Just knowing how to do something doesn’t mean you can do it. Many brilliant leaders struggle to learn how to embody the traits to which they aspire. Think about the difference between knowing and doing. You can read a book about sailing, sit and watch someone else do it, even practice in a safe harbour – but until you steer the craft safely through a storm you’d hardly call yourself a sailor.
Insight doesn’t equal action. Fortunately, research on building new habits, brain science and adult development give us some practical answers. Here are the four steps we use in coaching to move from “I want to be different” to “I am different”.
- Observe you. Take an honest look. What are you doing now, instead of what you want to do? Kegan & Lahey talks about this as your immunity to change. I think of it as you on autopilot or your “current way”.
- Do something else. Make one change in the direction you desire. But keep it doable, the tiniest behavioural change is the easiest to implement. The dynamic nature of change creates a ripple impact.
- Reflect on what you did. Keep a journal and write down what happened before, during and after. Include observing you and impacts.
- Talk with a partner. Share your experience and together glean the learnings. Make sure the partner is supportive. Trying something new means trial and error. It won’t be perfect – yet.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to delegate more to your staff.
- Self-Observation: I usually don’t delegate until I feel the person won’t make an error, or I trust they will do it the way I would do it. I say that I believe in developing others, but I am not taking a risk to do so.
- New doing: I am going to start to delegate before I fully trust. I will start with low-risk activities. I will be honest with myself about the discomfort I feel. I will ask the other person to help me manage my worry by giving me more frequent updates.
- Reflect: I notice that when I gave up something and talked about updates, I felt less anxious. I also felt lighter when I delegated even small items of low risk. The other person appreciated my honesty. I notice during the updates that the other person is developing new skills.
- Coaching session: In talking with my coach, I discover that my experience with delegating is giving me an appetite to give up even more. I am enjoying seeing someone else grow in their confidence and career. If I trust that the other person will escalate when needed and lean on me for mentoring, I don’t have to trust that they can do the task perfectly.