A new year always brings thoughts about changes we want to make. Lose weight, eat a healthier diet, learn something new, or change a behavior that’s holding us back in some way. Let me make it easier for you by recommending a book loaded with hands-on diagnostics, compelling case studies, and practical tools to make changes you truly WANT to make, but have historically been unsuccessful. Applying these tools and techniques can transform your work and personal life.
I’ve found great success with my coaching clients and for myself. Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey has proven to be one of my favorites! Here’s why:
- Details about HOW to apply the tools, which can be done on your own, OR will a coach or colleague/friend
- Offers specific case studies on topics that are relevant and may apply directly to the change you want to make
- Is practical and clearly outlines what’s going on in our mindset that is preventing a desired change
I’m not saying that the work that has to be done to use the tools is necessarily easy. It’s going to take an honest, introspective look in the mirror. However, the payoff is tremendous.
The title, Immunity to Change, uses the analogy of our body’s immune system. It’s there to fight off foreign invaders to keep us safe and healthy. Through their research about the evolution of mental development, Kegan and Lahey discovered a “master motive” that keeps working to maintain the current way of operating. “A hidden dynamic that actively (and brilliantly) prevents us from changing because of its devotion to preserving our existing way of making meaning.”
The tool, often referred to as a person’s Immunity Map or X-Ray is a simple four-column worksheet.
- Column 1 – Commitment (Improvement goals)
- Column 2 – Doing/not doing instead (behaviors that work against the goals)
- Column 3 – Hidden competing commitments
- Column 4 – Big assumptions
One aspect of completing this worksheet that unlocked my understanding of how to use the tool effectively is understanding the difference between “technical solutions” vs. “adaptive solutions.”
A technical solution is about fixing the behaviors that show up in column two. The goals listed in column 1 represent an adaptive challenge, (e.g., Be more receptive to new ideas; Be more open to delegating and giving authority), and require an adaptive solution.
The technical solutions are more about an external perspective – behaviors that can be observed. Adaptive solutions get at what’s going on inside – our mindset. It’s the world of our thinking and feeling.
Instead of thinking about the behaviors that just need to go away, consider those behaviors as valuable information to understand what is really going on. Those behaviors are symptoms of something else, rather than “the thing itself.”
That third column is a window into WHY the behaviors persist in column 2 – those hidden commitments that drive the demonstration of those behaviors. We are often completely unaware of them until we look closely – like what we often see in an X-ray. It begins to reveal why change is so difficult.
The fourth column asks for the big assumptions tied to what is in column 3. They are the tenets of our mental models and are believed to be TRUE. They may be true, but not necessarily. Our assumptions are based on our experiences and backgrounds.
Here’s the kicker. Many of our assumptions are based on fear. Fear of losing my job/credibility, fear of being seen as weak, fear of not being in control, etc. We have to test those assumptions to validate they are true.
To fully appreciate how powerful this tool can be, I recommend you listen to a 2-part demonstration with one of the authors, Lisa Lahey, on Brene Brown’s, Dare to Lead, podcast.
Episode 1 with Lisa Lahey: Immunity to Change
Episode 2 with Lisa Lahey: Immunity to Change
I hope that 2023 is the year you can bring about the changes you really WANT to make and find using these tools a positive step in making the change(s) stick!
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or share your change stories with her via email at email@example.com.