Categories
Coaching Leadership

Action Triggers

When you want to start taking steps towards change, but you are finding it hard to get going, then set yourself an action trigger to help kickstart the effort.

This is a simple mental plan to execute an action when you encounter a particular situation. It’s a great technique to help you build up or change a habit, by preloading some decisions in our mind.

It’s a simple technique. First of all, pick what you want to change. For example, you might want to show more gratitude when someone does a great job.

Next up, get specific. Exactly when and how are you going to do this? If it’s too loose, it won’t be effective in changing your behaviour. When we’re praising people, it has greatest impact close to the good activity, so you might set an trigger of “When I see someone asking a great question in a meeting, I will actively thank them for that input”.

This is good because it’s a specific situation (great question), and a specific action (thanking them). As you’ve already made this decision, you take away the concern of what “a great job” looks like, and how you’ll “show more gratitude.

When you make it easy, you are more likely to take these actions and change your behaviour. The complex processing that exhausts your Type 2 brain is dealt with ahead of time, letting you shift these changes to the quick and lazy Type 1.

If you want to be even more likely to be successful, then either say your trigger out loud, or write it down. Make the commitment public and it give you even more impetus to succeed.

This technique is not a panacea. It will only work if you want to make a change, and it will only help move you towards good behaviours. It’s not going to change your direction 180 degrees, and it’s not going to shift you fundamentally.

To make some positive change and build energy in your flywheel, setup a couple of action triggers to preload some complex decisions and make it simple when the situation occurs.

Categories
Leadership

Who Benefits?

Making any kind of change is difficult, especially in a large and complex organisation.

One really useful technique is to identify who is going to benefit from the change. Think about everyone who will be impacted, ranging from customers to suppliers, your internal stakeholders to your immediate team.

If the only benefits that you identify are to you or your direct team, then you are going to be treading a long and lonely path. You may find that this kind of change is one to put on to the backburner, as it’s going to struggle to build momentum.

In the majority of cases, you’ll find some people where the costs outweigh the benefits that they’ll see, and you’ll find some who benefit more from the change than the effort it’ll cost.

Those who benefit more will be your key allies in bringing this change to bear, and should be the first people you enlist in building momentum in the group. Getting these people on board is key to success. Make sure they see the benefits that will accrue to them, and they are likely to become enthusiastic supporters of the change.

When you have that initial support, it will be easier to convince those who may be neutral towards the change, those who are neither going to gather major benefits or costs. There’s a lot of value in there being visible and vocal allies to convince others. A lone voice can be dismissed as an outlier, multiple advocates are positive reinforcement and can start to move the group.

Finally, you can start to move those who are more impacted by the change. With a range of supporters, the change is gaining momentum. There’s a point where people will start to support it to make sure they are not left behind, being part of the group is important. You might need to commit some additional effort to bring around the most impacted, but if you’ve built the platform with your supporters, it will be less than you might think.

So, find out who is going to benefit and enlist them in your change effort. Many voices will bring success more quickly than a lone effort. Show the value you’ll bring and get those supporters lined up to move the group forwards quickly.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Bringing in the New

I’ve been watching the theatre across the road being built for over a year now, and it’s really great to see some of the parallels between construction in the physical world vs the crafting of software in the virtual.

As we get into the New Year, then it’s very likely you are starting to put into practice some of the new ideas that will help you start building up your flywheel of change and achieving your goals. Today I’m sharing a couple of insights on how to do this well, from what I’ve observed throughout this construction process.

Every time a new material arrives on site, there’s a simple approach used to get it into the construction process. The experts in the particular area will fit a small area (something like a single window in a frame). They’ll review it, look at how it’s sitting in the shell of the building. If it looks good, they’ll show it to other workers, who are able to go and fit the rest of the items across the full facade. If it’s not working out, they’ll re-work this area, re-do the process and learn in a low risk corner of the site. If it goes really badly, then they’ll strip it out, and wait until improved materials can be delivered.

This low risk test and learn allows the construction to proceed at pace and in a more predictable way. There’s two clear stages in play, once the process is great and easy to apply, then it’s rolled out quickly across the whole building. The rework is limited to the testing phase, where it’s quick to correct any issues.

This is absolutely the best way to approach launching new practices and processes in your organisation, or building and launching new software products.

The most powerful part is to recognise when you are switching between the learning cycle and the rollout cycle, as that’s the point you change how you are delivering that change. This is also the most important time to communicate clearly and set expectations as to how that change will land.

So, in summary, to make your change a success:

  1. Test out a process or product in a controlled space
  2. Learn quickly, and adapt your approach
  3. Loop around again if it’s not right yet
  4. Recognise when it’s good enough, and roll out at pace

This approach gives the best chance of landing significant change with the smallest cost.

Get out there and do it!

Categories
Coaching

Get up and Gone?

It’s certainly been a really hard year, and whilst there’s certainly hope for the future, we still have a long road to travel before we’re free of the weight of the pandemic.

That means you may well not feel the usual “New Year, New Me” desire for change, or worse, you feel you should be looking for that change but don’t have any motivation for it.

Well, when we dive into this, it’s pretty clear that tying a desire to change to an arbitrary date in calendar just doesn’t works. There’s tons of research on this, with a headline that 1 in 4 of us gives up an New Year resolution in the first week of January.

It’s going to be extra unlikely to hit those large goals this year, as we’re all coming from a pretty heavy place of stress and uncertainty. Our starting lines are a lot further back this year, so these big changes are even less likely to land.

