5 Steps to Effective Behaviour Change at Work – the Silver Dollar Technique
One of the (apparent) paradoxes I love about my work revolves around this little dichotomy:
1. People can’t change if they don’t like themselves;
2. People won’t change unless they’re honest about their faults.
People can’t change if they don’t like themselves. This first point is true because real change requires a positive mindset. It needs the ability to move towards something specific and attractive. If your mind is in a place where you’re constantly beating yourself up, or feeling at fault, or where you don’t like the underlying person that is really you, attempts to change just don’t work. They get sabotaged, overtaken or drowned-out by a focus on what’s wrong.
But the second point is also true. People won’t change unless they’re honest about their faults. If my delusion that I don’t need to grow or change is so complete, where’s my motivation to change? If I can’t see myself as others see me, to understand the impact I have in the way that I do things, how do I know that a different approach might also be possible?
But seeing your faults is painful and raw. Knowing that your typical way of doing things is having a negative impact on others usually doesn’t make you feel like high-fiving yourself.
And this is the situation that about a third of my clients find themselves in when they arrive for their first coaching. They’ve come to me because their way of doing things at work is no longer getting results. Often, their behaviours are out of sync with other people, or even causing problems. If the situation has been allowed to continue for too long, this person may even have acquired a reputation for negative behaviour that precedes them; that is worse than their actual behaviour.
This is a tough situation to be in, and a hard one from which to to make effective changes.
So here’s one of my favourite techniques for resolving that dichotomy and making effective change in behaviour at work.
To learn to like yourself and all your traits, and to be honest about your faults.
I call it the Silver Dollar Approach to Behavioural Change, because (a) a Silver Dollar has two very distinct sides; and (b) I’ve got a Silver Dollar that I brought home from Las Vegas and am very fond of. This technique is so easy that you don’t even really need a Silver Dollar to make it work.
Step One – Identify a Quality
Identify a quality of yours, or a way that you tend to go about things, that you either like or don’t like (it doesn’t matter which). Let’s use a real example of something that was given to a client as negative feedback:
“Well, I’ve been told that at team meetings I can be like a bull in a china shop”.
Step Two – Give that Quality a Neutral Label
Give that quality a neutral label, one that can describe how it is, without an overly negative or overly positive connotation. It may take some exploration and discussion to find the right label. The coach’s job here is to check for neutrality in the term; beyond that, the client should be allowed to call that quality whatever they want. The label can be one word, a couple of words or even a short phrase. Here’s what came up with our bull in a china shop example:
“I suppose you could call that being Direct“.
Step Three – You’ve Got a Silver Dollar
Imagine that quality was a Silver Dollar. So now we’ve got a Silver Dollar with the quality of being “Direct“.
Now, whether you tend to hang out in Las Vegas or not, you’ll know that a Silver Dollar is a valuable thing. If you’re a cowboy, you probably keep one in your boots to pay for your funeral. In my view, everybody should have several.
Joking apart, what I’m trying to say here, is that all human qualities have value – and they also have two sides.
Step Four – the Two Sides of that Silver Dollar
So the thing about this Silver Dollar is that its value depends on where you are and on what kind of situation you find yourself in.
We can use the two sides of the Silver Dollar to think about different types of situations:
Side 1 – can be about situations when this particular Silver Dollar is really, really useful.
Side 2 – can be about situations when this particular dollar is less useful, maybe even counter-productive.
To continue our example, here we have a Silver Dollar that is about being “Direct“. Now go ahead and explore that quality:
- What are the kind of situations at work when being Direct is really useful?
- What kind of impact can it have when you bring out your Direct silver dollar at the right time?Now flip your dollar over:
- In what kind of situation is Direct less useful?
- What’s it like for other people when the Direct silver dollar comes out at the wrong time?
Step Five – We all have many Silver Dollars
This is a key step in the process. What’s often happened for people who are struggling at work is that they’ve been relying on one of their strongest qualities too much. They’ve unconsciously seen that it worked for them in the past, now they use it in all situations regardless of whether it will work or not. They’re spending the same silver dollar over and over.
The coach’s job at this point is to explore a number of other qualities that this client also has. Look for qualities, ways of being, typical styles of doing things. And especially listen out for qualities of theirs that the client might not like.
For example: “I can sometimes doubt myself and I try hard not to show it”, can become the quality of “Intuition“. And being able to say in a meeting: “Actually, my intuition tells me there’s something we don’t quite understand here”, is a great partner to the quality of being “Direct“.
Keep going until you’ve identified number of qualities and have explored when they’re most useful and when they’re less useful.
The thing I love most about this technique is that you’re not so much asking someone to change, as actually helping them to bring out different aspects of who they really are, at times when that is useful for them. For me, this resolves the dichotomy I mentioned at the start, because you can both like all the qualities that represent your behaviours and be open to how they impact other people.