What Lent can teach us about sticking with change

What Lent can teach us about sticking with change

What if Lent lasted 365 days?

I genuinely admire people who embrace Lent and everything it means.  There are those that give things up for Lent because it is part of their belief, whilst others use Lent a firm reminder and catalyst.  Whatever the driver, giving something up shows commitment and determination to behave a  little differently over the 40 days.

In my experience, Lent involves an awful lot of giving up (usually food or alcohol, it appears…) Whatever the vice happens to be, the point is that it takes serious effort to make it past day four, let alone day 34.  And then, when day 40 finally arrives, we celebrate our hard-work and sacrifice by going back to what we did before: Chocolate? Don’t mind if I do!  Glass of wine?  Make it a large…

Seriously though, what if our new habits could last not just for 40 days but 40 weeks and beyond? And what if those habits could also help make us better, more effective people managers? 

Making new behaviours stick is hard. It appears that we humans are a surprisingly tricky bunch to crack; we nearly always go back to what we did before.  Just ask anyone who’s given up on a diet or failed to stop smoking.  Or ask any leader who has tried – and failed – to install a new organisational culture.

The thing with change is that it’s often just small tweaks and adjustments to the way we approach things that has the most impact.  And by fine-tuning our habits in this way, we start to turn them into more effective and helpful behaviours. The key is to ‘start’ something that helps us ‘stop’ what we really want to cease.

For example:

  • Ask what people got up to at the weekend rather than simply asking them if it was good. It’s a much better way to drive a deeper conversation and start to build a relationship beyond polite pleasantries.
  • Eat a healthy lunch with a colleague / team member once a week instead of grabbing junk food or snacks at your desk.  It’s a chance to chat but it’s also a clear message to your team that taking a break is acceptable.
  • Pick up the phone: email has its uses but nothing beats a conversation when it comes to knowing people better.
  • Ask, don’t tell when people seek advice from you: be the coach and help them draw the answer – and the learning - out for themselves.  Stop giving them the answer.

 

Whatever habit you choose to re-wire, it’s only going to be effective if you stick with it!  Break the challenge into shorter periods of time, perhaps focusing on one week at a time. A great way of holding yourself accountable is to share your intention with your team: tell them you want to find ways of getting to know them a little better, for example, and ask them for their honest feedback on how you’re doing.  People are usually very supportive if they know why you’re looking to change the way you do things and not just that you’re making some changes.

 

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