4 Keys to Sustaining Behavior Change

Since coaching is often about changes in behavior that will improve individual effectiveness, I talk with my clients about how they can sustain those changes after the coaching engagement ends.  Mantras can be a useful tool so I created one for this discussion:
  • Purpose– Remember why you decided to make these changes. Focus on the benefits for yourself and others.
  • Patience– Expect that you will fall back into old behaviors under stress.  Give yourself a break and ask others to do the same.
  • Practice– It takes about a year of consistent practice, feedback and accountability to sustain a behavior change.
  • Plan– Who will be your feedback and accountability partners? How will you deal with setbacks?
These four P’s are the keys to keeping up your good work.

Self Knowledge is Power

English author and philosopher Francis Bacon, an advocate of inductive reasoning in science, wrote, “Knowledge is power” in 1597.  This phrase has come up with many of my clients recently in a new form: self-knowledge is power.

One of the first steps in coaching is creating awareness of strengths, motivators and stress behaviors, typically through a personality assessment and confidential feedback from colleagues.  The challenge then becomes what to do with that information.  I often tell my clients, “You don’t have to agree with all of the feedback but you can choose what to do with it.”

Knowing …

  • your strengths gives you the power to resist buying into destructive comments from an undermining co-worker.
  • what motivates you gives you the power to pursue a role that makes you look forward to work every day.
  • what triggers your stress behaviors gives you the power to stay calm and in control when your brain wants you to do the opposite.

What do you need to know in order to be your most powerful self?

It’s Not Always About You

I received a very snarky comment on a team building evaluation recently and it really upset me. This was a particularly challenging group and I worked hard to give them what they needed to learn about themselves and each other and to practice communicating and collaborating while having fun.

Because the comment was harsh and not at all constructive, it threw me right into my stress behavior. I couldn’t focus on all the positive comments because all I could see was the negative one. It took me several days and multiple conversations with trusted advisors before I realized, “Maybe it wasn’t about me.” As I always tell my team building participants, “I teach this stuff and I still forget it sometimes.”

The person who made the comment obviously didn’t get what he needed in the session. If the evaluations hadn’t been anonymous, I would have asked him what was missing. Asking others what they need is a foundational practice I teach in team building. What I forgot is that focusing on the other person’s needs can be really difficult when I am not getting what I need.

The ideal scenario is to meet the other person halfway, but that requires two willing parties. Sometimes you have to go all the way to the other side to find out what they need. That might be easier if you remember that their behavior may not be about you.

Whom do you need to meet halfway?

How Do You Manage Stress?

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and your new year is off to a good start.  Mine began with a cranky computer and missing emails that couldn’t be restored.  I wish that I could tell you how well I handled this stressful situation, but the truth is that I could have done better.  Managing stress is one of my new year’s resolutions – how about you?

The Mayo clinic suggests that we first assess how we typically react to stress and then find healthier ways to respond.  Do any of these unhealthy reactions sound familiar?

  • Pain – from clenching jaws or fists, upset stomach, shortness of breath, back pain, headaches or insomnia.
  • Eating – too much or too little.
  • Anger  – at the wrong people at the wrong time.
  • Crying – about things unrelated to the source of stress.
  • Depression – when the stress is too much to take.
  • Negativity – expecting the worst in every situation.
  • Smoking or Drinking – stress is one of the main reasons that smokers who quit start smoking again. Alcohol is also a common stress reliever.

Once we identify our unhealthy reactions to stress, we can choose one of Mayo’s recommended strategies to manage it more effectively:

  • Scale back on obligations or delegate work.
  • Prepare for meetings well in advance.
  • Reach out and make or renew connections with others
  • Enjoy a calming hobby.
  • Relax through physical activity, meditation or yoga.
  • Get enough sleep – seven to eight hours a night.
  • Get professional help if things don’t get better.

I invite you to choose one new approach to stress management and resolve to try it for 90 days.  Let me know how it goes.