Isn’t what you might think.
It’s not deciding what to change or apologizing to those you’ve wronged for past grievous errors. And, it’s not listening to ideas or thanking those who suggest changes you can make to become better.
What is the most important thing you can do if you really want to change? It’s follow-up. Follow-up is the #1 difference maker in the whole change process. Here’s why.
1) Follow-up is how you measure your progress.
2) Follow-up is how you remind people that you’re making an effort to change, and that they are helping you.
3) Follow-up is how your efforts eventually get imprinted on your colleagues’ minds.
4) Follow-up is how you erase your coworkers’ skepticism that you can change.
5) Follow-up is how you acknowledge to yourself and to others that getting better is an ongoing process, not a temporary religious conversion.
6) And, more than anything else, follow-up makes you change. It gives you the momentum, even the courage, to go beyond understanding what you need to do to change and actually do it, because in engaging in the follow-up process, we are changing.
That’s all great you say, but why does follow-up work?
First a confession: I didn’t start out knowing the importance of follow-up. Many years ago, a VP participant of a training session I facilitated asked me the perfectly reasonable question, “Does anyone who goes to one of these leadership development programs ever really change?”
I thought about it. Then answered sheepishly, “I don’t know.” I had worked with some of the best companies in the world and no one had ever asked me this question. Worse still, until that moment, this question had never crossed my mind!
From that moment, I set out to discover the answer to the question: “Does anyone ever really change?” I’m excited to report that many years later I outlined the complete methodology, statistical results, companies involved, and my conclusions about follow-up in an article entitled, “Leadership Is a Contact Sport” written with Howard Morgan and published in Strategy+Business, Fall 2004. Ten years later, we’ve expanded this study to 248,000 respondents from 31 different companies from around the world. And the conclusion is the same: follow-up is the key to successful behavioral change.
From this study, its participants and their teams, I’ve drawn three important conclusions:
1) Not everyone responds to executive development, at least not in the way the organization desires or intends. In other words, some people are trainable, some people are not. I ask participants at the end of each session if they intend to go back to their jobs and apply what they’ve learned. Almost 100 percent say yes! A year later, when I ask their direct reports if their bosses have applied the lessons learned on the job, about 70% say yes and 30% say no. Why would people go through a training, promise to implement what he/she had learned, and then not do it? Simply because they were too busy! This realization led to my second conclusion.
2) There is an enormous disconnect between understanding and doing. Most leadership development revolves around the false assumption that if people understand they will do. In truth, most of us understand, we just don’t do. But this didn’t really answer my question. So, I rewired my objectives and began measuring people to see not only if they got better but why. My hunch about follow-up being the difference maker paid off. The results were astonishingly consistent. Those who do little or no follow-up with people have little or no perceived change in effectiveness. The perception of the effectiveness of those who do follow-up jumps dramatically. This led to a swift and unequivocal third conclusion.
3) People don’t get better without follow-up! If nothing else, this study shows that leaders who ask for input on a regular basis are seen as increasing in effectiveness. Leaders who don’t follow up are not necessarily bad leaders. They are just not perceived as getting better. The reasons for this are: follow-up shows that you care about getting better, that you value people’s opinions, that you are taking the change process seriously, and that you are not ignoring your coworkers’ input. That’s an important part of follow-up. After all, a leader who sought input from her coworkers but ignored it or did not follow up on it would be perceived as someone who did not care very much about becoming a better leader.
All of this led me to a fourth and final conclusion. Becoming a better leader (or a better person) is a process, not an event. Nobody ever changed just by going to a training session. They got better by doing what they learned in the program. And that “doing,” by definition, involves follow-up. Follow-up turns changing for the better into an ongoing process—not only for you but for everyone involved. When you involve others in your continuing progress, you are virtually guaranteeing your continued success!
Written by Coach Marilyn
There is no harder task for adults than changing our behavior.
For many of us, change is impossible because we are so optimistic (and delusional) that we try to change everything at once. We quickly overwhelm ourselves with becoming the “new Me”, and when it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like, people don’t notice that we’ve made a change, or some obstacle presents itself, we give up.
Discouraged by our failure, overwhelmed and disheartened, it’s hard to commit to change again. So, we become geniuses at coming up with reasons to avoid change. We make excuses. We rationalize. We harbor beliefs that trigger all manner of denial and resistance—and we end up changing nothing. Ever. We fail to become the person we want to be.
So, seeing our frailties in the face of behavioral change what do we do?
The Wheel of Change
For many years now, I’ve been using “The Wheel of Change” to help clients decide what to change and where to put their efforts. I’ve taken teams, organizations, friends, and peers through this process, and I’ve even use it myself. It is one of the most helpful tools for behavioral change that I’ve ever found.
The Wheel of Change illustrates the interchange of two dimensions that we need to sort out before we can become the person we want to be.
The positive to negative axis tracks the elements that either help us or hold us back. The change to keep axis tracks the elements that we determine to change or keep in the future. Thus, in pursuing any behavioral change we have four options: change or keep the positive elements, change or keep the negative.
