Choosing Better Thoughts for Continuous Improvement Coaching | 043
Welcome to Lean Leadership for Ops Managers, the podcast for leaders in Ops Management who want to spark improvement, foster engagement, and boost problem solving – AND still get their day job done. Here’s your host, Leadership Trainer, Lean Enthusiast, and Spy Thriller Junkie, Jamie V. Parker.
[00:00:29] It’s one thing to become aware of the thoughts that aren’t serving you, but how do you actually change them? How do you choose thoughts that will yield better results? And what’s the relevance in Lean leadership, improvement, Kata and coaching? While this episode is relevant for everyone, it’s particularly on point for the CI practitioners, the lean coaches, the problem-solving mentors, and the career coaches. This one’s really targeted for you.
Now, last week I introduced you to Brooke Castillo Self-coaching Thought model. Right? This is the CTFAR. Circumstance. There’s a circumstance that happens that creates a thought. You have a thought about that circumstance. Your thought then creates a feeling. An emotion, a feeling state. From that state of feeling you take an action and the action you take drives your result.
Now, I shared one of my biggest learnings. Here’s what it was. Ready? I get to choose my thoughts. How liberating! I get to choose my thoughts. And so do you.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds, at least if you want to actually get to the point of fully believing that thought so that it produces the feeling and the action and the result.
Here’s the thing, using the CTFAR, Self-Coaching Thought Model and choosing your thoughts is not like positive affirmations. I don’t have anything against positive affirmations. You do you. Go ahead and stand in your power pose and say amazing things to yourself. I’m all good with that.
But when I want to practice changing my thought so that it then produces a more productive, different feeling, and that feeling then prompts me to take a more productive, a better action so that I get a better result.
Well, guess what? Positive affirmation ain’t gonna cut it, because I have to believe the thought I choose. So if my current thought is I hate broccoli, I can’t just declare I love broccoli as a new thought and then start actually eating broccoli every day and say yum, yum, right. Because I don’t actually believe it.
So when we choose new thoughts, sometimes we’re making smaller successive shifts instead of going all the way from I hate broccoli to I love broccoli, we might just choose a more neutral thought to begin with.
Now, look, I know this is kind of an absurd example, and I actually do enjoy broccoli, but bear with me through it.
All right. Just to demonstrate. So here are some different thoughts I might choose when my current thought is “I hate broccoli”, but I’m not ready to go to “I love broccoli.” Right.
So I might choose the thought: I haven’t found broccoli seasoned the way I like it yet.
And by doing this, it’s allowing for this possibility that maybe I will one day, right? This is a little bit of shift, a little bit of a shift. I might be able to believe that maybe my taste buds have changed since I last tried broccoli. Again, it’s giving this possibility. The last time I tried it was 12 years ago and I hated it. And I’m never trying it again.
Or: I’m open to trying foods multiple times.
So I might start with these successive shifts, instead of saying my new thought is I love broccoli.
[00:04:28] And I might move my thought to a more neutral ground first, and I’m going to practice that thought every day. I’m going to write it down. I’m to say it out loud. And once I believe it right, I’m like, yes, I believe this- this isn’t questionable. I’m 80 percent that is there. I’m there.
Then I might shift to something a little closer and then I repeat that cycle a little bit closer, and so depending on how big of a shift you’re trying to make, that iterative thought movement might take weeks or months.
OK, now, not everything has to be like that sometimes, let’s say, particularly when I’m thinking about productive conflict, like she stole the credit on purpose.
And I might say, oh, that was probably unintentional.
So this is how I kind of reframe that thought in a way where I can do that probably pretty easily. Pretty quickly. I can go from “She stole the credit on purpose” to “That was probably unintentional”
Or I might say that. Let’s say somebody I’m having a disagreement with. Somebody or somebody does something at work or we’re in a meeting and he interrupts me and I say
Gosh, you know, my thought is that he always cuts me off. He always cuts me off. He’s so disrespectful. He always interrupts.
And I might say instead, yeah, he probably doesn’t even know he’s doing it.
So those are examples of moving to a neutral thought that you can do just right away, particularly as it relates to our workplaces and interpersonal communication and productive conflict and all that kind of stuff.
[00:06:09] But when you’re trying to make a bigger shift, you might have to go through iterative cycles to get closer to that. Now, the other thing I want to tell you is that it’s not uncommon when you’re making one of those bigger iterative shifts. And I say that because a lot of you are doing problem solving coaching where we don’t know the answer. You might do Kata coaching or PDSA or A3, and we’ve got to work through a lot of stuff. We don’t know the answer.
Well, in this case, the other thing is that it’s not uncommon that those first few thoughts you try on just not really be the right ones. So I know in the last episode I told you that, you know, where I really dug into this is when I had a one on one life coach.
I spent two years working with a one on one life coach. And she had me doing these thought models where I could write out five or six or 12, you know, thought models over and over again. And I can even remember this one time where I was super upset about something personal.
My mind was spinning. I couldn’t sleep, but it was midnight, so it was way too late to call or text my coach.
So I got up with a notebook. Right.
I got out of bed, got a notebook, and I started doing these models.
