There’s a group of leaders that I’m working with for one of my clients and recently one of them pulled me aside and said “I want to thank you for changing who I am.” While hearing a statement like that is one of the most satisfying things I can experience in my line of work, it’s completely untrue. I didn’t change anything about how the leader acted, all I changed was the person’s perspective. They did the rest.
Our actions are driven by our thoughts and anytime you can help someone shift their thinking, you can help them choose different actions. Too often, we as leaders or managers focus exclusively on the actions we would like someone to change, and too rarely do we consider the thoughts that are driving those actions.
Leaders do many things for others that have the most impact on helping them see things in a different light, but I believe that there are three that most often have the desired impact.
People behave a certain way because, ultimately, they believe they should behave that way. It’s rare that any of us show up for work thinking, “I’m going do the wrong thing all day today.” For the most part, we are doing what we believe to be right, and so are those around us. When we see a better way, then there is a possibility presented to us that wasn’t on our original list of choices. Sometimes this component is the biggest driver of someone wanting to change.
Leaders can model behaviors that demonstrate that there are other choices out there. They can also create new possibilities through the use of stories. Once we hear about someone else achieving something we admire or want, we immediately conceive the fact that we could too, and that the path they took might work for us too
Get rid of the baggage
Our list of possible behaviors and outcomes for ourselves are shaped by our history. In many cases, we simply do things this way because we always have. Habits are powerful forces in our lives and over time we lose the ability to even recognize them. They cause us to make statements like “that’s just the way I am, I cant change that.” In reality, everything outside of genetics is up for change. That doesn’t make it easy. We’ve spent years convincing ourselves that we can’t change those things.
Leaders can, with the right set of conversations and interactions, help people see that they can make clear choices about what they want to be different in their lives, and chart a course for a new reality that isn’t dictated by yesterday.
Support the change
Journeys are hard to make alone. Great leaders who are helping others make changes support the process and make a commitment to be there when help is needed. You can’t just cast the boat off for them and wish them a successful voyage. Row with them for a while, listen, and share some of your own experiences in making tough changes. They are going to hit some big waves on the trip. Someone who has been in these rough waters before can help them decide not to turn back when things get challenging.
Leaders do have the power to help others change, even though every individual makes their own choice. A new perspective, new possibilities and the support they need, can change their perspective enough that they make new choices. While we can’t truly change others, we can absolutely be the catalyst to help others change themselves. That’s what great leaders do.
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