I’ve lost five pounds in one week on the Jenny Craig diet. This might not matter to you, for perhaps my weight loss is not your biggest priority. However, it matters to me because this is the first time I’ve stuck to a diet in a long, long time. I seem to be changing my behavior, and I think what I’m learning from this experience is relevant to any change situation you might be dealing with at work.
Here are my first five learning points, one for every pound I’ve lost:
1. I was ready to say “go.” Here’s the deal – my mind knew that I needed to lose weight for at least three years. The numbers were right there on the scale, screaming the truth. But my heart wanted comfort, and since work was in upheaval I fed my face and my fear. My heart needed to be ready as well as my mind. Great change leaders know how to engage both.
2. I have someone holding me accountable. I’ve tried other diets where I’m responsible for my own weight loss, and as adults we should all be able to monitor our own weight program, but generally we don’t. We need someone to coach us through change, someone who says, “Don’t worry, a lot of my clients go through this and here’s a possible solution.” And don’t underestimate the power of posting numerical results. Nobody wants to have the scales show an increase in weight, nor do we want that recorded and posted as proof.
3. I help create the diet plan each week. I’m given a choice to either have my meals pre-planned or to pick from a nifty menu. Since I don’t eat things like “summer squash casserole,” I select my own eating plan. I can choose seven Banana Nut Bread muffins for next week’s breakfast meal. If given a choice, people tend to enroll in the change. If not, it’s easy for them to walk away from someone else’s decision.
4. The diet is immediate and incremental. Every week I drive to the local office to be weighed and to choose my next week’s portions of food. My consultant has this little tiny grocery carts (which I would have killed for as a kid) which is wheeled into a “store” from whence they emerge with my food. Quick win – I get my food that day. Brilliant strategy – they break the diet down one week at a time. I don’t have to negotiate a month’s worth of food; I simply have to think about that week. Change is often too big, too overwhelming, and change leaders would do everyone a great service by making it simple and incremental.
5. I am getting results. Nothing motivates like success. The diet is working for all of the reasons above. I know there will be a week where I might not lose weight, and my coach has already prepositioned me by saying, “Don’t panic if there’s a week you don’t lose weight; we’ll check inches and most people have lost inches even if the pounds don’t show.” She knew this was important to say because she had asked when I would be most vulnerable and I told her the week I didn’t lose. Great change leaders ask questions first to understand points of vulnerability. Then they prepare people for the challenges ahead.
I know that business books offer complicated theories on change management. I think we should look at our own life experiences that create behavior change and learn from them. In the meantime, wish me luck. I have seventeen pounds left to lose, so I need all the support I can get .