Act As If

 In Leaders

If you are like most, you are always working on something… working to improve your (fill in the blank); working to achieve (fill in the blank).  There are subtle changes you can make to increase the likelihood of success.  Here are three principles to consider:

  1. Words can change everything
  2. Behaviors can drive mindset
  3. Triggers can create habits

Words can change everything

Think about what your brain does when you say ‘I can’t do this.’  I’ll tell you what your brain does – it gives up.  Now, what do you think your brain does when instead you say ‘I can’t do this YET.’  Can you feel the difference?  Your brain says – we are going to work on this.  We will be able to do this at some point.  It does not give up.  When I coached youth sports I was always quick to have the young athletes change their ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I can’t do this YET.’  The transformation in their attitude and behavior was observable!

Recently, I reflected on this shift in my own professional life.  It dawned on me that I was creating ‘an out’ for myself just in case I wasn’t able to achieve what I was trying to achieve.  The first time I realized this was early this year when I said ‘In 2017, I am going to decide whether or not I can really make this business work.’  As I reflected on that statement one day, I knew if I changed the words of that sentence, I would be more likely to achieve the outcome.  So, I have started to say ‘In 2017, I will make my business more sustainable and scalable.’  Instead of wondering if I COULD do it, I created a solid action plan and am executing to this day.  I am confident it will happen.

What self-limiting words are you using today that you can change?  Words can change everything.

Behaviors can drive mindset

This is not a ‘fake it til you make it’ approach and it is not ‘if you think positively you can do anything’ belief.  Instead, it is a recommendation that says just take action, simply start somewhere, and you will be ‘acting as if’.  And, if you commit to the behavior (see the next point about triggers and habits), pretty soon your brain will catch-on and your identity will change.  Behaviors can absolutely change your mindset.

When I work with teams and team leaders, we can identify simple, meaningful actions that they can practice to drive different results.  One example is the use of different ways to kickoff brainstorming sessions.  What if your team opened a brainstorming session with the question ‘how might we?’ or ‘what is the craziest idea we can try?’ or ‘what if we were all outsiders, what would we think of our plan?’.  If your team committed to starting meetings with those types of questions, your collective mindset would change.  You would begin to generate more innovative ideas and, eventually, you would be an innovative team.

What simple behaviors can you incorporate into your daily life to drive a different mindset?

Triggers can create habits

Charles Duhigg wrote a great book called The Power of Habit.  In his book, Duhigg has 3 R’s of habit formation:  Reminder, Routine, Reward.  The first R, reminder, is the trigger.  It is something that happens all the time already to which you add a new routine or habit.   It goes like this – you decide you need to drink more water throughout the day.  A trigger could be the moment you wake up, you commit to drinking a large glass of water before you even leave your bedroom.  Pretty soon, it becomes a habit because the new routine (i.e., drinking water) is tied to a trigger (i.e., waking-up) that already happens consistently.

I was coaching a senior sales leader whose natural tendency was to allow her direct reports lots of space… not a lot of check-ins, no news is good news approach.  That is how she liked to be managed, so that is how she managed her people.  Her intentions were positive – allow everyone the space to get the work done.  However, this leader had a few direct reports who really needed the check-ins.  They weren’t overly needy, but it was important to them to know the leader cared about how things were going.  This leader told me she was willing to change her style, but it was not natural at all.  We worked together to find a ‘trigger’ to which she could tie her new habit of a quick check-in call.  She decided that when she got into her car on a workday, she would make a five-minute ‘how are things going?’ call to one of her direct reports.  It became a new habit tied to an existing trigger.

What is a trigger you can use to create a new habit?

Put all three of these steps together and, in no time, you will be acting as if…

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