The Power of the First Step
Have you ever wondered why change is so tough? Why is it, that with our very best intentions, we still find it difficult to make changes that we know would be good for us? Why is it so much more difficult to get other people to change and do the things that matter?
Even when you have a crystal clear picture of what success looks like and you have tapped into the emotions, drives and values that motivate and there's still no action!!!!! How do you get started?
You need the Power of the First Step.
see the SWING exercise in my last episode if you don't have a clear picture of what success looks like.
You'll learn how to make change happen for yourself or for the people you lead.
The Power of the First Step is a purposeful leadership technique to create momentum. And just like any journey, we'll define your future desired end state and your current situation and using the most useful one of three variations of this technique that works for you, you will create momentum on your change journey.
You'll wake up in the morning and your problem is solved, or it is on its way to being solved.
Way back in 1995, John P. Kotter shared:
why change efforts fail in organisations.
He talked about 8 distinct errors that prevent success from happening. But that was ages ago, surely we have learned and moved forward since the mid 90's? It seems not. 10 Reasons change efforts fail as described by Lee Colan in 2014. In 2017, Brent Gleeson posited that the 1 reason most change efforts fail is battle fatigue.
Bill Pasmore at CCL highlights 4 reasons why you fail at change in 2016
If you have ever failed to change, you'll know all the reasons (aka excuses) why you failed. And that's perfectly OK. Unless you actually do want to change.
The common factor through so much research is inertia.
That is, the desire to stay the same. i.e. the desire to not change. Even if and when we are completely certain that change would result in a better situation for us. A situation we want. The truth is, we want the success without the pain.
After 30 plus years of coaching and training leaders to change, I help my clients overcome their own inertia through the Power of the First Step.
You can use this to get your own change started, or use it with your team to get them to start on their change journey.
Often, during coaching, a client can understand and describe their future goal or outcome. They can describe their current situation. But, they struggle to know exactly what they need to do now.
Sometimes, a client cannot "see" what they need to do.
Others, state that they do not "know" what to do.
What we are doing is scripting and directing the critical moves.
There are three variations of this technique. I recommend that you start using the visual template (using pictures). If this is not working well, use the digital template (using a descriptive process). Or, you can ‘act’ this out.
Imagine that you are the writer and director of a movie and you're creating a movie storyboard.
Commence with the “Future” situation - the very last scene of the movie (this is a Hollywood movie with a happy ending by the way, not some Filme Noire or Pathe real life drama). This is what success looks like, and for aa detailed review on that, check out the SWING process I shared in an earlier episode here.
The "Present" situation is the current situation - as with the "Future", you want specific sensory information about it.
In this technique, you are creating a movie storyboard or script of the change you want from the movie’s very first scene (now) to the last scene (the future goal or outcome).
You (and/or your team) is in the starring role, you are the central character of this movie. And, procrastination is the villain you are going to vanquish.
The first step is the very first ‘action’ that this character takes in this movie.
Making your movie
Grab the template (print it out) and describe the current situation. Write down as much detail as you can. What you currently see, hear, feel, smell and taste. In relation to the change you know you want to make, what specifically is the evidence of your eyes and ears that clearly demonstrate the need for change?
Draw a picture of yourself (or your team) in the ‘present’ box. Draw yourself as you ‘feel’ in this situation. Stick figures are absolutely fine.
Who else is in this current situation? Draw them in the box in relative position to self.
Is there anyone else who should be in this situation? Is there anything else that is here?
Now describe the picture – add words if these help, add more drawings as needed.
What role they are playing in this scene. (A role is an adjective and a noun)
Now, let's move onto the final scene of the movie. Where are you in this picture? Who else is here? What are you doing? What are they doing?
Name the Scenes
Return to the ‘present’ situation and name the scene. Do likewise for the ‘future’ scene. It can be a simple as beginning and end - though that wouldn't cut muster in Hollywood, use descriptive names (again, adjectives and nouns work well)
How do you feel in the present, name the feeling and write this in the box. Do the same for the future scene.
Ask, what is the very first step that this person (pointing to the picture of self in the present) must take to move from the present to the ‘future’ (pointing at the future ‘self’)
This should be tiny step. For example: “lower hands”, “turn to face…”, “stand up”, “sit down”.
Then ask what does this mean?
Repeat this until you have a viable first step. And I do mean, the tiniest, most immediate very first thing the character (i.e. you) needs to take.
Now that you know your first step: “How difficult is this for you?” On a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 is easy, 3 is very difficult.
If 2 or 3, “Is there a smaller step that is easier for you? When you know that this first step is easy or very easy, write down the first step and what it means for you.
This is the moment at the very beginning of the movie, often before the credits role that sets everything up and just begs the audience to hang around for the rest.
Digital or Process Variation
So you think drawing is for kids? Oh, you are missing something powerful. And yes you can draw a stick person. Nonetheless... instead write words in the boxes. You are a scriptwriter instead of a storyboard artist. Number the boxes if it helps you.
If you cannot draw pictures or describe in words, "show" yourself with your own body, tables, chairs, props and anyone else you can use as extras. Grab your smartphone or tablet, set up the video and record.
Now you are the producer of the movie instead of the storyboard artist or scriptwriter and you are receiving direction (from yourself).
Done is better than perfect
Procrastination is your enemy. We don't want to take that first step because it sets us on a journey and it means we have made a choice. We've given up on the other options for now. And procrastinators hate to give up options.
Perfectionism is another excuse for inaction. And yes, everybody is a perfectionist at heart, you're not really that different. You will never, ever achieve perfection. Sorry but it is true. The leaders who stand out are the leaders who get (the right) stuff done. And done is better than perfect.
Even when you do get started, there are going to be obstacles (more villains) along the way. At any point along the journey you might feel like giving up. It's too hard. Or worse, the environment has changed and your change is too little or too late and no longer worth doing. Remember, that's perfectly OK. Go back to the beginning and start again. The leaders who succeed in the long term, are the leaders who persevere. They are the ones who get up again, dust themselves off and keep on keeping on.