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Change isn’t an academic exercise

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If you want to change, you must follow-up! Learn why this step is so important and how to do it, right.

Leadership Is A Contact Sport step 7 of 8:  Change!

By Marshall Goldsmith

Change is simple, but it’s not easy. It’s hard. You have to do it. You have to put in the time and effort that it takes to change. That’s one of the big reasons why I take what I do so seriously. When people commit to getting better, they are doing something difficult and heroic. There isn’t a quick fix or easy solution. Lasting goal achievement requires a lot of time, hard work, personal sacrifice, ongoing effort, and dedication to a process that is maintained over years.

So, you’re committed, you’re ready, you’re willing to change. What holds you back? What might keep you from following through on your commitment to change?

Why didn’t you get better?  You didn’t follow up! Clearly, affirmatively, I can tell you that you will not get better if you do not follow-up. Once you’ve mastered the subtleties of asking, listening, thanking, apologizing, involving, and initiating change in your behavior, you must follow-up relentlessly! If you don’t, all your hard work is just a flash in the pan, a “program of the month”, and another reason why people don’t trust that anything ever really changes.

I teach my clients to go back to all of their coworkers every month or two to ask them for comments and suggestions. For instance, one of my clients who had a problem sharing and including his peers in organizational happenings went to each colleague and said the following, “Last month I told you that I would try to get better at being more inclusive. You gave me some ideas and I would like to know if you think I have effectively put them into practice.” That question forced his colleagues to think, once again, about his efforts to change, to mentally gauge how he was progressing, and to keep focused on his continuous improvement.

If you do this every month, your colleagues eventually begin to accept that you are getting better, not because you say so, but because they see so and they are reminded that they are seeing you change every time you ask them to look at you! When I tell you, “I’m getting better,” I believe it. When I ask you, “Am I getting better?” and you say I am, then you believe it.

Follow-up is the last step of the Leadership Is a Contact Sport behavioral change process. You’ve walked through Ask, Listen, Think, Thank, Respond, Involve, Change – and now it’s time to follow-up. This is the longest part of the process of changing for the better. It can go on, and should go on, for 12 to 18 months. And, fittingly, with all this time spent on this last step, you will find that it is the difference maker in this whole process.

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