Whether you are trying to lose weight, run a marathon, secure a new job, or change your behavior to be more effective in the workplace, you are the primary driver of your success. As Henry Ford put it: If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right!
I believe reaching any goal takes motivation, perseverance and discipline. A growth mindset is paramount to bring about goals that include behavioral change. And behavioral change requires the courage to step out of one’s comfort zone and deliberately practice new behaviors.
As a leadership coach, my passion is to help people reach their individual goals to become more effective leaders. These goals are often related to soft skills that require behavioral change.
Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They show up in areas such as self-awareness, interpersonal communication, empathy, managing conflict, executive presence, and generally being a good team player. Your aptitude in each of these may not have hindered your ability to secure a job, but they may be holding you back from moving forward in your career.
Often you may be unaware that these soft skills are even a problem—until you see them continually surface in your annual reviews, 360-feedback or comments from your supervisor. When they do, and when you are ready to deal with them to move your career forward, it is worth creating goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve them.
The first step is to focus your attention on the specific goal you are looking to achieve and make it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound). Once you have this, I recommend these 5 Steps:
- Write it down. Unless you commit your SMART goal to paper or at least digital display and keep it in front of you, it will not remain top of mind. Find a way to remind yourself of your goal at the beginning of each day and you are more likely to make progress.
- Develop a plan. Decide how you will go about reaching your new behavior by determining the specific steps to take along with a timeline. Record what resources and encouragement you will need to assist you along the way. And monitor your progress.
- Enlist support. It is much easier to reach your goal with the assistance of others who can provide feedback regarding the way you show up with your new behavior. This could be your immediate supervisor, workplace colleague, or a coach. Regardless who you choose, be deliberate and actively seek their comments—good or bad.
- Practice, practice, practice. Nothing will enable you to master your desired behavior more than deliberate practice. And forget the myth of 21 days to form a new habit. In the case of behavioral change, establishing new behavior is likely to take anywhere from 8 weeks to 8 months. Don’t let this discourage you, and accept that this is a process, which requires adequate time to really become habitual.
- Continue learning. Demonstrating a true change in behavior requires that you continually make adjustments to what works and in what situations. Rarely will a specific behavioral skill work in every situation. Evaluate your performance regularly and make adjustments to reinforce or modify what you’re doing.
Recognize that as human beings, we are all perfectly imperfect. We are continually evolving and therefore shouldn’t expect to really ever be completed. This is part of lifelong learning and embraced that we are still growing—as opposed to dying.
With regard to behavioral change, you are the only one who can enable or impede your progress. Your beliefs, emotions and mindsets are your biggest assets or limitations. Once these are in your favor, create a SMART goal, follow the 5 Steps above, and you will attain your new behavior to move you forward in your career.