Instead of pinning directly on the Big Scary Goal, set some small ones to build momentum and drive your Flywheel of Change. If you aren’t feeling up to anything now, then just keeping going is great! If you want to go for something, find that small first step and take that. See how it feels and keep on going.

Tell someone about your goals and the steps you are going to take. There’s a lot of value in making this commitment to another person, you are much more likely to build that momentum if you bake in that accountability.

So if you aren’t feeling the big change right now, then don’t let the time of year push you into trying for one that will fail. Instead, set something more achievable, get some support in place and start building some positive momentum.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Is it Better?

“Change is easy, improvement is far more difficult” – Dr. Ferdinand Porsche

When we make a change, we want to make things better. However, it’s not always easy to ensure that the change is actually positive overall. How can you increase the chances of actually making an improvement?

Good news, there’s a set of simple (not easy!) steps you can follow to vastly improve the odds on hitting that improvement you are seeking.

First, be very clear what the problem is. Write it down. State it in the simplest possible terms, which means you might need to refine it several times. Get specific, watch out specifically for weak or ambiguous terms. “We’re slow” is a very weak problem “We consistently take twice as long as our initial estimate to launch a product” is much stronger.

When you have a strongly stated problem, you can then work on what that improvement would look like. Do you want to improve your estimates, reduce the actual shipping time even if the estimates are still bad, or do something else entirely?

Next up, get explicit about what you are willing to spend to seek improvement. Are you going to invest more resources? Drop something that’s not important or high value? Maybe even make something else harder or not as great as it used to be?

Now you get to start trying things. You’ve got a framework to know if you are going in the right direction, and the guardrails to correct if it’s not going well. This is where the change gets to be implemented. Be as brave or incremental as needed for your problem and constraints, but be ready to measure and correct as you go.

Before making each change, record your hypothesis. “By doing this, I believe that we will move X to Y”. Take the actions, measure the impact and review against the hypothesis. If it’s going well, then keep it up! If not, don’t be afraid to cut the initiative and return to the status quo to try again.

Put in the effort to bring clarity to your proposed change, add the effort to measure as you go, and you are much more likely to find that improvement you seek.

Categories
Coaching

The Right Tools

When you start being coached, you sign up to beginning a process of lasting and transformative change. You are able to outline your true goals, put aside limiting beliefs and define the steps necessary to achieve great outcomes.

Believing that change is possible, and that you have potential to succeed is just the start of your journey. You need to identify the tools that you already have to hand, and the ones that you’ll need to acquire to bring that success to life.

Positive thinking must be back up with concrete actions to be effective, pairing the two is what brings positive change.

As an example, say you want to become a better leader. It’s a very common desire in people I work with, which might be manifested as a desire to seek a promotion or an expanded role, or they may wish to be recognised as being more effective in the role they are currently in.

Once you’ve reached the goal, reflect and consider what it means in more detail. Do you communicate well with your team but struggle with stakeholders? Is your tactical leadership strong but strategic vision weak? Understand your current reality and you can build your action plan for change.

Once you’ve done this, what tools do you need to support your change? For these types of changes, tools will often be improved skills rather than physical items. You might need to improve how you present information, manage conflict better or improve your negotiation.

All of these can be improved with training and practice. They won’t get better with purely positive thinking, but they’ll certainly improve much faster when you apply a positive mindset to the change.

Bring the right tools to bear and you’ll get the change you want.

Categories
Leadership

Communicating Change

When you are attempting to communicate with someone, you need to always hold on to the idea that “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear”. Once you’ve internalised this, it gives you a chance to build the shared pool of meaning that’s required to communicate something effectively.

Communicating “change” is a whole level beyond this basic interaction. Change brings uncertainty. It will take time, and it will affect a number of people.

With these added complexities, you need to bring another skill to bear. You need to be consistent.

You will have to repeat your message many times, in many formats and to many people. A single broadcast in a single medium will not have the impact you hope for.

If you are communicating change, you will have had more time to get used to the idea, to see the benefits and to see the path forwards. Anyone new to the idea will not have this, so your first announcement will feel like a bolt from the blue.

People will react to this in different ways, excitement, shock, even anger. Be ready to refine your message and to share it in different contexts and mediums, but always hold your consistent points in the front of mind.

When you’re sick of saying it, people are starting to get it, so get your head down, craft your message and give it multiple times with consistent focus.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Flywheel of Change

Flywheels store up mechanical energy, and let you use it in a different way. They are big and heavy, and hard to get going. Once up and spinning, they’ll keep going with only small and regular top-ups.

If you are attempting to drive change, either personal, organisational or societal, then much like a flywheel, starting will be the hardest thing.

A great and tumultuous effort might just be enough to nudge the wheel forwards a tiny bit, but if left there it will quickly settle down to stillness once more.

One large effort is not enough. Nor will sporadic and unplanned pushes work, too much will go into getting the turning started, rather than speeding it up.

The large push will be exhausting, but sometimes that’s worth doing to get going. To then drive the change to completion, use a strategy that builds momentum.

Find the repeatable efforts that you can maintain over the long run. Engage daily or weekly, make it a routine part of your schedule. Get to the point where it’s something you miss if you don’t do it. Setup some larger efforts, with time to plan before and recover after.

Change is hard, so be smart about building up that energy, and use it for good!