|Big Leaps and Safe Landings: A Change Process That Really Works|
A leadership team comes together to explore how to fulfill a particular aspect of their mission in which they consistently fall short.
A couple who has been together for many years want to start building a life together and seem unable to make the commitment.
An over-extended leader needs to take better care of herself, and see her way clear to doing things differently.
An early childhood school principal wants to spend more time developing her staff and it is not happening.
These are actual client issues that I have been coaching this past month. While they each represent different challenges, the same process ultimately moved them into productive action. I took a course with Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey, over 20 years ago and have been “playing” with their powerful model ever since. Only after reading their most recent book, Immunity to Change, am I consistently able to help my clients generate powerful results; Even if you don’t read the rest of this newsletter—order the book now and read it. It is plainly written (no academic jargon here) and full of wonderful, revealing examples from large and small organizations, for-profit and educational institutions.
I can’t summarize a 320 page tour de force in less than 500 words. And I want you to get a glimpse into what this process is all about. First let me tell you what it isn’t:
It isn’t a rigid behavior modification plan
It isn’t a vehicle for identifying fatal flaws in need of purging
It isn’t a quick fix (e.g. 3 steps to success in work and life)
At its core is a 4 staged exploration aimed at surfacing a way of thinking that keeps us immune to the change we seek. In the words of the authors:
“We use the medical metaphor of immunity quite mindfully to signal that, first of all, this phenomenon is not in itself a bad thing... Every immunity to change can be seen as an asset and a source of strength for that person... However, in some instances an immune system can threaten our continued good health…In these instances the immune system is no less focused on protecting us. It is just making a mistake. ...It does not understand that ironically, in working to protect us, it is actually putting us at serious risk.”Here is how it works using a pretty common but benign example:
Stage one: There is something that you want to accomplish. You get really clear about what that is. Let’s say you want to drop 20 pounds.
Stage two: You identify all of the things you are both doing (and not doing) that run contrary to achieving that goal. (This is where you are saying to yourself, great, so isn’t the solution to just change these behaviors and you’ll get to your goal? Of course. The thing is, if it were that simple, you would have done that already. If you stopped eating dessert and started exercising that would take you far right? So how come you are not doing that? OK...read on.)
Stage three: You ask yourself, if I were to change the obstructive behaviors I just identified, what am I afraid of? Whatever answer you come up with is a clue to a competing goal or commitment that you have. (e.g. you are committed to being successful at work—afraid that taking time to exercise could cut into time you should be working!)
Stage four: You look at your competing commitment and begin to identify beliefs and assumptions that fuel that commitment. So perhaps you believe that the only way to succeed at work is to put in more time. Or perhaps you believe that the only way to lose weight with exercise is to work out for over an hour each day.
The key to change starts with this last stage. Once you identify your beliefs, you test them. You start slowly with low risk experiments and build in opportunities to re-evaluate the assumption. The book has extensive examples and suggestions for how to do this effectively. The task is NOT to create instant change but to test the assumptions that are making change impossible! Of course, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
When my clients have worked through this process with their issues, they have found that a deep exploration at each stage takes them to core beliefs and meaningful realizations about what is important to them, and what they are afraid of. Sometimes, this alone can be transformative. And when teams or couples first explore their personal immunity map to an unresolved issue and then look at the collective dynamics at play, it makes for a powerfully committed pathway forward to resolution.
Why do I love this model? (Other than that it works, of course!)
It takes you to a new place and a new way of understanding a problem
It acknowledges that you are more than your mind-it engages mind, heart & soul
It supports a process and develops the disposition for ongoing learning
Want to try this for yourself?
Read the book
Contact me to talk abut coaching with this model
Attend a workshop