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Be the Change

A recent blog described the difference between ‘winning and being right’.  The thrust of the piece was to question whether, in the interest of being ’right’ you were making any progress with the particular issues or changes you were looking to make, or the relationships you were looking to build – or if you were just digging in further for an extended ‘battle’.

A recent discussion with a client of mine demonstrated the value to be had in taking note of the sentiments in that piece, and looking at the broader picture.

Over recent months my client had been wrestling with some poor behaviour from some of her senior colleagues, resulting in less than healthy working relationships.  For a while she had been seeking to confirm to herself that the others were ‘wrong’ and she was ‘right’ and that therefore they needed to change before the situation would improve.  Nothing much had changed as a result.

A few weeks ago, my client decided to adopt an alternative strategy. Instead of railing against the poor behaviour of the others, she decided to take a step toward them in adapting her behaviour a bit, becoming a bit more open and less confrontational in the process.

The result, when I saw her last week was a significant shift in the atmosphere with her colleagues as well as a feeling that they were relating better to each other – just from making a bit of a shift in her behaviour.  Conversations were now more positive; there was less negative energy being expended; and she generally felt better about how things were operating.

It’s early days and it will be interesting to see if the changes she has noticed so far are maintained over a longer period. However the early signs are positive and as a result she has decided to adopt a similar approach to something else she would like to be different.

Like many of us, she is someone who thrives on feedback – being given a sense of whether what she is doing and how she is operating are in line with what’s expected.  Her immediate manager is not someone who gives much in the way of feedback, and certainly not positive, reinforcing feedback. So the experiment over the next few weeks is to look for opportunities to operate in a way that provides, to her manager and others, those things that she is currently not getting, but which  he would like to get.  So she will look for opportunities to provide positive feedback to let her manager and peers know when they have performed a task or behaved in a way that is how she would like them to be.  She will then monitor whether by being what Gandhi termed ‘the change she wants to see in the world’ she is able to influence (subconsciously) the way others relate to her.

While my client has a feeling she is being a bit ‘manipulative’ and thinks that ‘surely they can see what I’m doing’ I’d prefer to think of it as her taking a step towards other people and demonstrating, through her actions, how she would like to be treated.

I’m looking forward to meeting up in a few weeks time to find out how things have gone with this change.  I’ll let you know.


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