You’ve just got back from an inspiring workshop, read a book about communication techniques or got memorable insights while taking part in a business game. And you resolve: from now on I’m going to do things very differently. And they lived happily ever after…….not.
More than the sum of its parts
Good intentions are one thing, a lasting result is unfortunately something completely different. The reason for this is as simple as it is complex: as an individual, you don’t have what it takes to make a change within an organization. You, as an individual, are part of a larger, more complex whole where elements are interdependent. You can’t see the elements as isolated from one another.
It works like this: if you decide to change your behavior, it will affect the system. If, for example, you set new limits for yourself in your organization from one day to the next because you want to create more balance in your private life, your colleagues will notice it. The natural tendency of a system is to get back into the old balance as quickly as possible. That means the environment is going to do everything it can to get you back in line. Chances are that your colleagues find it strange, to say the least, that you are suddenly preaching a 9-to-5 mentality, but yesterday you were more than willing to work overtime, and they wonder, out loud, why that is. And whether you could possibly take a look at something else later this evening……
It’s hard getting things done on your own; it’s essential to work together with others. So, get together with your colleagues, share your wishes and discuss what they think about it. Don’t shy away from the iceberg. It’s precisely what’s under the surface that can have a strong influence on behavior. Your own behavior, but certainly also that of your colleagues. Think of assumptions, images, (limiting) beliefs or ingrained behavior patterns.
It takes a lot of guts to engage in this kind of conversation. Bear in mind that resistance or old wounds may be lurking. If it’s about structural issues that affect the atmosphere, the collaboration or the team results, don’t hesitate to ask for guidance from a professional.
The system will always want to go back to the old 'normal'
Just do it!
Is the situation you aim for clearly defined? And have agreements been made? Then it’s time for action. Again, there are some pitfalls lurking. Ingraining new habits is hard work. It is not for nothing that people say, ‘old habits die hard’. Give yourself and others the time and space to work with the change.
You can do a lot to maximize the success of your change. Don’t be afraid to experiment, sometimes something seems like a good idea but doesn’t work as well in practice. Ask a colleague to give you feedback or talk it over with your boss. Try anything to give the change the greatest chance of success.
As I said before, the system will pull at you to get back to ‘normal’. Keep in mind that sometimes things can get difficult. Your brain is also trained to want to go back to the old familiar ways, on autopilot. Is this happening to you, too? Good that you’ve spotted it, laugh at it at times, share your experiences and, especially, celebrate successes when things do go well!
In the end, behavioral change doesn’t have to be so tough. The main challenge is persevering….