As soon as people receive feedback, they frequently begin to wrestle with the question, “Why should I change?” Do you identify with any of the following negative attitudes that are common after receiving feedback?
- I’ve changed a lot from who I was, when I was young. Give me a break
- I do not think we must change for every single request for change, in this way we will be spending our time changing and would get little done in the process
- If others can’t accept me the way I am then its their problem not mine
- No one is perfect, everyone has weaknesses. It’s important how we leverage our strengths. The fact of the matter is that I get things done and that’s what matter.
Feedback usually gives us some good news and some bad news. Most people are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses, but they do not always try to improve them. As a facilitator the comment I’ve heard most often when reviewing feedback reports with participants is, “I knew I had a problem in this area.”
Every once in a while feedback comes as a big surprise, but most of the time, people always were aware of their weaknesses, often for years.
When I ask, “If you already knew about this problem, why didn’t you do something about it?” They inevitably answer, ” It didn’t seem that important, ” or, “I didn’t want to.”
The problem is not that people can’t change. The problem is that they do not want to change badly enough.
The fact of the matter is that change is often possible only when you combine high “desire for change” with “ease of change” as I illustrate in the figure below.
When motivation or desire to change is high and the task difficulty is high, making a change is going to be difficult. But, even when task difficulty is low, if commitment is low, making a change is still difficult. However, when commitment is low and the difficulty of a task is high, making a change is virtually impossible.
Before you begin making some changes, you should first understand a few things about yourself. First, change does not happen automatically. Simply acknowledging the existence of a problem; though it’s a good place to start, does not change the problem.
The key to making lasting changes is to increase your level of motivation and commitment to make the change. Without an overwhelming desire to change, you will only be able to resolve some issues which are easy though with some difficulty.
So what should I do?
Begin working on the changes from your ‘current state’
When I was reviewing the feedback report with one of my participants, I recollect that it indicated that others perceived he lacked the ability to think and act in a strategic manner. He responded by saying that his job didn’t require him to think strategically and the role demanded that he just follows his bosses orders to the tee. I will demonstrate strategic thinking when I have a job or role which demands that of me. In fact I can do better than my boss if given such a role he said.
It seemed like he was thinking that the feedback which was given to him was more to do with the and in relation to the position that he had than his ability.
I asked him, if he thinks that the management would ever consider a person who did not have the ability to positions which demanded thinking and acting strategically. He said “No”. I just told him that he is never going to get the job unless he starts demonstrating the ability to think and act strategically.
Most people end up saying that “I will change when my situation changes” The problem with this line of thinking is that – you will be running for the shovel to dig a well when you are thirsty. That’s not ideal isn’t it?
Change has to be in the ‘here and now’.
Involve stakeholders – stop blaming
In most cultures, we have a learnt and have a tendency to assign blame. It starts at a very early age. For example, when we were asked by our parents who made a mess in the living room, we were quick to point the finger at another brother or sister.
Similarly, I am always amazed that, when managers encounter complex and difficult problems, they frequently solve them by replacing somebody. The problem is still there, but now they have someone to blame.
I am not only amazed by our tendency to blame others, but also by our willingness to accept all the blame ourselves. “I blew it; I’m responsible, ” a manager once told me as we discussed a problem. It’s as if life would be simpler for everyone if someone else could just take all the responsibility.
Involving key stakeholders and building codependence actually helps in the change process. Most of the time you find that it is not always because of the ability or desire to change that comes in the way but it’s a result of others in the social system who keep generating the circumstances which stops people from doing so.
An alcoholic might want to change but the people who live with him have to ensure that they do not create circumstances which will make him start drinking again as an escape mechanism. The whole environment needs to be supportive else change becomes very difficult to achieve.
Learning to change begins with the right attitude toward change. Some of the following attitudes may help you as you navigate the change process
- Change is the only constant and it makes life interesting
- Change is a skill that you can master
- There will come a time when change is useful and I might as well prepare for it
- The key skill successful people possess is that they look to improve continually and keep seeking feedback from the environment to do that.
Seeking feedback is the most powerful tool to identify and reduce your blind spots. It will help you to develop your weak areas and leverage your strengths.
Why not start right now?