Some of our inner beliefs can trigger failure before it happens. They sabotage change by canceling its possibility! Discover how to recognize these sabotaging beliefs and learn what you can do about them.
I’m sure you’ve met him, or her. That person who says he’ll finish the project tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. Or the person who promises to call as soon as she gets home, but you never hear from her.
We know lots of people like this. If we’re a hard case, we cut them out of our lives. If we’re a “softie”, we make excuses, and try to let it go. Either way, these people, who make promises to change one day and excuses not to the next, exist.
And, we may have even done this ourselves! I know I have. For those of us who admit to it, we know our genius becomes more acute when it’s our turn to change how we behave. That’s when we fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance, and ultimately self-delusion. These beliefs are more wicked than excuses. An excuse is the handy explanation we offer when we disappoint other people. It is acute and convenient, often made up on the spot. Basically an excuse is a variation on “The dog ate my homework,” and these are so abused it’s a wonder anyone believes them.
What do we call the excuses we privately harbor when we disappoint ourselves? Mere “excuse” is somehow inadequate to describe these inner beliefs that represent how we interpret our world. An excuse explains why we fell short of expectations after the fact. Our inner beliefs trigger failure before it happens. They sabotage change by cancelling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. I call them belief triggers and we think them all day long. Here’s a not-extensive list, but it should get you started on where I’m going with this.
1. I am the same ‘me’
The person who promised to change yesterday is not the same person who has to execute that change today. We make promises to ourselves and others today that we cannot keep tomorrow. This is a most illusory belief – because it triggers over-confidence in our ability to execute our plan.
2. If I change I am ‘inauthentic’
We refuse to adapt our behavior to new situations because “it isn’t me.” This belief triggers stubbornness.
3. I won’t get tired
When we intend to work long hours, we’re not exhausted. But after we work several hours we become tired and are eager to throw in the towel. It’s the same with changing our ways – we grow tired with the effort it takes to change. This triggers depletion.
4. I understand the requirements
People who read my writing often tell me, “It’s common sense. I didn’t read anything here that I don’t already know.” True, but there’s a difference between understanding and doing. Just because people understand what to do doesn’t ensure that they will actually do it. This belief triggers confusion.
5. It has to be perfect
Even when we appreciate that nothing is permanent, we still believe in the idea of perfection – that there is a perfect weight, a perfect job, a perfect state of mind if only we strive harder to achieve it. This triggers hopelessness — so we give up.
6. It’s not fair
We have an unshakeable belief in the essential fairness of life – that if we do what is asked of us, we will be rewarded for it. When that faith is shaken and we see that life is not fair, we feel cheated. Our dashed expectations trigger resentment. We convince ourselves that the game is rigged against us and refuse to play again. In other words, we stop trying.
7. I can do it on my own
We believe that we are solely responsible for our own happiness and success, that positive change starts and ends within us and is neither shaped nor determined by the people around us. We abuse self-sufficiency, ignoring the value of a supportive environment, taking foolish pride in doing it all ourselves. We trigger our isolation.
8. Nothing will interrupt my focus
We don’t plan for the low-probability events because, by definition, any one of them is unlikely to occur. But in the aggregate, low probability events affect us all the time. Who plans on a flat tire, or accident, or stalled traffic because of an overturned semi on their way to work? This belief triggers unrealistic expectations.
9. ‘At least I’m better than…’
In a down moment after failure or loss, we tell ourselves, “At least I’m better than _______.” We award ourselves a free pass because we’re not the worst in the world. This is our excuse to take it easy, lowering the bar on our motivation and discipline. We’ve triggered a false sense of immunity.
10. I am exempt on this ‘special day’
Today is the Super Bowl, or my birthday, or our anniversary, or my day off. We excuse our momentary lapse as an outlier event, a blip in the long arc of committed change we are making. This belief triggers a self-indulgent inconsistency – which is fatal for change.
Overconfidence. Stubbornness. Depletion. Confusion. Hopelessness. Resentment. Isolation. Unrealistic expectations. Immunity. Inconsistency. That’s a lot of heavy baggage to carry on our journey of change.
These are just some of the rationalizations that keep us from becoming the person we want to be. Now that you’ve read them, I bet they’re nothing you’ve not heard before! Keep watch in your daily life for them, keep track of how often you use one of these trigger beliefs, see if you can come up with others. This is a great exercise, because as you know awareness is the first step towards change!
February 15, 2015
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
You know, someone who withholds recognition of your contribution to the team or organization’s success? Even worse do you work with or for someone who steals your ideas or takes credit for the performance of your products/projects? If you do, you probably feel unjustly treated and deprived, as this person claims credit they do not deserve. It’s theft!
When someone you work with steals the credit for a success that you created, they’re committing the most rage-inducing interpersonal “crime” in the workplace. (This is the interpersonal flaw that produces more negative emotion than any other in my feedback interviews with the stakeholders of my coaching clients.) And, it creates a bitterness that’s hard to forget. You might be able to forgive someone for not recognizing your stellar performance. But it’s really hard to forgive someone for recognizing it and brazenly claiming it as his or her own!
Let’s turn the tables. Imagine you’re the perpetrator rather than the victim. Have you ever claimed credit that you didn’t deserve? Most of us have to at least a slight degree. When it comes to determining exactly who came up with a winning phrase in a meeting or exactly who on the team was responsible for holding an important client relationship together during a rocky phase, the evidence gets fuzzy. It’s hard to say exactly who deserves the credit.
Given the choice between grasping the credit for ourselves or leaving it for someone else to claim, many of us will claim more credit than we have earned, and slowly begin to believe it! All the while, the victims of our injustice are seething. You know how you feel as a victim, and you should know how people feel about you for doing the same.
There’s no telling what a group can achieve when no one cares who gets the credit. We know this in our bones. We know it because we remember how good we felt about our colleagues when they accorded us the credit we deserved.
So, why don’t some people reciprocate when someone else deserves the credit? I’m not sure. It could be their upbringing, their need to win, their need to be right. It doesn’t really matter. In life, the best thing to do is be the person that you want to be in the world. If you feel the urge to retaliate with hogging the credit, do the opposite. Share the wealth.
Not sure if you have the credit hogging bug? Start with this simple drill. For one day, make a mental note of every time you privately congratulate yourself on an achievement, large or small. Then write it down. If you’re like me, you’ll find that you pat yourself on the back quite a lot! For me, I celebrate for everything from coming up with a big idea for a client to showing up on time for a meeting to dashing off a clever note to a colleague. There’s nothing wrong with these private thoughts. This pleasure in our own performance is what keeps us motivated, especially on long, arduous days.
You’ve made your list. Now, take apart each episode and ask yourself if it’s in any way possible that someone else might deserve the credit for “your” achievement. If you showed up on time for a meeting across town, is it because you are heroically punctual and thoughtful? Or is it because someone or something reminded you about the meeting? If you came up with a good idea in a meeting, did it spring unbidden from your imagination? Or was it inspired by an insightful comment from someone else in the room. And so on…
As you go through your list, consider this make-or-break question: If any of the other people involved in your episodes were looking at the situation, would they accord you as much credit as you are claiming for yourself? Or would they hand it out to someone else, perhaps even themselves?
Every one of us has a strong bias to remember events in a light that is most favorable to us. This drill exposes that bias and makes us consider the possibility that someone else’s perspective is closer to the truth.
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.