8 Steps to Bring About Lasting Change
At the end of a conversation with a business owner this week, they concluded that spending more time with their sales team would make a massive difference to their business. They couldn’t understand why it was so hard. They’d tried before but their good intentions hadn’t materialised. How come something so potentially business (and life) changing can be so hard?
Over the years as a business coach I’ve discovered that people generally know what it is they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing. So why do we as bright, keen individuals find it difficult to do the things we know we should be doing? And more importantly, how do we stop talking about them and actually start doing them?
Let me reassure you that you’re not the only one. This challenge of doing the important stuff we know we should be doing is common to most of us.
(A little point: we need to stop using the word ‘should’ – it tends to bring on feelings of guilt, which is not a good feeling and not a good motivator. ‘Like to’ is a better phrase. “I’d like to spend more time with my sales team.”)
Like so many things the steps are simple – but necessarily easy. And there is one step that is far more important than all others.
The first thing to recognise is that we all fill every minute of every day with something. Therefore, if we’d like to start doing something, we’ve got to find something we’re going to stop doing. A little less obviously, if we want to stop doing something (that we don’t think is good for us), we have to replace it with something else. If we create a vacuum it will naturally be filled with something. We have to make sure we deliberately fill it with something positive.
So, a good exercise is to make 2 lists. Firstly list out the stuff we’d like to stop doing or stuff that we consider doesn’t add any real value to our life. Secondly, list the things we would like to spend our time doing instead.
Start small. Any positive change (stop doing this; start doing that) will, over time, have a beneficial outcome. Pick one thing from each list that’s going to involve, say, 15 minutes a day. Pick the thing you’re drawn to; the most interesting thing.
I’m going to spend 15 minutes less time dealing with emails.
I’m going to have a 15-minute call with one of my sales team each day.
(Starting small is the secret ingredient.)
Imagine that you’re committing to this everyday for the rest of your life. It’s just been added to your job description. Your boss (or business coach) is going to ask you about it every day. So pick something easy! If you think the impact is going to be negligible, that’s fine. The impact is probably going to be negligible. But you’ll be surprised at how small changes accumulate over time.
It’s also useful to answer the question why (make this change). Let’s create 2 pictures of our lives in 5 years time. One if we don’t make the change and one if we do. If this is a daily thing, that’s nearly 2000 times of doing one thing rather than another. If this is a work or business change, that’s well over 1000 times of doing something. 1000 x 15 minutes on the phone accumulates into how much extra business?
The key to changing is to start small. Just shave 15 minutes off writing emails and invest 15 minutes on the phone or having coffee with 1 sales person. And do it everyday.
Another key is to only focus on the new activity. Never mention the old activity again. Only talk about speaking or meeting with your sales people. Only focus on the new activity.
In this example, always make the 15-minute call before starting to deal with emails. (And use a count down timer when you’re processing emails. If it normally takes you 2 hours, set the timer for 1 hour 45 minutes!)
Another key is to know with utter certainty that good will accumulate as a result of our new activity. It will. Natural law dictates that it has to.
The other step I’d recommend is engaging the support of an encouraging friend (or engaging the services of a business coach!) Pick someone who really wants you to succeed. Someone who will pat you on the back when you do well and who will respond like a true friend if you look like wavering and give you some tough love.
Find a way of tracking the new activity. This could be as simple as putting a big red tick on a wall calendar. You’ll be surprised how motivating a big red tick can be.
And let’s reward ourselves for progress too. It doesn’t have to be big. Perhaps a coffee and 30 minutes reading a novel at the end of the week. Or a visit to the theatre at the end of the month.
So, my steps to permanent, lasting change are:
- Decide what you’re going to stop doing.
- Decide what you’ll replace it with.
- Understand your why. What will the consequences be in the future of staying the same? And the benefits of changing?
- Start small – 15 minutes for 1 day; and then a 2nd day; and then a week; and then another week.
- Only ever focus on the new, positive, replacement activity.
- Engage the help of an encouraging friend or a business coach.
- Keep track of your new activity.
- Plan and enjoy some small (or large) rewards for doing the new activity along the way.
Let me know what you’ve decided to do.