Here’s a brief description of each of these options.
- Creating represents the positive elements that we want to create in our future. Creating is the glamorous poster child of behavioral change. When we imagine ourselves behaving better, we think of it as an exciting process of self-invention. We’re creating a “new me.” It’s appealing and seductive. We can be anyone we choose to be. The challenge is to do it by choice, not as a bystander. Are we creating ourselves, or wasting the opportunity and being created by external forces instead.
- Preserving represents the positive elements that we want to keep in the future. Preserving sounds passive and mundane, but it’s a real choice. It requires soul-searching to figure out what serves us well, and discipline to refrain from abandoning it for something new and shiny and not necessarily better. We don’t practice preserving enough.
- Eliminating represents the negative elements that we want to eliminate in the future. Eliminating is our most liberating, therapeutic action—but we make it reluctantly. Like cleaning out an attic or garage, we never know if we’ll regret jettisoning a part of us. Maybe we’ll need it in the future. Maybe it’s the secret of our success. Maybe we like it too much.
- Accepting represents the negative elements that we need to accept in the future. Most of us tend to commit to the other three four elements in the wheel of change with greater enthusiasm—creating is innovating and exciting, preserving makes sense as we focus on not losing sight of the good things about ourselves, eliminating appeals to the “do-or-die” element of our natures as we commit to stop doing things that no longer serve us, but accepting is a more difficult pill to swallow. Acceptance is an odd player in the process of change—it feels like admitting defeat, it’s equated by many to acquiescence. Acceptance is incredibly valuable when we are powerless to make a difference. Yet our ineffectuality is precisely the condition that we are most loath to accept. This truth triggers our finest moments of counterproductive behavior.
These are the choices. Some are more dynamic, glamorous, and fun than others, but they’re equal in importance. And three of them are more labor-intensive than we imagine.
And, that’s the simple beauty of the wheel. When we bluntly challenge ourselves to figure out what we can change and what we can’t, what to lose and what to keep, we often surprise ourselves with the bold simplicity of our answers and can thus take significant, real steps towards becoming the person we really want to be.
Written by Coach Marilyn
Members of the Czechoslovakian Chamber of Business Coaches, WABC certified business coaches, often speak about the importance of role models and personal examples in business coaching, especially in applying coaching to leadership and management. In the following paragraphs I would like to present some of my ideas regarding this complex topic.
A role model, example or natural authority of big-name personalities accompany us throughout the life span. Intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously, we tend to follow them. As developmental psychologists proved, parents are not the only role models that influence our behavior in later life. The so-called role models that we follow belong to our lives naturally. Well-known artists, successful entrepreneurs, show-business stars, sportsmen or influential authors become role models for almost every adolescent or teenager. We tend to follow models that attract our attention and reflect our dreams and goals. In puberty and adolescence, we dream about life and professional goals and compare them to the achievements of our heroes. Moreover, the culture we live in shapes our expectations, goals and life values. For those who identify with successful business people self-development becomes a central task.
Interestingly, when we asked a few young people, who are students of Made in Czechoslovakia coaching programs and who show a certain degree of business talent, who their role models were or which big-name personality they identified with, many of those young Czechs and Slovaks named our internationally famous models like Paulina Porizkova, Karolina Kurkova or Petra Nemcova or sportsmen such as Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl or Jaromir Jagr. As can be seen, young business–oriented people compare business success to the success of famous celebrities or respected sportsmen. Physical strength and beautiful looks are somehow synonymous with success. Greek kalokagathia, the ancient educational goal and outcome of successful socialization, is not only an example of beauty and physical strength, but also of mental health, wisdom and spiritual richness. Its essence is based on authenticity, individualistic critical thinking, multi-perspective and interdisciplinary education, skills development and ethical discipline. People with developed personality are not only intellectually attractive but also influence others in terms of ambition, hard work and creativity. For instance, the achievements of Vaclav Havel or Madeleine Albright, politicians who both have Czech origin, confirm my assumption that successful business people do not regularly compare themselves with others, but follow their values and go their own, unique way. Comparing ourselves with others and evaluating ourselves in relation to our peers or colleagues does not help our self-development. Constant thinking about what we have not achieved yet and what others have does not help either. Searching for what we do not know or what we are not capable of, skilled at or aware of does not serve anything. This does not motivate us. In contrast, successful business people are aware of the need for commitment to believing in their own way without comparing themselves with others. Competent business people commit to an idea that they will create and develop products or concepts that reflect their values and social welfare. If later they become business or leadership icons, it is because they fulfilled their commitment to becoming authentic and original personalities who are aware of the importance of fidelity.
Fidelity plays a crucial role in following any role models and dreams. The psychologist Erikson stated that fidelity is being developed and acquired in adolescence as a key life skill emerging from developmental conflict between identity and confusion. In this age we build a sense of complexity of life. Is it not interesting that it is the role model which plays a crucial role in this age? Role models shape ideas about the way to success and welfare. They show young people what can be achieved. They make them stay focused and committed. Therefore, having a role model is a very important part of personality development. Lack of role models means lack of examples, and meaningful and internalized goals.
