I have been on a Self-improvement journey for as long as I can remember and I believe it is so with most of the people around us. As an Executive Coach, I had the opportunity to work with many leaders and I enjoyed my interactions with them as every story is a beautiful one and many of the improvements that they do inspire me to do something in my own sphere. Very often, I used to fret over my Improvement journey and then look at others and say that they are not improving much. I have observed this behavior with many others too. We feel we are improving so much that we look at others and wonder how lazy they are and how they are not changing at all.
Improve on your own Scale
As part of my Coaching a number of Senior leaders, I coached the MD of a Company. I kept feeling that this person was not improving much. I kept getting frustrated. I felt the person is not responding to me very well. But, the Coachee had been seting up the meetings for Coaching and attending all of them sincerely. I expressed to him that there is no point in engaging if there is no improvement happening. What he then said opened my eyes to different dimensions and possibilities. He listed out a number of improvements that he had achieved over the past few months and expressed a lot of gratitude that I have been able to help him a lot. When you look at the changes that he was claiming, they were all genuine. But, in my view they were all very small improvements that do not merit even a mention.
But, who I am I to set the scale for him? He is improving on his own scale. That is what actually matters. This tendency to continuously improve is important. I can not say it is a smaller scale or inferior scale. It is a different scale. We all have different scales. From then on I learned to measure the improvement of people around me on their own scale. It is another matter that they should take feedback about their improvement journey. But, I can not say they are not improving on the basis of my own Scale and my own perceptions.
Who will feel the improvement?
While we feel we are improving, the improvement will be felt by people in different circles around you.
01. People in the outermost circle: If we are trying to improve in a particular area, the people who hardly know us will be the first to feel the benefit of that improvement. If we are trying to be more pleasant with people, we are most likely to try out this new behavior with people who are not known to us or those whom we just know very superficially. The reason is that we do not have much activity with them and therefore we do not have any ‘flash points’ with them.
02. People in the Second circle: If we are trying to improve ourselves, the people at the office (other than Boss and close colleagues) may be the next level people who may feel the improvement in our behavior. It will take some time to reach this situation. But, when you persist with your improvement journey you would notice that the people who are at office / people whom you meet regularly may feel the difference.
03. People in the Third circle: These are typically Family members / Boss at office. When we persist with our improvement journey and keep pushing ourselves for next level improvement, we will break thru to the next circle. We may start becoming more comfortable with our Boss and Brother/ Father at home. They may start seeing some improvement in you.
04. The loner in the Fourth circle: As you progress further, you would start being good to your Spouse! Somehow you may always feel that you can take that liberty with your spouse, you can vent with your spouse and so on. It takes quite a bit of effort to improve yourself in the eyes of your Spouse.
05. Your ‘Self’ in the Fifth circle: If your spouse starts noticing improvement in you, then after some more persistence you may feel ‘genuinely’ improving yourself ! This is because even though your spouse may be very close to you, he/she is still another person. When YOU feel genuinely improving yourself, then the real deep improvement starts happening. Very often we know ‘BEST’ about ourselves. Isn’t it ?
Essentials for Self-Improvement
If you want to genuinely improve yourself, there are are five essentials that you need to pay attention to:
01. Importance of Feedback: Marshall Goldsmith the celebrated International Coach says that Leaders who take feedback tend to improve much more than those leaders who do not take Feedback. While we have to improve on our own scale, we need to understand the effect that we are having on people around us and improve ourselves in a way in which we can generate better outcomes together. After all as Leaders we have to work with people around us to deliver some good outcomes. However good leader you may be, you can not do everything yourself.
02. Partners in Progress: It is good to have a bunch of people around us who can give us straight feedback without a bias. You need to choose wisely as many of us do not have this skill of observation and the critical skill of giving feedback objectively. It would help to arrive at this small group over a period of time.
03. Take professional help as needed: I realized that using some techniques and using some professional help can really speed up the improvement and help you save on time. You may improve on your own. But, you may lose out on some opportunities as you are not ready. It makes commercial sense too to take professional help.
04. Planning your improvement can help: Planning about your goals and where you want to improve in next one year / next 6 months / next quarter / next month / next week / tomorrow will definitely help. The more detail you get in to, the more failures you can avoid.
05. Have a higher goal: Without a higher goal in your life and career, you can not get the full energy out of yourself. You will not work ‘full on’. I spoke about this in another article.
While all of us have our own journeys of improvement, it would help to make it more planned and use good methodology and tools to get better results from same effort.
Please share your learnings from your journey !