Please refresh my profile picture in your mind

Please refresh my profile picture in your mind

When a leader undergoes coaching, especially to address some aspects of his or her style or behavior based on feedback, one of the biggest challenges that the leader faces is this:

The people around the leader have a certain image or picture of the leader, which is quite strongly engraved in their minds. Now, as the leader works with a coach and genuinely begins to take efforts to make changes respecting the feedback received, it is quite likely that the people around him or her may not be willing to refresh what I call the profile picture that they have of the leader in their mind.

In that sense, many can be quite unforgiving in holding on to their past experiences, past impressions and judgments of that leader. This can often make things very difficult for the leader who is genuinely attempting to change.
So, what can the leader do in such a situation? What can the coach do to help this leader face these inevitable challenges in this journey of change?

There are a few possibilities.

Firstly, as long as the changes that the leader is wanting to make are private and secret and others around have no visibility into what the leader is attempting to change, they are less likely to take an empathetic view towards these efforts. I encourage all my coaches to share with their stakeholders what they are trying to change as well as the efforts they are taking in this direction. Announcing their intention is the first starting point.

Secondly, I suggest that they enlist the support of this group to give them real -time feedback as they are attempting to make these changes. Now, enlisting the support of your friends and well-wishers is often easier than enlisting the support of your greatest critics, but it is the greatest critics whose support one needs to enlist because they are the ones who are likely to hold on to past experiences much more strongly than your dear friends. Letting them know about the genuine efforts you are making can help heal the relationship and also get good feedback. Of course, this calls for real emotional courage.

Thirdly, sharing and disclosing some of the struggles and dilemmas in the journey of change with the community around you can make it easier for them to empathize, respect and hopefully start looking for evidence of what has shifted rather than looking for evidence of what has not shifted.

Finally, it is not about whether you changed or not. It is about whether people are beginning to perceive that you have changed. That perception is not as factual as we would like it to be, but is colored by the past experiences and impressions of you. So, while it is important to change, it is much equally important to take the support of other people around you when you’re changing.

Only then can we hope that others will refresh their profile picture of you!