate, breathe, listen deeply, play with your kids, hang out with your partner with your cell phone off, plan a goal or project with paper and pencil, organize your desk. Try doing whatever “it” is for 5 minutes (because if you can’t do something for 5 minutes, trust me, you have bigger problems).

Make an appointment with yourself and put it in the calendar to do one or two times a week for the first week and build slowly. Exercise, quitting smoking, practice being a better listener all lend themselves to the “Do it for 5 minutes” strategy. Preparing your taxes is another. Yes, you have a few months, but what difference will it make if you start now with 5 minutes a week? April 14th might just be a more relaxing day! Like shampoo: Rinse, lather, repeat.

Then, repeat Step #1: Ask. Ask again by following up with the family, friends (and if you really want to be transparent include your staff) and ask “How am I doing?” Then LISTEN. Say “Thank you” in response to their answers. As Marshall Goldsmith says, we can’t go wrong if we respond with a genuine “Thank you” to any information, negative or positive, someone offers us.

Why should I ask again? Two reasons. Ask others with the intention of to simply gather information, as if you are on your own personal recognizance mission. Because you will use what you hear people say to accomplish two things:

#1. To adjust course. Like a pilot in an airplane getting feedback from the instrument panel who is flying from New York to Los Angeles, simply adjust what you are doing, a little to the left, a little to the right, toward your destination. Just view it as information, not right or wrong, good or bad, no big deal. Adjust course as needed.

#2. To build trust. Remember how I said this step is critical? Here’s why … by announcing publically your are human and are working on improving yourself and by following up and asking “How am I doing with ______?” and really listening to their response, you will build trust by showing you really care. That is as long as you do really care, because when you are genuine it is FELT. If you don’t really care, well, that’s palpable, too. If you really don’t care, don’t ask.

AAA: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader and exceeding your personal development goals.

If you truly desire to be an exceptional leader of people, you will earn more trust by following up with this step exactly as written, than with anything else you ever have the guts to do, which is be human.

So if two frogs were sitting on a log, and you were one of the frogs, and you decide to jump off, what’s the answer now?

About the Author Christina

Christina Haxton is the Chief Potential Officer & Founder of The Center for Sustainable Strategies, a business strategy & executive advisory company, assisting technology and life science entrepreneurs, business owners & CEOs to build a strong, purpose-driven company, achieve sustainable growth & avoid burnout. Contact Christina at (970) 387-8935 or christina@sustainable-leaders.com to inquire about speaking, training, coaching and consulting solutions for yourself or your company.

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3 comments
Jim Laumeyer says March 18, 2012

At first, I was looking for an article on the leadership skills for change management.
Instead, I found an interesting article on a game plan for leadership development through personal change.
The article is well written and lays out an easy to understand method of making significant change incrementally.
Thank you for the perspective, Jim

Reply
Becky says April 10, 2012

…and THIS is the reason that my students are constantly asking, “WHY is my manager in that position? He has NO people skills!” Go the source…. the people who work FOR you NOT WITH YOU. EXCELLENT article.

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Kate Mahon says April 10, 2012

What I really like about this simple 3 step process is that it is easy to develop a pattern of behaviour by following these steps. Good habits can be learned through this process.

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