The other day, I was outside giving my dogs their usual morning walk when I had an epiphany. I realized that if I go inside and start my day the way I always do, the day is going to turn out the way it always does. I’m a creature of habit. I start every morning with a run, bike, or swim workout. Prior to moving to Florida, I used to follow this up by reading inspiring books, writing and then getting to work. Since moving, I’ve gotten into a bad habit. Instead of my reading and writing which had energized me, I’ve been watching or reading political news. Thus, I’ve been starting my day feeling cynical and less energized (longer discussions invited offline).
While I was outside, I committed to doing a reset. Now after my workout and dog walk, I’m back to reading and then writing. You’re reading the result of that decision. While this sounds easy, it’s not. How many of us realize that a simple shake-up of just one component of our day, life or a project could result in something different and in fact, better. Yet, we keep doing the same thing. Is it fear? Comfort? Probably both. It’s hard to change something we do every day because well, we’re comfortable doing it every day.
Organizations fall into the same trap. I’m guessing that some of you have worked at places where a process or policy doesn’t make sense and is actually yielding poor outcomes. But when questioned, decision makers explain it with some version of the following:
We do it this way because that’s the way it’s always been done!
If you hear that, run! Just kidding - don’t run... There are options and they apply whether we’re talking about you or an organization where you want to see a change.
Identify a small, manageable change to start with: You don’t have to conquer the world, just something you can control. I realized that getting out of the routine of political reading would set my day on a different course. From an organizational perspective, Maybe your company’s policy is to have annual reviews but you want feedback more often. Why not ask your boss for a quarterly check-in? This might be less official but it will give you more of what you need.
Negotiate a contract with a responsible person: You need some accountability to change it up. With my personal example, I made a contract with myself and signed it. Kind of wierd? Absolutely But here I am keeping up with my contract. With our review scenario above, why not ask for a back-up plan in case the boss needs to miss the scheduled check-in. Can you get agreement that you’ll do it by the end of the following week? Do something that creates some markers and contingencies in case the contact isn’t fulfilled.
Evaluate and step it up: Finally, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to see if your change is shaking things up. If your changes aren’t leading to better results, maybe you need to take a look at a new change in action. If the change has moved things forward, are you satisfied or can you push the envelope even more? Going back to the feedback example, once you’ve gotten into the steady quarterlies, suggest a monthly with some solid reasons why.
If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, start with the above…No time to start like the present!
Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com