Shut Up and Prove It: The Other Key Ingredient to Change

The other day I wrote a blog about accepting and embracing change and made the statement that you first need to change your attitude. I still stand by that; however recent events have made me realize I forgot one important factor: action. A change in attitude with no action is just simply wishful thinking.

For some changing the attitude is the hardest part for others it is performing the actions. And when I mean action, I don’t mean just a day or so, oh heck no, real change takes constant, intentional action. And that, my friend, is hard, hard work. That’s why so many times we do not continue the actions, because it is difficult, met with resistance or doubt, and does not always pay off immediately. And talking is NOT action.

Writing as a passion and for a living I know first hand how easy it can be to come up with the right words that others want to hear. Due to this and life events I have evolved to become an action kind of girl. I listen to what others have to say and give them the benefit of the doubt that they believe their own intentions but it is only by their actions do I truly believe what they say. What I judge is their patterns of behavior – i.e. it is not what you say but what you do. You can tell me you are going to do something until the cows come home but until you start backing up what you throw out there – I’ll just be stepping out of the way of the flying debris as it heads toward the fan.

This is coming firsthand – I have had some very hard lessons about learning to back up what I say, it was only with sustained effort and the right attitude was I able to make the transformations that I desired. It was not easy or fun. People didn’t believe at first that I would make the change, they challenged me, questioned my motives – basically did everything they could intentionally or not to derail my efforts. But my desire was greater than their doubt.

Sometimes we get in a habit of behaving in such a way that we do not even realize how it is coming across to others or contradicting our words. If we are lucky enough to have it knock us upside the head then the difficult process of change can begin. Yes, I said lucky because even thought it can be terrible to have something blow up in your face it can be a great opportunity.

I once had a girl on my staff that was incredibly knowledgeable and damn good at what she did. The problem was she had developed a reputation as a very negative and difficult person to work with, so others refused to do so. I happened to know that she was going through some difficult situations in her personal life and had a feeling this was spilling into her work life. One day after a manager’s meeting in which some of the other managers were so frustrated with her negativity that they were discussing the possibility of managing her out, I decided it was now or never to try to reach out to her.

She and I had a decent working relationship and had respect for each other for our bluntness. So I called her in my office and told her I was coming to her to help out of professional respect and as difficult as the next statement was going to be, she needed to know this was going to be a positive. Then I told her, “You have two reputations here: as one of the best assistance in the company and the second: a real bitch. The second is killing the first and I don’t think that is what you want. If that is true then let’s fix it.” Over the next hour she thanked me, was relieved that someone recognized her struggle and was thankful that I wanted to help and not get rid of her. Her biggest fear was how to erase the second reputation. I told her do not to tell people she is trying to change, but just perform the actions – that is how it will get done.

She began being more mindful of her actions, thinking about what she said and how it could be interpreted by her co-workers, she assisted others without being asked, she became engaged again, and she started offering her expertise when there was no personal benefit. Others took notice immediately. At first the other managers questioned it often even going so far as to ask what was wrong with her or doubting how long it would last. It was difficult for her and we had a lot of coaching sessions, but she stuck to it and within a relatively short time period her co-workers were coming to her for assistance. Eventually her co-workers and other mangers were looking to her for leadership. She had proven herself through her actions time and time again that she was not worthy of the second reputation and eventually it paid off for her. I left the company, and when I did she thanked me for calling her a bitch and helping her regain control.

Real change takes the right attitude, consistent action, thick skin to ward off the naysayers, a personal desire and time. It also helps when you have someone in your corner, but the most important person you need to believe in you to make the change happen is you.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

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