Most leaders have the best intentions to get better at how they lead others. The problem comes in when they actually lose track of the fact that intention isn’t enough – there are actions that need to be taken in order for them to realize their goals. Think of New Year’s resolutions: the percentage of people who make and actually achieve their goals is only 8%. I suspect that dismal statistic may also apply to the percentage of leaders who make and achieve their behavioral goals.
The reason for this sad statistic is that without some extra effort, our brains are hard-wired to do what they’ve always done because it’s a lower-energy using choice. If this fact is enough to keep you from trying, you need to know that there is hope. If you’re willing to take a few more steps beyond your intention to make a change, there is an excellent chance (in fact, up to ten times greater!) you’ll reach the goals you seek.
I’ve seen this success happen in the leaders I work with. Those who practice the new behaviors they want have the best chance of transforming from good to great leaders. Intention isn’t enough; you must take a few extra steps to assure that your success will be achieved:
Write it down: When you actually put pen to paper (as opposed to fingers on a keyboard) with the plan for your intended action steps, there is brain science evidence that you’ll have the best chance of remembering to practice. This slight bit of effort is all it takes to begin your journey of transforming.
Ask for support: Gather together a few of your stakeholders to ask that they hold you accountable. This can include people in your private life as well as those you work with. Show them your action plan and find a way to meet regularly to discuss your progress. Give them permission to be tough on you!
Practice new behaviors: Get out there and take some risks to behave differently than you have in the past. If you’re working on better communication, practice communicating better. If you’re working on delegating more, then practice more delegation. It’s not that difficult, you just have to do it.
Get feedback: Ask for feedback from your stakeholders as you try new things, and be specific in how you ask; if you’re working on clarity in your communication, ask “what have you noticed since (date) about the clarity of my communication?”. Once you get the feedback (whether you view it as being positive or critical in nature), ask any clarifying questions you need and say thank you.
Adjust your practice: Based on the feedback you’ve received, adjust your practice. You might want to stretch your goals a bit at this point: how can you challenge yourself? Perhaps it was too easy to begin with, and you now have a chance to really show a big transformation!
When you transform into a great leader, you have the opportunity to transform others. An intention to transform isn’t enough; the inertia it takes to break through your own resistance to change can be overcome with some extra effort.