New Year, New Behaviour

New ways of thinkingfirworks

The new year party is over and everyone turns to wonder what the new year will be like. And then you start to think about what are you going to do to make it better and different. Of course there are plenty of articles and blogs to suggest some ideas — and this is one of them! In this context a blog by Rosabeth Moss Kanter stands out with some excellent ideas about doing change.

Behaviours that will lead to failure

rmkOne of our mantras for change is to focus on things leading to success and ensure you avoid things leading to failure. Rosabeth Moss Kanter has identified eight behaviours that reduce confidence and lead to failure. Overcoming them will increase confidence which will lead to success. This post recasts these behaviours into the change milleau.

1. Self Limiting Assumptions

You think you will fail, so you do.  As well as being realistic (see below) you need to be positive and weed out assumptions about what you can’t do or achieve. If you follow our ideas and training you will learn to be realistic and plan for success. That will help identify and eliminate those self limiting assumptions.

2. Big and Distant Goals

Whilst long term big and challenging goals have their place, especially for motivation, on their own they are not enough. The small steps and plans to reach intermediate steps are a practical necessity. Some people like the big picture, blue sky, strategies — so pair them up with people who do the nearer term steps and plans. Your change needs a vision — that’s the blue sky bit — but it also needs a realistic plan to succeed.

3. Declaring Victory too soon

This is a common mistake in change. Victory is delivery of the benefits. Sometimes when the benefits have vapourised the changes themselves (outcomes) can become a victory; and when even the changes fail to happen the project deliverables (an IT system, or a new process design) can become the victory. If you haven’t delivered benefits then your victory is hollow.

Even if things are going well, declaring victory too soon will allow effort to dissipate and resources to be used for other things. That will lead to failure to deliver the benefits.

4. Doing it yourself

Change needs a team, with complimentary skills and thinking styles. You won’t be able to do it all yourself so build confidence in your team to succeed as a team. Supporting your team (through mentoring and coaching) will enable them to support you; creating a virtuous circle of confidence.

5. Blaming someone else

A lot of us work in a blame culture, as soon as something is going wrong (or even looking like going wrong) then the first action is to find someone (else) to blame. This is the basis of Prime Ministers Questions. Imagine how that would work if the PM took the blame for things that didn’t work; and the opposition offered praise for things that did work! It is hard to get away from a blame culture; but it is worth the effort. As soon as you have the confidence to take responsibility for your own behaviour then you have the basis of a learning culture.


The balance to accepting responsibility is not to take it too far. Don’t be defensive about who you are and what you are trying to do. Don’t defend yourself before being attacked; this will project confidence. Yes, apologise for your mistakes but take pride in what you have achieved and intend to achieve.

7. Neglecting to anticipate setbacks

Or manage risks as we would prefer. Planning and risk management go hand in hand to prepare any enterprise for the future. Things will go wrong in change, or you haven’t been bold enough! Anticipating as many as possible is just good sense and we have a special technique for it. If you are not doing proper risk management then you are risking failure!

8. Overconfidence

Kanter says “confidence is a sweet spot between despair and arrogance”. So having built up your confidence to deliver change, don’t let hubris take over; we all know where that leads.

You can see that being confident and building confidence is hard work, but also a balance. Keep coming back to each of the eight behaviours and you should increase your chances of success as a corollary to avoiding failure.  Have you any ideas you would add to the list? Give us a tweet or comment on the blog.

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