If you’re having trouble sticking to your plans for positive change, you might need to rethink your approach. Christine Laperriere, executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, explains how small steps can lead to big wins.
by Christine Laperriere
Quick check: how is everyone doing with their New Year’s Resolutions? If you hear your inner skeptic starting to moan or admitting defeat, I know how you feel.
As a former “goal-aholic,” I regularly set lofty goals at the beginning of each year. Within a few months of trying to juggle my new targets with my existing commitments, I would usually cave under pressure and postpone those big changes for another day. How can we finally stop this painful tradition, while still accomplishing changes that will improve our personal and professional lives?
I started my career as an engineer and have been trained in many methodologies around continuous improvement. One set of principles goes by the name Kaizen — the Japanese word for improvement. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees, from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Toyota is famous for the successful use and application of Kaizen.
Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change. With this approach we would begin by holding ourselves accountable to a single goal that is so small, it would seem it requires very little effort to attain. As you become accustomed to that small shift in behaviour, you layer on another tiny goal to shift behaviour yet again.
“Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change.”
For example: if your goal is to become incredibly fit and it has been months since you’ve been to the gym, your ultimate goal may be to go to the gym four times a week. Using Kaizen, we would start with a much smaller goal. Perhaps something even as small as putting on your walking shoes each day. These tiny goals may seem almost too easy to attain.
Practicing this minute task over and over each week would create subconscious patterns and habits while helping you feel you reached your goal easily. After holding that change constant continuously, we would look to gently raise the bar again. “I’d like to exercise 2 times a week.” What the Kaizen approach factors in is how much more motivated humans are by feeling confident something is easy, how slow humans really are to making change, and how wonderful we are at repeating behaviours that are already ingrained in our subconscious mind as habits.
Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.