Marshall is one of the top executive coaches in the world. Historically, the focus in executive development has been “an event—a training program, a motivational speech, or an intense executive retreat,” he observes.
The only problem with that approach? It doesn’t work. Behavior change is a process that takes time.
Marshall outlines a seven-step process he utilizes with his executive clients to become better leaders.
Step one is gathering feedback to help us identify the interpersonal behaviors that are holding us back.
Step two is apologizing for whatever troublesome behavior that is irritating the people around us. “Feedback tells us what to change, not how to do it,” Marshall writes. But once we know what to change, we’re “ready for the next step: telling everyone we’re sorry.”
Step three is advertising our intention to change our ways and asking others: How am I doing?
Step four is mastering the essential skill of listening. When our peers, friends, or family members give us feedback, we keep our mouths shut except to say, “Thank you.” We listen without judging, interrupting, or denying them.
Step five is about thanking people and being genuinely grateful for their input.
2: Our topic today is step six: Following up. Continually. Once we “master the subtle arts of apologizing, advertising, listening, and thanking, we must follow up—relentlessly,” Marshall writes. Following up is about being diligent and seeing the process as part of “an ongoing, never-ending advertising campaign to (a) find out from others if you are, in fact, getting better and (b) remind people that you’re still trying, still trying.”
How do we do this? We remind our colleagues of our goal to change and then ask point-blank, “How am I doing?”
“I teach my clients to go back to all their coworkers every month or so and ask them for comments and suggestions,” he writes. He cites the example of a client who had problems sharing and including his peers. “Last month, I told you that I would try to get better at being more inclusive,” Marshall’s client told each of his colleagues. “You gave me some ideas, and I would like to know if you think I have effectively put them into practice.”
The magic here? “That question forces his colleagues to stop what they’re doing and, once again, think about his efforts to change, mentally gauge his progress, and keep him focused on continued improvement,” Marshall observes.
Successful change is about follow-up. Doing so is “how our efforts eventually get imprinted on our colleagues’ minds. Follow-up is how we erase our coworkers’ skepticism that we can change. Follow-up is how we acknowledge to ourselves and others that getting better is an ongoing process, not a temporary religious conversion,” Marshall writes.
Following up shows we “care about getting better.” Following up with our colleagues shows that we “value their opinions.” Following up consistently each month or so shows that we are “taking the process seriously” and value their input.
3: But it doesn’t stop there. By following up, we also make ourselves change our behavior. “Follow-up makes us do it. It gives us the momentum, even the courage, to go beyond understanding what we need to do to change and actually do it,” Marshall notes.
Reflection: What is a behavior I would like to change?
Action: Commit to following Marshall’s six-step process. Follow up relentlessly.