Later, for instance, role models may play an important role in leading a team. A leader should somehow be a role model for his or her subordinates. In the context of business coaching, a role model may play an important role in establishing rapport between a client and his or her business coach. If a coach is not perceived by his client as an integrated and inspirational personality, the full success of change and reaching the stated goal cannot be achieved. It is not a question of inequality or disrespect. I am not saying that a business coach should be superior to his or her client. I am only suggesting that all of us probably want to be accompanied by smart people; we all need challenges and role models that inspire us and help us grow. That is why the importance of personality examples and role models in business coaching is inevitable. It gives meaning and purpose to our actions and behavior. For instance, when coaching a leader we should understand his or her role models and know the personalities he or she admires. Also, we should be able to offer our own example, which should be an example of integrated and holistic personality. Therefore, business coaches must work on themselves constantly and be aware of the fact that it is mainly their personality that makes the change for their client. Tomas Bata once said: “There is no financial crisis, there is only a crisis of morality” and: “To lead does not mean to control others, it means to overpower one’s own inner personality”.
Consequently, self-management, self-reflection and courage to accept ourselves are important business coaching competencies. A business coach must challenge his clients to have courage to take responsibility for choosing particular interpretations, giving meanings to his actions and decisions, including personality change or developing social responsiveness. In other words, being able to support others’ development requires being aware of one’s Self. A business coach may be considered as a role model that should inspire clients and teach them that the need for development (e.g. understanding one’s Self and personality) gives us freedom to make decisions, increases creativity and supports autonomy and inner stability.
The better we know ourselves, the more we are able to understand others and help them. In a democratic system, business coaching should also contribute to building democracy and ethics. My own role model, a former president and renowned philosopher Vaclav Havel, once said: “Democracy allows those, who do not have good faith, to do almost everything, but ties the hands of those who have great respect for it”. I think that business coaches may help clients to work with tied hands but with deeper responsibility, respect and business commitment for the growth of democratic society and freedom.
Daniel Tuma, CBC
Business coach, psychologist and organizational counselor managing the Made in Czechoslovakia company, the first company in Central Europe with WABC accreditation for training program in business coaching.
Academic guarantor and author of many workshops,
trainings and coaching programs regarding business psychology, organizational psychology, emotional intelligence, socio-psycho pathology in the workplace and leading positions.
He is specialized in highly influential top-management assessment and in mediating conflicts on the highest business level.
John Warrillow is the founder of The Value Builder System™, a software platform and methodology business coaches use to help their clients improve the value of their business.
Let’s say someone is in the market for buying a house and they go to view one that has been advertised? How does it look on the outside? The inside? What about the location? What is their general impression?
Like a house, your client’s business projects an image to potential buyers. When a potential buyer comes to see their business for the first time, the “curb appeal” of the business can either attract a buyer or cause them to walk away from it.
Does your client need to improve the curb appeal of their business? Here's a three-step plan to help them improve their odds when a potential buyer comes knocking at their door:
1. Fix Any Leaky Faucets
Perhaps, like many other business owners, your client started their business from scratch with one or two employees and now they have 20 people working for them. But do they have the appropriate HR infrastructure in place for that size of a company? Perhaps they even take pride in their informal management style, but it can prove to be a liability when it comes time for them to sell.
Make sure your client’s human resources policies are at least as stringent as those of the company they hope will buy their business. Some basics they need to have in place:
- A written policy making it clear they forbid any form of harassment or discrimination;
• A written letter of employment for each staff member;
• A written description of their bonus system;
• Written policies for employee expenses, travel and benefits.
- Assemble a Binder When you go to buy a house, you feel more confident if the owner has the instruction manuals for the appliances, information on where they were purchased, and who to call if one of them breaks down.
Similarly, when a potential buyer looks at your client’s company, he wants to see that they have their business information in order. Documenting their office procedures, core processes, and other intellectual capital can help your client attract more bidders and a higher price for their company, while also lowering the chance of the deal falling apart during due diligence.
If your client wants to attract a buyer, whether now or at some point in the future, they need to create a binder for their business that includes instructions for basic functions, such as:
- Opening up in the morning and closing down at night;
- Forms and step-by-step instructions for routine tasks;
- Templates for key documents;
- Emergency numbers for service providers;
- Billing procedures for customers;
- How their company is positioned in the market and their marketing tools.
- Document the Intangibles
Intangibles for house buying might include: Is the house near a good school or daycare? What kind of neighborhood is it? What kind of commute are you looking at to get to work?
Your client’s business also has intangible – and often intellectual – assets that a potential buyer needs to be made aware of, such as:
- Proprietary research they’ve conducted;
- A formula for acquiring new customers;
- Criteria they use to evaluate a potential new location;
- Their unique approach to satisfying a customer.
As with selling a house, a company's curb appeal can go a long way toward closing a deal.
John Warrillow is the creator of The Value Builder System™. He is also the author of The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry and Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.