Jan 26 2016

Immunity to Change – facing your fears for sustainable personal change

IMG_1828In my previous posts on the Immunity to Change (ITC) model, I explained how to create an Improvement Goal that will provide the focus for over-turning your immunity to change and also how to use the X-Ray map to audit which of your behaviours that may be working against you achieving your Improvement Goal. In this final post, I explore the third and fourth steps in the X-Ray mapping process that take place before coaching begins. I also touch on the coaching arc and how the Immunity to Change approach can be applied to different situations and leadership challenges.

So, let’s move on from the behaviours audit and begin to get under the skin of your behaviours and how they may be acting to protect you. The behaviours in the audit, mentioned in the last post, are all designed to help you avoid facing the fear of what might happen if you actually did move towards your Improvement Goal. However, unless these fears are named and challenged, they will continue to keep you in a place of no progress. Let’s consider an example from the first post. The person’s Improvement Goal is to delegate more, yet one of the things the person does that works against their goal, is that they often do the work themselves because they believe delegating would compromise quality.

So, what fears might arise if the person did in fact delegate the work and quality were compromised?

A fear might be: I’ll get reprimanded OR my career will suffer OR I’ll look like a weak manager OR I’ll be embarrassed. Any of these fears could stop the person from delegating and unconsciously causes them to commit to actually not changing. These are called “Hidden Competing Commitments”. They are made clear and visible using a particular phrase:

I am committed to not being embarrassed OR

I am committed to not looking like a weak manager.

To recap, we have named an Improvement Goal, audited the behaviours we are enacting that work against the Improvement Goal, named the fears that cause the behaviours to be a sensible response and then made visible the Hidden Competing Commitment that acts as a counter-balance to the improvement goal. This system shows the Immunity to Change. For example, this person is committed to delegating more and at the same time is unconsciously committed to not looking like a weak manager or being embarrassed. While these two commitments compete with each other, progress is impossible.

The last part of the X-Ray mapping process is the “Big Assumption”. Any fear-based commitment will be underpinned by a big, scary assumption about what might happen if the fear came true. However, most assumptions are not completely true, all the time YET for the person who holds the assumption, they feel like they are always pretty much true and the consequences will be painful. Some Big Assumptions that might be true of the person struggling to delegate are:

If I look like a weak manager, then people won’t respect me

If I look like a weak manager, then I will be shamed

If I look like a weak manager, my career will stall and I’ll eventually be made to leave.

So, we now have a complete system. Our doom-laden, black and white assumptions about what might happen if we attempted our Improvement Goal but failed in some way, are so powerful that it is safer not to attempt the goal at all. Procrastination, avoidance and trying hard but ineffectively all protect us from making progress.

Once a number of Big Assumptions have surfaced, the coaching arc can begin. The aim of the one-to-one coaching is to challenge the Big Assumption and develop data which proves that it is not always true. Even if it is true 90% of the time, discovering that it is not true 10% of the time can make for a big shift in progress towards the Improvement Goal.

The coaching arc focuses purely on challenging and over-turning the Big Assumption that is blocking change. Typically it is a journey of self-reflection, observation of the Big Assumption in action and running initially modest and safe tests to gather data to shift and disprove Big Assumption. As the person’s confidence grows and disconfirming evidence is gathered, the Big Assumption loses its powerful grip and makes way for new ways of behaving and achieving the Improvement Goal.

Immunity to Change coaching can be used one-to-one with individual leaders. It is particularly relevant for leaders who have the potential to grow (or need to grow by necessity) in areas of their development that have proved resistant to progress despite initiatives such as mentoring and training.

It can also be used with teams that need to make a shift in their performance and impact in specific areas that have proven immune to progress. In the case of teams, before the team X-Ray map is created, each team member would have an X-Ray map facilitated on an professional Improvement Goal. The individual maps enable the team members to get comfortable with the Immunity to Change approach before coming together as a a team and also experience its process, power and impact too. Once the individual maps have been produced, a team X-Ray map is created at a specific team event.

For some teams, the process stops once they have named and explored their Big Assumptions. For other teams, each team member would then be coached on an individual Improvement Goal that contributes to the team Improvement Goal being achieved. In this instance, an initial survey would be sent to chosen colleagues to assess the coachee’s current level of development on the Improvement Goal. The survey is then repeated again once the coaching is complete. The survey is simple and straight-forward and being so goal specific, it is less onerous to complete than a traditional 360 survey.

The Immunity to Change experience is very new to the UK. In fact, currently there are only two licensed ITC coaches in the UK and Neill and I will be the third and fourth. If you’re interested in finding out more please email us at enquiries@lcp.org.uk or call 01273 590232.

This post has been written by Trevor Cousins an LCP executive and business coach.

The previous posts can be found below:

Immunity to Change – a model to support personal insight and change

Immunity to Change Model – working on adaptive change

Immunity to Change – creating an “Improvement Goal”

Immunity to Change (ITC) Model and the X-Ray Map


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