Friday, October 05, 2007

4qtr2007 - Not Just Talk! Newsletter

Table of Contents - 4qtr2007 - Not Just Talk! Newsletter

  • Article Review: The Real Reason People Won’t Change
  • Authentically Munch
  • Ask the Coach: A Whiter Shade of Pale
  • Notable Quotables: Great Things I Didn't Say (First)
  • What's News at GottaGettaCoach!?
  • GottaGettaBlog! Highlights

4qtr2007 - Article Review - The Real Reason People Won't Change

Article Review: The Real Reason People Won’t Change
Robert Kegan And Lisa Laskow Lahey
Harvard Business Review (reprint R0110E)

So what is the real reason people won’t change? To bottom line it,
"It’s a psychological dynamic called a “competing commitment,” and until managers understand how it works and the ways to overcome it, they can’t do a
thing about change-resistant employees."

When people resist change, it’s not necessarily because they’re opposed to it. It’s not even necessarily because they’re lazy or inattentive to it, either. Rather, it’s because they have one or more hidden beliefs that directly conflict with them working toward meaningful change.


People often don’t collaborate even though they truly believe in teamwork. Why? Because they’re also dedicated to avoiding the confrontations that are typically intrinsic to any team-based activity. So, push come to shove, they never fully engage in the collaborative process for fear of that probable confrontation and what that means to them.
Oftentimes, though, it’s not readily apparent what the conflict is – or that a conflict even exists. So to unwind things, the authors have developed an interesting three-stage process to help figure out what’s in the way:

  1. Through a series of key questions, managers can guide employees to uncover any competing commitments.
  2. Employees can then examine these competing commitments to determine the Underlying Assumptions inherent in them.
  3. Based on this new awareness, employees can then start changing their behaviors accordingly.

Uncovering Competing Commitments

The key questions recommended for guiding the uncovering process are as follows:

  1. What would you like to see changed at work, so that you could be more effective or so that work would be more satisfying?
  2. What commitments does your complaint imply?
  3. What are you doing, or not doing, that is keeping your commitment from being more fully realized?
  4. If you imagine doing the opposite of the undermining behavior, do you detect in yourself any discomfort, worry, or vague fear?
  5. By engaging in this undermining behavior, what worrisome outcomes are you committed to preventing?

It’s important to realize that competing commitments do not necessarily reflect weakness or incompetence on anyone’s part. So, managers, don’t go there. Competing commitments are merely just a form of self-protection, and in that context, they make total sense. (e.g. If you want to avoid confrontation, avoid collaboration because collaboration results in confrontation.) Of course the follow-up question to ask is this: What are you protecting yourself from? What are you assuming will happen as a result of a confrontation?

Interestingly, once people start looking at things this way, it’s fairly easy for them to identify (and admit) what they are protecting themselves from. And once they identify that, most are ready to take some immediate action to overcome it.

But the authors suggest that a manager not press for behavioral change just yet. Rather, managers should encourage the employee to first notice his/her current behavior in light of now knowing about his/her competing commitments, Underlying Assumptions, and self-protecting mechanisms. That way, s/he can also look for what I like to call irrefutable evidence that their long-held assumptions might no longer be valid. (Who hasn’t found that a type of food they once thought they didn’t like was actually quite tasty?!) This can open whole new world of possibility for someone as one can use this as an opportunity to reflect on what caused these specific protection mechanisms to be created in the first place.

Understanding the circumstances that created the Underlying Assumptions can be very helpful in freeing oneself from them. And from there, meaningful change is not only doable, but often preferred to the status quo.


4qtr2007 - Authentically Munch

According to, Law & Order character, Detective John Munch, “is the longest-running character on any American drama still on the air. What's more … [since January 1993] the aforementioned Detective Munch has appeared in no less than nine different television shows.”

For you trivia fans, the nine shows are:
  1. Law & Order
  2. Law & Order Special Victims Unit
  3. Sesame Street (my personal favorite!)
  4. Arrested Development
  5. Law & Order: Trial by Jury
  6. The Beat
  7. Homicide: Life on the Street
  8. The X Files
  9. The Lone Gunmen

What’s particularly interesting to me – aside from being a long time Belzer fan – is that it speaks to a frequent life coach topic: Authenticity.

It’s one thing to show up. Indeed, as Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Authenticity, though, speaks to how we show up. Munch is very consistent in that regard. “I yam what I yam,” both he and Popeye the Sailorman would both say, albeit with slightly different affects.

Munch – and Popeye, for that matter – has a definite personality. But authenticity is more than just personality. Authenticity is about being completely comfortable in one’s own skin without fear of what others might think, and without need to unduly impress anyone with it.

So how does one become completely comfortable in one’s own skin without fear of what others might think? And how does one avoid overdoing the whole authenticity thing?

Step One – Realize that you have a right to be comfortable in your own skin. We really do have that right, you know, – We yam who we yam?! – even if it feels completely unbelievable at times. Authenticity is about “showing up” as who we are, not just as some cardboard cutout of who we think we should be. Surely Detective Munch would agree – and he’s not even a real person!

Step Two – Own your skin. Feel what it’s like. Note what works for you, and what doesn’t. Understand what makes it easier for you to just be yourself, as well as what makes it more difficult. Look for patterns and explanations, and how they all might interrelate.

