April 2007

In This Issue


How to Change:
Principles for Goal Attainment


How to Change:
Principles for Goal Attainment

In his recent book Change or Die, Alan Deutschman asks the question, ‘Could you change if it really mattered?’

We all know people who smoke, and those with heart disease. And yet these same individuals, even when faced with premature death, will not develop new habits.

As an executive career consultant I am often faced with motivating and coaching people to change their behavior so that they can achieve their aspirations. We are all familiar with the saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.” But I sometimes experience resistance from clients who refuse to adapt new behaviors even though they have hired me to help them achieve the level of success they desire.

Deutschman , in studying heart patients, drug addicts with criminal histories and rebellious auto works, identifies three keys to change:

1. Forming “a new emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.” This person or community has to convince you that you have the ability to change. I think of Weight Watchers, or Alcoholics Anonymous as these kinds of communities. A career coach can help people who desire to change or improve their work situation.

2. Gaining support from the new relationship or community to help you to learn, practice and master the new habits and skills you need to succeed in making the change you desire. You act “as if” you are this new person.

3. Reframing your situation, or learning new ways of thinking about your situation or your life. We sometimes focus on what we don’t have, instead of what we do have, and this “lack” mentality can attract more of the same into your life. Being laid off of a job is an opportunity to design your life and work with a fresh approach.

In his book, Deutschman talks about the various psychological concepts which interfere with change. An example of denial is a client who contacted me to help him with a job search after he did not receive a promotion with his company. This person does not have the good communication skills which are required in the new position, and is emotionally reactive, which hinders his ability to manage effectively. But he denies the behavior that is keeping him from getting that promotion (the problem) and decides to look outside of the company for a new job (the solution). His solution for the problem creates a situation for more of the same, since the management jobs he applies for all require good communication skills that he is not able to display in the job search process. One solution might be to take a business writing class, join Toastmaster’s or take a Dale Carnegie course, so that he can develop the appropriate writing and speaking skills that are required for the job he desires.

Resistance and procrastination also keep people functioning in the magnetic pull of the status quo. I see many introverted people who are not comfortable networking in large groups. So they do nothing. Or they spend hours applying for jobs on-line, thinking at least they are doing something. But although this behavior, applying for jobs on-line, is comfortable for them, it is not an effective way of getting a job. After a while they become discouraged since all of their efforts and the hours they have spend in front of the computer have not resulted in even one job interview. For them the solution is not to become comfortable networking in large groups, but to identify ways to network effectively for jobs that do not require attending large group meetings. One client used email to set up networking meetings with individuals that were able to help him find organizations that were interested in interviewing him. 

For change to occur first requires accurate problem formulation and then a solution for change that is appropriate for the particular problem. We all know people who seem to have an attitude problem at work which keeps them from being effective in their job. But as a manager, you cannot ask your employees to change their attitude. You can’t put “bad attitude” on an employee evaluation. But you can expect them to change their behavior and do their job.

If you want to advance your career, or make a career change or start a new business, be clear about what behaviors on your part are required for success in those ventures.

1. Hire a coach to motivate and support you, and provide you with the objective feedback you need to achieve your goals.

2. Assemble a support system of people who support your dreams. Do not discuss your career goals with those well meaning family and friends who do not understand or encourage your aspirations. 

3. Reframe your situation to help you envision and become the person you want to be.

Be brutally honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Take classes, develop new skills. Act “as if” you already are the person you want to be.