Don’t Rely on Willpower to Drive Change

Chris is a rising star at a New York City healthcare company. Looking back on his performance as a leader over the past year, Chris decided that he needed to improve his communications skills. Specifically, Chris wanted to do a better job of keeping his team in the loop. He wanted to be more inclusive and transparent, keep his team better-informed, and share more information about the thoughts of senior management.

For a while it worked. Chris was more open with his team about project status, budgets, and evolving corporate priorities. Within three months, however, Chris had fallen back into to his old patterns of behavior, keeping more and more to himself.

What happened? Why didn’t the behavior Chris wanted to change stick?

“Often, we try to make changes driven by sheer willpower,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. Perry says that rarely works. “We all have a certain ‘reservoir’ of willpower. When we draw it down, we need to take breaks to refill our reservoir. If we are constantly drawing on our reservoir of willpower to fuel a change, over time, we will simply run out, and revert back to the behaviors or patterns of thinking we were trying to change.”

The key is to dig deeper and modify your mindset

Most executive coaches follow a framework of Assessment-Plan-Action. “This is a great start,” said Perry, “but it’s not enough.” Arden Coaching’s executive coaching approach goes further to explore and identify your underlying mindset — the “why” that is the basis of your current thinking and behavior.

“If you can alter your mindset, then changing behavior requires significantly less willpower. The chances of successfully making a lasting change improve dramatically.” For more about the importance of incorporating mindset into your executive coaching framework, watch Arden Coaching’s brief video, “Arden Coaching – What Makes Us Different.”

When Chris explored his mindset with his executive coach, he discovered that the issue was trust. Deep down, he believed that if he shared “too much” his team members would overreact, fail to keep important information confidential, and rush to judgment.

Chris worked to reshape his mindset, seeing these issues from his team’s point of view. He worked with his team and discussed how to manage, process, and apply sensitive information. He began to see his team as worthy of trust.

That fundamental adjustment in Chris’ mindset made it much easier to communicate more effectively and transparently with his team. Chris no longer needed to rely on willpower alone. His new mindset set the stage for the long-term change he sought.

To learn more about our approach to executive coaching and leadership development, contact us at [email protected] or 646.844.2233.