One of the biggest challenges I often come across is making changes stick. After training and during a coaching programme, people are usually engaged and full of enthusiasm. They set and achieve their desired goals, but what happens in the long term when the changes just don’t stick?
Recently, I was involved in quite a heated discussion between a sales manager, business owner (Managing Director) and one of the senior sales team about this very subject. While the general feeling was that the sales team had “all they needed”, there was still some resistance to change. Of course, everybody had their own opinion and assumptions about why this was.
To find answers to this question, I was keen to get some insights from a leading transformational coach. One of my favourite coaches is a lady called Geraldine Locke, who combines her role as Operations Director at Consalia with providing management development coaching solutions for small businesses and individuals. I asked Geraldine if she could give any advice about making changes stick.
Geraldine was very open and keen to share her insights and experience; first of all she recommended I read a book by Nancy Kline – A Time to Think. Geraldine explained that the key to ultimately making changes that stick is to create a thinking environment that will challenge our assumptions we make about ourselves. We must also listen, think and question – without assumption. She also recommended reading an article published in the Harvard Review by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey called The real reason people won’t change.
Geraldine kindly lent me a copy of A Time to Think and a few things resonated with me. First of all, growing up I realised that often I was not encouraged to really “think”, to solve a problem. I remember at school learning my times tables “parrot fashion”. Nothing wrong with that – except that now I don’t remember all of them, especially the 8s and 9s. But I do remember how to work out percentages (that still requires a bit of thought) and as I grew into a young adult in my first job being told “You are not being paid to think”.
As I read the book, I realised there have been times that limiting assumptions have held me back. However, some of my best accomplishments had been through careful thought and consideration; perhaps Nancy Kline was on to something.
I also realised that we all have a creative side to our personalities and this can be harnessed through thought and reflection, but the challenge is to create a thinking environment and be open to the process. As Nancy Kline says in her book: “A thinking environment is a way of being in the world”. She also says that: “by mastering the theory and skill of a thinking environment, people do enrich their work, their life and their relationships, produce better ideas in less time with better business outcomes”.
So, back to the heated discussion between the sales director, Managing Director and head of sales. I took time to reflect upon their business issues, personalities, how they are going to achieve their desired goals, focused around sales sustainability and growth, and how they are going to make these changes stick. My suggestion is that we implement a “thinking environment”, so they can feel good about themselves, feel valued, unleash their considerable talent, work together as a team and live their best selves.
I’ll let you know how we get on.
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