I help professionals change behaviors to accomplish their business goals. These are very smart, accomplished individuals.  So why do they need me?  The answer might help you to coach yourself!

It’s still early enough in the year to reference that bane of February, the New Year’s resolution. Many of us make them – stats say almost 50% of us do so.  Yet less than 8% of us actually reach our resolution goals.  My guess is, most of that intended discipline bites the dust in February.

My clients are predominately lawyers – incredibly intelligent, accomplished and capable people who reach a roadblock when it comes to a particular goal. That goal could be effective leadership, successful business development, efficient practice management, better work/life balance…the list goes on.  Over the years, I found that the reason for these challenges falls into any of the following categories:

We don’t set realistic goals: When goals are unrealistic, it’s easy to give up on them.  It’s unlikely you’ll surpass your revenue target this year by 25% if you’ve been under target each of the five previous years.  Change takes behaviour modification, skills development and lots of practice time.   Start that process with smaller, more realistic goals.  Plan to meet your target this quarter, and then build from there.

We pick goals outside of our influence: I believe in the power of intent and I’ve seen remarkable success when people clearly articulate big, hairy audacious goals that rely in good part on the world somehow aligning with their needs.  But the bulk of our evolution will come from hundreds of smaller goals that are within our direct range of influence.   Whether you’re writing resolutions or your own personal career plan, focus on those areas within your control such as your attitudes, behaviours, and specific actions.  Instead of “force x to start treating me with respect”, try “work on my self-respect and boundaries”.

We aren’t really committed to the goal:  Often, my most successful coaching clients are the ones in the most trouble.  They have EVERYTHING riding on fixing whatever is broken, so they are committed to doing what needs to be done. Less successful are the professionals who engage me for smaller, incremental improvements.  It’s not that their plan is weaker, but their commitment to the plan usually is.  Think long and hard about what you want to achieve, and then build as many steps in your plan as are needed to achieve that goal.  From there, monitor your progress on a weekly basis to keep yourself accountable for those actions.  If it’s as important to you as you say it is, then prove it with your weekly actions. No excuses.

We aren’t clear on how to achieve the goal: We may be committed to achieving a certain objective, but simply don’t know how to get there. Trial and error sometimes helps, but can also be de-motivating. Ask for help: connect with a mentor, colleague or friend whose opinion you would respect and ask their advice. This also might be a good time to bring in help – a guide (i.e. a mentor) or a coach can help.

We lack daily discipline: (Also see note above re: commitment).  Our weaknesses are, by definition, areas where we lack self-discipline.   The development of that discipline requires either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation is that which you set up for yourself: a feeling of satisfaction for a job well-done, or a personal reward or punishment system.  If that doesn’t work, consider an extrinsic motivator.  This could include a friend, colleague, mentor or coach.   They can help to keep you accountable to yourself until such time as you recognize the value of your efforts and can develop intrinsic motivation to carry on doing the right thing by yourself.

We lose patience with ourselves: Accomplished people expect to be accomplished in almost every area of their life.  So when they find an area where they are less capable, they get frustrated.  This makes behaviour change and skills development difficult because the professional will be so tough on themselves, working on that area becomes de-motivating.  I encourage my coaching subjects to have a lot of compassion for themselves, especially in the early stages of working through those challenge areas.  Even deciding to work on such an area is win!  Keeping at it and making slow progress is also a win.  I remind them it’s taken years for them to develop the bad habits they are working at overcoming; they can’t expect to change those over night.

We lack trust: Most people need help of some sort to work through a personal challenge.  After all, if we could have fixed the problem by ourselves, we would have done it already. But because we don’t trust ourselves in overcoming the issue, we don’t trust others either.  In other words, a part of us thinks “if I can’t do it, you probably can’t either so how can you really help me?”  Yet most successful personal change management programs begin with our recognition that we can’t solve the problem on our own, and that we need to trust that someone else can help us.  If we are truly committed to change, we need someone else to help guide us – and we very likely need someone else to keep us accountable for the disciplined required to see through the change as well. Again, this could be a coach but also a mentor, colleague or friend.

Essentially, my role is to help my coaching subjects to identify where they are self-sabotaging, and to help them to overcome this tendency. It’s disheartening to realize that we create many of our own problems; but it’s hopeful to realize that we can also be the solution.