I've witnessed - and so have you - some of the most skilled teachers, some of the most gifted athletes, some of the most effective leaders - who have behaviors that short-circuit their careers. In fact, we all have behaviors that aren't helpful but only some decide to do something about it.
I recently watched a talented athlete lose it in the heat of the moment, revealing a character that could easily cut short a career. We read about such events in the news and the court dockets, from financial malfeasance to simple rude and selfish behavior, people implode with actions that stunt their growth.
Some of the most frequent include:
- An Inability to Learn from Criticism - while it's easier when offered in grace, there are lessons to be learned even from our harshest critics. Whether it's a performance review or an accountability group, we all need someone who will share truth with us
- Learning to Deal with Failure - often our identity is caught up in our performance, perhaps expecially for an athlete. Learning to step forward on failure rather than letting it define us is an essential skill for persevering as a leader, athlete or coach.
- Not Listening to Others - people know when we're not listening. Learning about body language can be incredibly helpful but so are those simply listening techniques we've all heard (if we were listening).
- Faulty Perceptions - it's difficult, especially if you're the senior leader, to get honest feedback from your team. Learning ways to seek out the truth is essential to gaining a true perception of your leadership. We human beings are great at fooling ourselves, thinking we're better than we really are.
I've made all these mistakes, and more. No one can be forced to learn. I'm grateful for the coaches and teachers and pastors who sought to add value to my life. I'm disappointed that I didn't listen each time.
The key to change is a change in behavior. And we all have behaviors that we need to change. But how? Here are some things that have worked for me:
1. Recognize and accept that I have blindspots and need help. It's similar to the first step of AA - admitting we are powerless. Until I own that I don't have it all together, I'll never be open to learning new things. That's a painful reality but an essential step.
2. Engage with a coach or gather an accountability group. Changing behavior requires the help of others. Period. Executive coaches are experts in the behavior arena (and Sherpa Coaching is one of the best) and can lead a client to see weaknesses and offer tools for lasting behavior change. These relationships take account of behavior changes and the results. It's not about just thinking differently but behaving differently.
3. Reading. Leaders are learners and anyone who is not learning is no longer leading. Asking others what they are reading is helpful to making sure I expose myself to new thoughts instead of staying in my comfort zone.
We all have behaviors that are getting in our way. What are you doing about yours?