Want to witness the worst version of me at work?
Sign me up for a day’s worth of training that kicks off with an ice-breaker followed by endless hours of role-playing with colleagues.
It won’t be fun for me, you or the workshop facilitator.
You can look forward to a master class in passive aggressive behavior. Without saying a word, I’ll let you know that I’d rather have a vasectomy, colonoscopy and root canal before a live studio audience. I’ll doodle, constantly check my digital pacifier and stare at the ceiling. We will never make eye contact. I’ll never volunteer an answer.
Even if you don’t ask, I’ll remind you that this is my least effective way of learning. Skip the corporate reindeer games and just give me a book or a guest speaker.
But here’s the rub. I know I should pull up my big boy pants. I’m leading by bad example. My fellow introverts play along to get along and I’m nothing special.
My employer’s investing good money on my professional development. There are far harder, and much worse, ways to spend a day and there lots of people who’d happily trade places with me.
And above all, it’s disrespectful. The facilitator who’s working hard to engage the room deserves better than dealing with a sullen 40-something who should know better.
So I’m past due for a behavior change. It’s not easy for adults to pull off but it can be done, says Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach with 35 years experience and author of Triggers and the best-selling What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.
“It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick,” says Goldsmith. “I’d go so far as to say that adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.”
Here’s one way to make it happen. Introduce a new evaluation form at the end of meetings, workshops and training days. Don’t ask us to weigh in on speakers, facilitators and presentations. Challenge us to evaluate ourselves instead.
“Here’s my radical suggestion,” says Goldsmith. “From now on, pretend that you are going to be tested at every meeting. Your heart and mind will thank you for it. The hour that you spend in the meeting is one hour of your life that you never get back. Why waste that hour being disengaged and cynical? By taking personal responsibility for your own engagement, you make a positive contribution to your company and begin creating a better you.”
Goldsmith recommends that we ask ourselves four questions that put the onus squarely on us:
- Did I do my best to be happy?
- Did I do my best to find meaning?
- Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
- Did I do my best to be fully engaged?
For each question, rate how hard you tried on a scale from one to 10. Instead of measuring outcomes, evaluate effort.
Outside of meetings, ask yourself two more daily questions.
- Did I do my best to set clear goals?
- Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
Daily self-questioning is one way to trigger behavior change, says Goldsmith. “If we fall short of goals eventually we either abandon the questions or push ourselves into action. We feel ashamed or embarrassed because we wrote the questions, knew the answers and still failed the test. When the question begins with “did I do my best to…” the feeling is even worse. We have to admit that we didn’t even try to do what we know we should have done.”
If you have a few regrets at work or on the home front, Goldsmith shows how to finally mend your ways with the people you respect and love.
“The pain that comes with regret should be mandatory, not something to be shooed away like an annoying pet. When we make bad choices and fail ourselves or hurt the people we love, we should feel pain. That pain can be motivating and in the best sense triggering – a reminder that maybe we messed up but we can do better. It’s one of the most powerful feelings guiding us to change.”