A Five Step Process for Individual Leadership Behavior Change

March 6, 2009

5 Step Process for Individual Leadership Behavior Change

As an Executive Coach and Strategist one of your main jobs is to help people find alignment: alignment within themselves, with others and with their organization. The way to become outstanding at leadership starts with understanding yourself. When working with individuals who are in a leadership role, you start with their outcome gaps (those outcomes that were unexpected) and work backwards to the behaviors that lead to those outcomes. That is the first place to effect change. If they can simply change a behavior by becoming aware of their blind spots then you’re done.

And yet awareness is often not enough for any of us. The behavioral imprinting is so strong that simply knowing you have behaviors that are not in alignment with the outcomes you desire isn’t enough to change them. The next step in leadership coaching is to move back to what emotions are triggering that behavior that leads to the outcome gap. Often, when you can get a handle on these emotions you can decide there are other feelings you could consider other than, let’s say, anger.

It is interesting, this particular element of the alignment process. Often people go to a therapist to discover their real feelings. You may have heard people say, “I have spent thousands of dollars to learn these feelings.” Well, if you want to affect your outcome gap you’re going to learn that you can choose to have other feelings to make your behaviors change.

Let’s get more concrete. Let’s say you are in a meeting with your peers and that you like to be in control of such situations, but you’re not the leader so you become very angry because you are feeling controlled by the facilitator. This anger triggers belligerent behaviors. You begin to derail the meeting and disregard your entire company because you cannot control the anger that is festering in you. If you can recognize that anger is your real feeling, and that it’s not helpful in this particular situation, you may go meta cognitive and look down on the situation and say to yourself, “100 other people would feel differently about this situation,” and then ask yourself, “which of those do I need to borrow to show up in a way that informs my behaviors differently?”

Step three in our coaching model is to move further into the cycle of your values. The question becomes what values may be in conflict with the outcome that you’re looking for, that are informing your emotions, that inform your behaviors that are then affecting your unanticipated outcomes? Are you certain your values are in alignment with your outcomes? In the situation outlined above, is one of your top values about control? If not, how do you get more committed to the values that you believe are more in alignment? One way is to name these values and practice them. The first thing to do is discover them and insure you know what they are. If you go to the Leadership Values Assessment, you can discover what you value most versus what you value least. Once you do this you can begin to ask yourself the question, “are my feelings in alignment with these values or am I just feeling old imprints?” Yesterday, because of a calendar snafu I found myself without plans in New York City. Those who know me well would know I don’t do well being alone because of old imprints. As I was walking through Central Park, I found myself feeling alone. I started asking myself these questions and found I made progress separating myself from those imprints.

The final step in our executive coaching model is moving back to your belief system. This is hard work because we get very committed to what we believe is true. In fact, we believe so deeply that we think our beliefs are who we are as a person. People will defend their belief by giving their life for them. And yet, some of your beliefs are likely informing your values choices, which in turn effect your emotions, which then inform your behaviors that lead to this performance gap. The question to wrestle with here is not only what belief are you committed to, but what alternative beliefs are you committed to that are preventing you from reaching the outcome for which you are looking? From this point you can begin to ask yourself what underlying assumptions are forming these beliefs, and asking yourself, “Can I let go of these assumptions?” What have you convinced yourself is true that is no longer helpful to continue believing that it is true? For me last night it was that no one wanted to come out and play. It was not true before and it is certainly not true today and yet it is still informing me. What experiences are still informing you?

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