Step Three: Actively calibrate. Something helpful to remember about becoming more comfortable in your own skin is that you really don’t need to get it exactly right at first, you just need to understand what types of things will move you closer to, or farther away from, it so you can calibrate accordingly.

Here’s a fun game to practice calibrating: Pick a number between one and 100; ask someone to guess it; when they do, tell them only to guess higher, or lower, until they get it exactly right; count how many guesses it takes for them to get it exactly right. This is how we work toward homeostasis – when we guess too high, we back it off a bit, and when we guess to low, we up it from there.

As with home heating and cooling, sometimes we need to heat up how we’re interacting with the world, sometimes we need to cool it down a bit, and sometimes, Goldilocks, it’s just right. And each little calibration helps.

A word of warning: Some people confuse comfort in their own skin with vanity, as if to say, “Look how authentic I’m being!” The ultimate litmus, then, is this: If you’re ego is what’s really loving how well you calibrate, there’s likely still more work to do. But if your heart loves it, then you’re likely on the right track.

Detective Munch already understands that – as do his writers.


4tr2007 - Ask the Coach: A Whiter Shade of Pale

Question: Barry, I'm so frustrated. Try as I might to see things otherwise, I’m such a Black and White thinker. What can I do to open my eyes to other possibilities when problem-solving?

Answer: Here’s something that often helps the B&W types: Shades of grey!

Seriously, anyone who’s able to discern black from white, as you are, certainly understands that what they’re discerning from is actually shades of grey. If you allow yourself to play with that notion a bit you’ll soon likely notice that you already see other possibilities – you’re just discounting them a bit prematurely, that’s all.

A good question to ask is this: “Okay, I see the black and white of it all, but what are some of the grey tones I’m also seeing? “

Too, it’s often helpful to look at the whiter side of the spectrum. Did you know, for instance, that there are about a zillion shades in the white palette?! Here, courtesy of Benjamin Moore, ( is quite a few of them.

Of course the deeper issue has nothing to do with colors at all really – although a nice Bordeaux Red / Dill Weed Green combination is quite smart-looking for the coming cooler months! What’s really needed here is a way to expand your thinking in a way that encourages your creativity to kick in.

An approach that’s often helpful in getting things going is the pick-a-metaphor-and-go game. It works like this:

  1. Close your eyes, take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
  2. Open your eyes and allow them to settle on something/anything.
  3. That something is the metaphor you can use to stimulate your creativity.

Example #1: You open your eyes, look around, and find your gaze focusing on your backyard. Stoke your creativity by asking some imaginative questions like theses:

  • Thinking about that idea I’ve been struggling with, what part could clearly use a little more watering?!
  • All things being equal, what parts need to be mown or trimmed a bit?!
  • What would make my idea that much more lush and green?!

Example #2: You open your eyes, look around, and find your gaze focusing on your kitchen freezer. Stoke your creativity by asking some off-the-wall questions like theses:

  • My current idea is too vanilla so what would adding a nice chocolate mocha fudge swirl do to it?!
  • For that matter, what would turn the whole thing into a delicious banana split sundae?!
  • And what little something extra could I add to my idea as a cherry on top?

Example #3: You open your eyes, look around, and find your gaze focusing on a yellow highlighter sitting on your desk. Stoke your creativity by asking some silly-little questions like theses:

  • What parts of my idea do I want to particularly highlight for others?
  • Given that the color yellow is sometimes associated with cowardice and other times associated with peace and happiness, what part of my idea makes me the most nervous, and what do I need to modify to make me happier with it?
  • How might the impact of my idea change if I changed its color or some other physical attribute?

While the pick-a-metaphor-and-go game might not immediately provide you with the answers you’re looking for, it likely will bring a smile to your face, which is very helpful when trying to look at things in terms other than simple blacks and whites.

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4qtr2007 - Notable Quotables: Great Things I Didn't Say (First)

  • “Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.” - Alan Alda
  • “The life of my personal has nothing to do with me,” - Claire Danes
  • “I Eats All Me Spinach, And Takes To The Finish, I'm Popeye The Sailor Man! Toot! Toot!” – Popeye, the Sailorman
  • “He's very comfortable in his own skin, ... That's his personality. When you're true to self like that, it comes across well.” - Jeff Van Gundy
  • “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” – Pablo Picasso
  • “We've been dreaming in color since 1883.” – Benjamin Moore, the Paint-man


4qtr2007 - GottaGettaBlog! Highlights

I've been using GottaGettaBlog! as a vehicle to capture news, notes, and musings about coaching, mentoring, and getting more from YOUR Untapped Potential - along with whatever other stuff I happen to find amusing and/or thought-provoking - since June of 2003.Highlighted postings from last quarter are listed below - just follow the links:

from July 2007

from August 2007

from September 2007

Your on-line comments at GottaGettaBlog! are both welcomed and encouraged. To receive weekly digests of new GottaGettaBlog! postings, update your subscription here.


4qtr2007 - What's News at GottaGettaCoach!?

  • Barry Zweibel is interviewed for an article on Lessons in Leadership in the September/October issue of INSIGHT, the magazine of the Illinois CPA Society.
  • GottaGettaCoach! celebrates its seventh anniversary!