Why You Must Change Yourself In Order To Change Others

To become a change agent, you must first change yourself.

Now, let’s face it. That’s the toughest part.

Because it is always easier to change others.

How to become effective change agents

In a workshop I conducted to enable Senior/Master Teachers to become effective Change Agents, the transformation process I’ve designed looks like this:

  1. Embrace the appropriate mindset,
  2. Have the ability to empathize with affected parties, and
  3. Design a systemic approach to bring about changes in behaviors.

How you see the world

A key attribute of Change Agents is foresight. In this study, the author proposed that having foresight is being both reflexive and futuristic – “use of retrospection to identify temporal patterns, trends and shifts … and … forecast what may come“.

That said, you and I can look at patterns and adopt a disempowering thinking, where our minds are colored by pessimism and scarcity. For instance, when faced with employees spending time on social media, businesses can opt to limit access to certain websites. Some enlightened businesses are, however, getting their employees to be social media ambassadors instead.

Adopt a growth mind-set

To address the issue of disempowered thinking is to adopt a Growth Mindset. Growth Mindset is not positive thinking. Its about our ability to take control of our focus when faced with any situation. Its about our ability to embrace the negative as an opportunity and not just seeing only the positive.

Empathy is more than just understanding your people

The frustration that leaders face is that their followers are less passionate about having to change. In this HBR article, it outlines the different types of followers. Understanding their followers (or those that they lead) can provide invaluable insights into their least visible world.

Leaders need a set of tools that they can dive deep into the inner world of those they lead to go beyond just understanding them. This toolkit designed by IDEO provides a range of tools in developing empathy by adopting a human-centered approach in Design Thinking.

It takes a system to change behaviors

To bring about changes in behaviors, both in ourselves and in others, we must adopt a systemic approach to facilitate these changes. To better understand why some change management strategies are not sustainable; while others are, we turn to the works of Joseph Grenny, et.al.

In their seminal work on leveraging science to bring about sustained change, Grenny and co-authors suggest that for change management to last, it must be fueled by six key factors.

In their book, Influencer, the authors provides a framework to design such a system. Briefly, we need to design a set of changes not only at the individual and team level, but also look into designing a system that will facilitate the process.

I use the acronym ITS to describe this framework. Let’s say I want to start living a better life. Using the framework, here’s what I’ve done:

  • Individual: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”~George Addair. To achieve something that I have never achieved before involves a tremendous amount of uncertainties and fears. Being fearful means not taking the actions necessary to accomplish my goals. Hence, at the individual level, I have to conquer my fears daily.
  • Team: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~Helen Keller. It does not have to be a group of people. Sometimes all you need is a partner. The numbers don’t matter. What’s really key here is that a teammate will not let you slack off, though allowing for temporary failure is necessary. That’s why having an accountability partner works.
  • Systems: “Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems.” ~Grace Murray Hopper. I love systems. A good system enables you to “set and forget” and yet achieve your desired outcomes. In order to sustain the changes I’d to make individually, I have accountability partners and I have a system. That system is my morning ritual. My morning ritual frees up the most important question I have when I wake up: “what do I do now”?

Your turn

  • Decide on a change you want to make to design a better life.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Set up a ritual to make the change permanent.