People Do Change, But We Don’t Change Them

People will surprise you. Executives who once dominated every conversation do sometimes transform themselves into great listeners. Visionaries can come to see the value of details and temper their imaginations with the realities of getting things done. Quiet and shy managers can develop the ability to give remarkable presentations that rally thousands of people to a common cause.

The moral of these stories is don’t assume that a person will never change.

The other moral is you can’t change people. Neither can I. The only person that can change a person is the person.

You can be honest with people, you can share observed behaviors in a professional manner, and you can put the person in situations that can increase his or her awareness for the need to change behaviors, but you can’t change the person. You can’t make the shy person a great presenter, you can’t make the dominating executive into a great listener, and you can’t force a dreamer to get excited about tactics. The only person you can change is you.

If the time comes that you have to make a decision about a person’s role in your organization and he or she has not consistently demonstrated the desired change in behavior, then you will need to move that person to a different role or let go of the person or continue to deal with the ramifications of the negative behaviors. All the hoping in the world is not going to change the person. All you can do is let the person know the behaviors you want to see, provide support and guidance if the person wants it, and then hold the person accountable for making those changes or not.

Don’t go into the situation assuming the person won’t change, but also don’t assume that you can force the change you want.

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