And the first thing I did is I wrote the current state thought model three or four times, like trying to understand what am I actually feeling right now, what thought is causing that feeling. And so I went through three or four or five of those, however, many of those just so I could really get a better grasp on what was really bothering me.
Then I started writing out Possible Future State Thought Models, and I probably wrote like 20 of these future state thought models out and not all of them were great.
But I just need to go through that process, write it out, write about what’s a possibility, what’s a possibility, what’s possibility.
[00:07:53] So here I am sitting in this dimly lit room. I’m crying, just bawling my eyes out, writing these thought models for an hour. But you know what? At the end of an hour, I have this big burden lifted, I got a great night’s sleep and I woke up without the emotional drama that normally would have followed me for a week. It was really cathartic.
And my level of belief in the future state thought when I started that process at midnight was non-existent, like when I wrote the first one or two or three future state thought model like I didn’t believe that stuff.
I’ll just write it down. But by the time I got to the end, I legitimately felt like things would be OK.
I mean, maybe I didn’t get to the point where I’m like, life is awesome.
But I genuinely believed without a doubt, I’m going to be OK.
So the process of going through those cycles actually led to the stronger belief, right, kind of that repetition, and you might need repetition when you’re changing your thoughts.
So it’s not something that we just like spend five minutes on. What we’re talking about, these big shifts. I’m not talking about the everyday thing examples, I guess, but we’re talking about the big shifts. It’s probably not enough for me just to say at one time, be like, OK, cool. Now I have this new belief.
I probably have to bring it up multiple times. All right, tangent done there.
[00:09:22] Now for you, coaches, I want to bring this up because this whole idea can be really relevant when you’re coaching problem solving. So, so much of our coaching cycles in problem solving is focused on what? The action, right, what action will I take to learn something? What experiment will I try? What will I do as my next step?
And sometimes there are thoughts that are holding us back that we need to uncover, like belief barriers or belief breakthroughs, whatever you want to call them.
So I want to tell you about a friend of mine who is writing a book and she’s using the Improvement Kata process to help her stay on task and write this book.
So she has a Kata coach and a Kata storyboard. And she was kind enough to do a little presentation for me and some other women about how they were applying improvement and coaching Kata to this book writing process and the process she had been through in her iterative cycles over the last several months.
A common obstacle in writing a book is like, how are you going to actually write? How often, for what duration and when will you do the work of writing?
Because we’re all busy. But the book will not happen if you do not write.
So that was an obstacle for her as well.
Now, when I think about this, I might start by saying, oh, I’m going to get up early and write for 30 minutes at five a.m. every weekday, or I’m going to write for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday after the kids go to bed or whatever your idea or plan or experiment might be.
But then it doesn’t happen. And you start going through the experiment record process and you research this and you try that and you shift here and eventually you may find a good routine that works for you.
Well, for my friend, she was going through this process. And it turns out that some of the obstacles were actually thoughts, they were belief barriers, the thoughts, the belief challenges, those are what she had to overcome.
[00:11:18] And I say this because when we think about problem solving routines and how we’re coaching, we’ve got to be aware of how this thought model works. We need to know that sometimes the action that we take or the inaction, the thing we didn’t do is really grounded in the thoughts that aren’t serving us.
So when the learner is working on obstacles, you might want to explore what thought obstacles might exist.
When the learner is developing their next step to try, maybe it’ll be related to some CTFAR footwork.
When you ask the learner, what did you learn, allow for the learning to not just be the stuff that’s directly related to the work and to the experiment, allow for what else? What else did you learn? What did you learn about yourself, about your motivation, about your triggers, about what feeling state produces the most helpful actions.
You might even want to directly explore some thought models and consider: How can we choose thoughts that yield better results?
If our underlying beliefs influence our feelings and actions, then what would we need to believe, what would we need to believe with a passion to have the best chance of achieving our desired future state?
[00:12:47] All right, now, you know, I like to leave you with the next step. So last week you were uncovering your automatic or subconscious thoughts, right?
Two weeks ago, we really try to dig into the stories, those dramatic stories we tell ourselves. Last week, we were looking at our thoughts. What are some of those thoughts that we don’t even realize kind of beneath the surface a little bit.
Mine might be some legitimate thoughts over the last week:
“She’s so annoying and over the top,” I have that thought.
“I don’t have time, I’m so overwhelmed.”
“I just can’t even, I’m never going to achieve this goal, so why bother?”
And “I can’t do both this and that well, so I’m just going to have to choose because it’s not possible for me to do both of them well.”
So those are some of my examples just in the last week.
Here’s your next step: what thought or belief did you have that’s not serving you well.
And for that one thought or belief, just choose one, you might have 10 of them, but just choose one thought or belief, I want you to write down ten other possible thoughts that could possibly serve you better.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not looking for a home run. Just possible thoughts that could possibly serve you better.
And remember that these can range. It might be those completely positive, opposite thoughts. Right. Like, of course, I can achieve both this and that. I’m a rockstar.
Or maybe it’s something that’s more neutral, like maybe you’re just moving to a more neutral thought.
So see if you can come up with ten possible thoughts that could maybe serve you better.
Until next time.