This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Have you realized that your management style needs improvement but don’t know how to start the change? What are the first steps you should take?
When it comes to changing your management style, the first step is to discuss your changes with your colleagues. There are two important steps you need to start with: 1) apologizing for your past behavior, and 2) announcing your intention to change.
Here are the first steps to improving how you lead.
Discussing Your Behavioral Change With Your Colleagues
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to change your management style and kick-started the process of self-improvement, your next move is to frequently and repeatedly discuss your behavioral change with your colleagues. Specifically, you need to:
- Apologize for your past behavior.
- Announce your intention to change your bad habit.
1. Apologizing for Your Past Behavior
The first conversation you need to have with your colleagues regarding changing your management style it is an apology for your previous bad behavior. Say you’re sorry to everyone who your actions negatively impacted.
Apologizing is an important step because it’s the easiest way to make clear to your colleagues that you know you’ve messed up and that you’re going to do better in the future. It shows them that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions, and they’re likely to respect you for doing so.
Likewise, apologizing gives people closure about the bad behavior you’ve inflicted upon them. It indicates that this behavior is in the past now and won’t be repeated. Once people have closure, they can begin to move on—and they might even start to forgive you. You’ll have gained a small amount of ground in your mission to recover people’s goodwill and restore your reputation.
The Perfect Apology
When you say sorry to your colleagues for your past misdemeanors, it’s important that your apology be sincere and meaningful. The best way to achieve this is to keep your apology simple. Just say “I’m sorry. I’ll try to behave in a better way in the future.”
If you start to qualify or overcomplicate your apology—for example, if you try to justify why you acted in the way you did, or make a long speech about all of the events in your life that led up to you behaving badly—it’ll sound like you’re trying to explain away your behavior, not actually express regret and move on from it. Your apology will no longer feel sincere, and people will be less likely to accept it.
2. Announcing Your Intention to Change
Once you’ve apologized to your colleagues, your next step is to announce your intention to change. Tell your colleagues exactly what you’re going to do to overcome your harmful habit and reassure them that you’re fully committed to doing so.
Crucially, you should announce your intention to change frequently and consistently. If you only tell your colleagues of your plan to overcome your habit once, there’s no guarantee that what you tell them will stick in their minds. However, if you tell your colleagues about your intention to change again and again, over days, weeks, or even months, the message is more likely to sink in.
Announcing your intention to change is important for two reasons. First, it adds accountability to your journey of self-improvement. If you tell your colleagues that you’re going to make a change, they’ll start to monitor your efforts to see if you actually follow up on your word. The knowledge that people are checking up on you and expecting you to make progress will add extra pressure to the process of changing. This pressure will motivate you to actually get started on improving your behavior.
Second, frequently and consistently telling people you’re going to change further erodes their negative perceptions of you. They’ll start to believe that you’re serious about making up for your past mistakes and really do intend to behave in a healthier way. Slowly, their perception of you will start to become more positive.
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