How do I change my own behaviour?
“How do I change my behaviour?” is a million dollar question. A lot has been written and talked about by psychologists, professionals, star CEOs and religious gurus. This question remains as the one question that has as many answers as there are people, each convinced of their method for bringing the change. Yet people feel hungry to seek this answer for themselves.
I feel compelled to add in my two bits to this existing ocean of answers for two reasons; first because I believe there are still a vast majority of leaders at workplaces who don’t ask the question in the first place and second, there are many who don’t care enough to ask it often enough.
I have learnt that getting the right answer to this question is actually not important; it’s in trying to find the answer, the process of experimenting towards it that is far more useful and indeed more relevant. It is this process which helps people discovers their true selves other than their self image.
This self discovery is not just the first step but also the essential environment in which to undertake the journey of becoming a leader. Without it or very little of it, the journey of leading may seem assured and easy yet he may find himself struggle more in getting “back on the horse” if derailed by adverse events. I would even argue that such leaders are far more vulnerable to derailment from the slightest nudges. Imagine then how the colleagues feel working with such leaders!
I have been fortunate to see the growth of leaders who went on to create impact with whatever they did. I have seen the following consistently unfold for them:
The leader is constantly alert and curious about self and the others around them. He constantly observes for the underlying feelings, assumptions, principles and frameworks. He is completely attentive and listens with complete presence - not distracted by the background noise of unending stream of emails, phone calls and competing demands on his life. A moment in the situation that he is engaging in right now is the only moment that he pays attention to.
He does not hesitate to ask innocent questions and state what he observes honestly; for example, on outlived organization policies, how it deals with customers, on his own and others’ behaviour and its impact, etc. Soon enough, the people around the leader start developing respect and confidence in him.
This alert curiosity creates a state of relaxed and confident self in the leader and makes him constantly aware of the consequence of behaviors or the lack of it. I have seen the leader build on this to then pursue the issues around him, including in himself, with a single minded focus. Thus, giving rise to an extraordinary exertion on whatever he chooses.
I know a colleague of such a leader humorously quip that “Vikas is like a dog with a bone on any aspect, he keeps coming at you relentlessly until you change what you do”. That leader I know would work on himself with the same spirit. He may not always be successful in changing his own behaviors, and would then reach out for support from his colleagues and friends.
This extraordinary exertion leads to successful accomplishments through minor skirmishes, major battles and indeed the war.
In conclusion, as you continue working on the process of changing your own behaviour, you will soon recognise that every behaviour is equally capable of appearing as strength in one situation and as a drawback in another. Leaders soon learn to work to their strengths and are mindful of the situations where they would be a drawback.
The quest for changing behaviour then soon becomes irrelevant. Wise leaders then choose to ask “In this moment, am I being alert and curious?” And that to my mind is the most relevant question.