June 2019 | Nano Tools | Innovation
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Charles E. Dwyer, PhD, Associate Professor Emeritus, Educational Leadership Division, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
Replace beliefs, behaviors, and emotions that are holding you back with ones that will better help you achieve your goals.
A leader’s effectiveness is a direct function of his or her behavior as interpreted by others. While it might be tempting to blame those you lead for their unwillingness to follow, it is your behavior that builds trust, motivation, and influence — or that creates suspicion, apprehension, and discouragement. Becoming a more powerful and influential leader, then, means replacing less effective behaviors with more effective ones. But trying to change through cognition alone (“mind over matter”) doesn’t work. It takes a blend of cognition and emotion working together.
This easy-to-use process was created to help replace thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that aren’t achieving desired outcomes. It is based on 35 years of longitudinal studies on rational behavior therapy, and has been used by organizations, teams, and individuals for decades — with compelling results.
Step 1: Identify the old program (the belief, behavior, or emotion you want to change). Think of a situation you encounter regularly that makes you angry, upset, fearful, or uncomfortable. Write a one- or two-sentence summary of the belief or the circumstances that trigger the discomfort. Assess your old program by asking the following questions:
Most of our mental functioning takes place below consciousness and we tend to rationalize and justify negative thoughts, feelings, and actions. These questions bring the negative programs up to consciousness so that we can override them and become more of the person we consciously choose to be.
Step 2: Create the new program. Identify a new belief, emotion, and action pattern that supports your best interests, and summarize the new program in a few short phrases or sentences. Use the five questions above to assess the value of your new program. Any beliefs/behaviors in the new program can only be maintained if you can answer yes to at least three of the five questions for both the behaviors and beliefs.
Step 3: Fill out a Personal Change Worksheet. [see below]. Use these definitions to help you complete it:
Response I Wish to Change (Belief, Emotion, or Behavior):________________________ .
Step 4: Install the new program. For three weeks, repeat a mental (imaginative) rehearsal twice a day for 5 to 10 minutes. The more relaxed you are during the rehearsal, the more effective it will be. Note that this replaces the common rehearsal of negative emotions we all perform several times a day (e.g., “he makes me angry”).
A highly successful salesperson at a large pharmaceutical company was a major irritant to everyone in his division, but no one wanted to confront him because of the income he brought to the company. Rather than trying to change the salesman’s behavior (which could have resulted in undesired consequences), the team used the personal change process to avoid being irritated by him. They individually created new sets of beliefs (e.g., “I decide how I feel and his behavior does not require that I feel irritated”), new emotional responses (e.g., calmness and even compassion), and new behavior patterns (e.g., “I will make a note of my newfound calmness in my calendar”). They then imaginatively rehearsed the new three-part program several times a day for the next three weeks until it became their automatic response. The head of HR reported that this change improved the morale and overall effectiveness of the division.
At a large branch of a national bank, tellers and their supervisors were having trouble dealing with customer behavior. Angered over ATM malfunctions or stressed over money issues, customers often took out their frustrations on tellers, who in turn became upset and stressed themselves. Their negativity was then expressed to subsequent customers. To break the cycle, the tellers created a mental picture of a disgruntled customer, a new set of beliefs about the customer and the situation (“He must be having a bad day”), a new emotional response (e.g., calmness or even compassion), and a new image of themselves exhibiting the behavior that better suited them as professionals (e.g., courteous, efficient, and cheerful). Through the personal change process, they achieved ultimate empowerment: deciding how to feel regardless of external circumstances.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, director of Custom Programs at Wharton Executive Education. Nano Tools for Leaders® is a collaboration between joint sponsors Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. This collaboration is led by Professors Michael Useem and John Paul MacDuffie.
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