The Limits of Change

You have been trying hard for the past three years to help one of your key leaders to improve his performance in a very pivotal role in your organization. You have given him several doses of specific feedback, sent him to external seminars, hired a coach, provided him with a very capable assistant, and even assigned a mentor. Unfortunately, after all this effort, the employee is still underwhelming you and others with his performance.
The hapless employee is well aware that you are dissatisfied. He knows that he needs to change. He understands the feedback. He wants to do better. He has tried and tried. But at the end of the day, he is still fumbling the same old things as before.
And you are still fuming with disappointment.
After so much effort and investment, what else can You do?
At this point, you may be torn between the following two choices:
Let the employee go – You’ve done everything, to effect a change, but to no avail. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses?
Move the employee – Perhaps the employee is in “over his head.” Maybe you should consider another role in some other capacity which would play better to his strengths?
There is a third option.
Start with this thought:  When it comes to performance improvement, there are limits to change. One of the most widely known change management models is ADKAR which reminds us that change depends upon awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. Most organizational changes fail because they don’t go far enough into these five components. Change takes time and requires a lot of thoughtful work.
Now consider this idea:  What if this employee were your spouse or your child? Whenever you have found yourself at your wit’s end with a loved one such as your spouse or one of your children, what has worked? You have probably opened up your heart and found a way to accept. In a word, you have loved.
When you look at another person with love, your view widens like a camera lens that is pulled back for a broader perspective. This is who he is. Yes, there are things he does that drive you crazy. But what else is there to see? Can you spot his good points, his strengths?
With a loving frame, you are then better able to see what the other person is trying to do. You become more forgiving of their shortcomings and failures. And you even notice their gifts.
The truth is, we cannot change another person. We can only change ourselves.
Terrence Seamon is an executive coach. Follow him on twitter @tseamon.


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