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We love talking about change. Changing the way we eat, changing our bodies, and the process of change in itself. But we’re not alone in that we love to talk about change. That extends to our members as well, and how could it not? When you go through the process of changing your approach to food and your body, most of us want to talk about that. And today, we’re using our blog as a platform for one of you, an SU Member, to talk about change. This blog post was originally published by SU Member Lisa Whited. Lisa works in change management and during her time with Stronger U she noticed plenty of similarities between how Stronger U operates and what she does in her work. Lisa decided to collect her thoughts in a blog post and was kind enough to let us repost it. Thank you, Lisa!

As I was mulling over the possible content of this article, I reviewed some of the posts from the past couple of years. Many of them speak to the changing role of facility managers and how a greater increase in agile and remote working might impact the FM’s work and responsibilities. Yet, even the prescient authors of those articles could not have imagined how quickly their words would ring true in 2020 due to COVID-19.

I am not going to try to predict the future world of facility management or come up with the next best list of 10 things you should focus on now to ensure success in the new world, although I have many thoughts and opinions on both! Instead, I’m going to share a personal story about transformation because these days it feels as if the only thing we can control is our own personal action. Yet, I think you will find that my story relates to the work you do in workplaces with employees, so please read on.

On March 30th I declared to my husband and teenage sons that I was going to lose weight so that my actual weight matched the weight on my driver’s license (the number had remained unchanged since the original license was issued to me in the 80s). I had carried an extra 8+ pounds for more than 15 years, despite being a dedicated gym rat for the past 3 years. “I have no excuses – we are not going to be going out to eat because of lockdown. If not now, when?”, I bravely announced.

16 weeks later I had lost not only the 8, but an additional 5 pounds and am now working to get in better shape than I was in my 20s. Why was this time different than numerous previous attempts? There are three specific things that supported a successful outcome. When I reflected on them, I believe these factors are required for just about any positive transformation – whether personal change or organizational/systematic change.

I have been successful because I:

  • Was committed to a vision for myself
  • Had an expert coach with a proven track record
  • Found a supportive community of people working toward a similar goal

I also had recently read James Clear’s Atomic Habits and gained a solid understanding of how to create good habits and break bad ones. (That is one book I believe everyone should read – I have made it required reading in our house and instructed my son that he needs to finish it before heading to college in the fall.)

Commitment + Vision

I’ve believed in the importance of visioning for decades, since I first experienced the power of writing down goals at the age of 18 and then discovered that list a few years later, amazed that all had come true. In that entry I had imagined my ideal day and focused on the type of work I would do, the car I would drive and the person I would marry. At age 26 I came across that journal page (titled, “My Ideal Day In 5 Years”) and chuckled to myself that I had described my future vision so well – it had come about even though the actual journal had long been forgotten.

After more experience with strategic planning on volunteer boards, coupled with obtaining a graduate degree in management and organization, I rounded out my understanding of vision clarification. Numerous books, including Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, Jim Collins From Good To Great, and even Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, reiterated how important vision and purpose is when attempting change and engaging people in transformation.

Reference the sidebar for two specific exercises for clarifying vision that I love to use when working with individuals or groups.

Coach with a proven track record

I’ve tried nutrition programs before – from Weight Watchers to intermittent fasting to working with a dietician – yet had not been successful in losing the extra pounds that had hung around for too long. Even with going to the gym five or more days a week, working cardio and weights, my weight had not shifted (and, no, I couldn’t say it was gained muscle – my clothes fit the same). Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

Through a friend, I discovered Stronger U, which is a nutrition program grounded in research and science and focused on macros (you count grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein). You also have a coach assigned to work with you. Weekly check-in sessions with your coach reviewing your daily entries are invaluable because it is through the reported data that trends and patterns are spotted.

All of this is well and good, and many nutrition programs may provide a similar program – but Stronger U has 30,000 people who have successfully engaged in their program. The track record of proven results – along with my friend’s ringing endorsement – encouraged me to jump in with both feet.

Supportive community

My favorite part of my weight loss transformation has been the community of encouraging people I found online through the Stronger U Facebook group. Information sharing and cheering each other’s successes has been a key difference that, I believe, led to my positive results. When you know others have either gone through, or are currently going through, similar challenges, you experience a built-in connection. People naturally want to help others – so if I post a question, I am guaranteed to get not just one, but multiple replies within a very short window.

Building community can also be an outcome of an organizational change initiative. What I mean by that is when you have an organizational or departmental change that you need to make come about, it is through the process of discussion and education that you can build deeper connections among employees. The Stronger U community remains intact; even after members leave the program they have access to the group knowledge and education.

The habit loop

It is safe to say that a huge percentage of how we go about our days – especially our workdays – is based upon habits. Certainly, learning new practices that allowed me to lose weight required me to learn good new habits and break bad ones (hello protein powder and weighing food, goodbye mindless snacking while scrolling.)

Last year I read Atomic Habits by James Clear because I was interested in furthering my understanding of how new habits can be introduced into groups of people in the workplace. To my mind, workplaces are one big petri dish of habits. (Take note if you are now in charge of getting employees back into offices where they will have to form many new habits – from sanitizing hands, to staying six feet apart to wearing masks. You will want to read this book.)

Clear explains how our brain creates new habits and distills how tiny changes can make a big difference. Cue, craving, response, reward is called the “Habit Loop.” An example: At 3:00 PM I have low energy and poor focus (cue). I want a change from working at my laptop (craving). I go to the kitchen (response) and find a cookie (reward.) Repeated actions cement this as a negative habit for me – especially if I’m trying to lose weight. As Clear writes, “…the feedback loop is an endless cycle that is running every moment you are alive. This ‘habit loop’ is continually scanning the environment, predicting what will happen next, trying different responses, and learning from the results.”

Tying it all together

A client recently described to me what he was experiencing during this lockdown period: “I feel like when water and oil are first mixed together. It’s been a few months of working from home, and we are blended right now – everyone is working pretty well – but it is only a matter of time when we will separate again.” He was capturing the tenuous nature of planning for an uncertain future. “How do I know what to plan in our real estate portfolio – feeling fairly certain that we have more space than we need?” he asked.

I didn’t have a pat answer for him, and that isn’t necessarily what he was looking for anyway. But I could suggest a path forward that allows him and his organization to reimagine their world of work (clarify vision and commitment), guide him through a process (be a trusted coach), and connect him to others who are working through similar issues (a supportive peer-to-peer community).

Whether you want to tackle a personal transformation or are spearheading a change for your company, I encourage you to grab this moment in time to use the power you have to make a difference for yourself, your organization, or the world. What do you want to change? Now is a great time!

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