Improving Leadership Skills: Making Changes that Last

Lucas is a career-minded professional who sees opportunity on the horizon — a chance to become a member of his company’s senior team in the next couple of years. Smartly, he wants to improve his leadership skills and prepare for his next role.

A sore point for him has always been his tendency to procrastinate. In college, it was a joking source of pride — completing big papers at dawn on the due date. And Lucas does work well under the pressure of a deadline. Increasingly, however, he is concerned that it might hurt his career.

Recently he had come very close to missing some deliverables he owned as part of an important corporate initiative. Lucas was worried that his rushed, 11th hour effort lacked the critical and strategic thinking required — and that people might be noticing.

He envisioned a new behavior for himself, and one that would make him a better leader. He wanted to improve his ability to work through complicated, mid- to long-term initiatives with time to reflect, analyze, and develop more thoughtful and thorough work — accomplishing the work in a more measured and timely manner.

Lucas attended a 1-day workshop, picked up some tactical how-to’s, and arrived back at his office excited and determined to completely change his approach.

“Statistically, the odds of success for Lucas are not good,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “His approach to change is likely too superficial. It may result in some short-term improvements, but they are unlikely stick.”

Why? According to Perry, first, Lucas is relying too much on sheer willpower and determination. Second, real, sustainable change comes from going beyond the workshop powerpoint and diving more deeply into your belief systems and thinking patterns.

“Willpower is a limited resource,” said Perry. “When we use up our stock of willpower, we need to recharge and rebuild our inventory. Change based on sheer willpower and determination rarely works for long.” For more, read Arden Coaching’s “Don’t Rely on Willpower to Drive Change.”

How to Create Meaningful, Sustainable Change

What really matters is your mindset. Mindset is the combination of attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about who you are and how the world works — your individualized interpretation of the facts is your mindset.

Your interpretations determine your experience of life. Because interpretations are made up by all of us, we can change them and have a different experience. Lucas needs to begin by reflecting on his mindset and considering his ingrained patterns of thinking and core beliefs. For more, read Arden Coaching’s “Shape Your Mindset: How Do You Choose To View the World?”

As an executive coach, Perry sees great value, and tangible results, in this approach. “There’s an underlying reason Lucas procrastinates,” notes Perry. “He needs to understand that underlying reason and consider how he might adjust his mindset to make getting the work done on time more appealing and rewarding. He needs to ‘see it’ differently. If Lucas can alter his mindset, then changing behavior requires a lot less willpower, and the chances of making real, sustainable change improve remarkably.” 

Lucas discovered that one underlying mindset was that he enjoyed dealing with multiple, short term projects because he felt engaged, and liked the feeling of getting things done. Big initiatives — a project that might require large blocks of focused time over several months — seemed remote. He never felt he was making any progress. So, he looked for chances to put that work off.

“Such insight leads to opportunities about how Lucas might adapt his mindset, change his workflow, and create a bigger sense of personal engagement, accomplishment, and reward from working thoughtfully and strategically on bigger projects.” adds Perry. “This is the work we do with clients: helping them see their own mindset, when usually this is hidden to us. Our day-to-day experience of our mindset is that it simply is how the world IS; we don’t realize we have a filter.”

For more about executive coaching and the importance of incorporating mindset into your coaching experience, watch Arden Coaching’s brief video, “Arden Coaching – What Makes Us Different.”

To learn more about how executive coaching can help you create long-term change and strengthen your leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.