How to Keep Your Resolve
Peter Gwizdalla writes:
I love your Strategy and the Fat Smoker article. It helps me, as an organisational psychologist, in my conversations with my clients about change in individuals and organizations. The only area I still feel needs more ‘tools’ for me is “how do we remind ourselves (and others) on a daily basis, why we’re going thru the discipline and discomfort of doing things differently in such a way that the resolve is renewed and refreshed and consistent? David, do you have any thoughts in this area?
Peter, I don’t have one magic formula for “renewing resolve”, but here are some possibilities, mostly drawn from personal life, that could be applied to organizational life:
- Do it in teams. It’s hard to find the discipline and determination alone, and people will stay true to the effort not to let their team-mates down. The size of teams matters. 5 is best, 10 less good, 25 very weak, and more is pretty useless for the “bonding” effect to work well.
- Keep a visible graph. When you’re losing weight, the mere fact of recording pound by pound progress is helpful, and being able to see the right trend is very encouraging. It even helps you keep things in perspective when you stumble – you can see that it was only one bad day amid a generally good trend. A large part of maintaining resolve is the ability to get back on the horse when you fall off. You always fall off – the only issue is whether you get back on or give up.
- Find yourself a coach – a chief cheerleader, chief critic. Even if that person is not an expert (or a superior), the mere fact of having to be accountable to him or her, having to check in regularly will help. As I often say, guilt doesn’t change a lot of people, but the right degree of embarrassment does. Design the embarrassment mechanism – not too much, but not too little.
- Set small incremental goals, and forget the enormity of the total task, remembering to (over-) celebrate the early successes. (Wow, David! You lost two whole pounds this week. Way to go! You’re on the path, mate!)
- Invent games. (When I’m running on the treadmill I switch between silently counting my steps numerically, first up from 1, then down from 100, then reciting the alphabet forwards and then backwards. It’s the VARIETY of ways of counting that keeps my mind distracted from the effort.)
- I hate to mention this one, but while I prefer to believe in carrots rather than sticks (positive rather than negative motivators), I have to acknowledge that sometimes “scaring” myself works. I have one of those screen-savers that comes built-in to Windows that cycles through my photo collection. And a interesting thing happens. I get a little (a very little) positive motivation out of the pictures that make me look good. But the ones that show me as I was thirty pounds heavier REALLY help me with my resolve. I REALLY don’t want to look like that again.
What’s the business equivalent of putting the “fat picture” on the refrigerator?
I shouldn’t leave this topic without referring you to Gerry Riskin’s blog post The Seven Immutable Laws of Change Management.
OK, everyone. Your turn. What are the tools and techniques and tricks that help you stay the course when you’re really trying to change yourself and your organization?