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David (name changed) kept his staff under strict control. He knew if they had made a mistake, often before they did, and was quick to tell them about it and how to fix it. He wanted to develop his staff to be able to recognise and fix their own problems so he decided to take on a coaching approach to leading, in which he would ask questions and get his staff to work things out themselves. He tried this out, but it didn’t go well. He felt weird holding back his own knowledge and the staff member asked him outright if he was trying to trick him. Maybe this approach wasn’t for him.

Perhaps you recognise David’s dilemma. You’ve decided to change your behaviour or try out a new skill. You’ve thought it through, planned it and plucked up the courage to do it. But your first attempt goes wrong. What do you do? Well, a lot of people give up.

It doesn’t have to be like this. How can you develop the resilience to perservere with seeing your change plan through? Here are some coaching tips.

Recognise what’s going on.

Remember learning to drive? Those first few gear changes seemed so complicated, the gears ground, the car shot forward, it felt all wrong. New evidence from neuroscience (1) indicates that new activities require large amounts of cerebral energy in the form of attention and generate error signals that trigger automatic fixing or avoidance behaviours. So doing something new and challenging is almost certainly going to make you feel weird or anxious. The same goes for the people around you too. They’ve got used to your ways and new behaviours may seem very strange. So as coaches, we would seek to normalise these experiences. It’s only to be expected.

Articulate, evaluate

It’s helpful to review what happened. Recount it in a diary, or better still talk it over with your coach. Some coaches offer “telephone shadowing” for this. It’s a chance to talk about the experience soon after it happened. Those neuroscientists again (1) report that repeated focus on an issue helps stabilise the neural circuits supporting a new activity, increasing the likelihood that it will become habitual. So as well as planning and doing, reviewing your new behaviour will help it get established. Your coach can help you reflect on your experience. What happened, how did you feel, what worked and what didn’t. Why?

Modify and try again

Your reflection should result in some learning points. What elements should change and which should stay the same? Do you want to try again and if so, what do you need to do to make sure it goes better this time?

Coaching support

Having a coach work with you when you try to implement new behaviours is helpful in two ways. The coach offers support in thinking through your actions, generating motivation for change and creating sound implementation plans. But they’re also there to hold you to account. Research has found that a public expression of a goal is one of the best predictors of tenacity in seeing it through. Knowing you’ve got someone waiting to hear how it went can be a great incentive to getting it done.

Need help in implementing new behaviours? Then check out our site in detail and see if we can help you.

(1) D. Rock and J. Schwartz (2006) “The neuroscience of leadership”, Strategy and Business 43, pp 2-10