Creating Intentional Change

“Life is like a game of chess.
To win you have to make a move.
Knowing which move to make comes with IN-SIGHT and knowledge, and by learning the lessons that are accumulated along the way.”

Allan Rufus

Richard Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Model offers a structure for us to develop individual programmes that assist clients to move from their current “self” to their “ideal self” in the business environment. Every person seeking to understand, explore and undertake a process of personal development that is sustainable, needs to do so from an individual perspective and apply those newly acquired or enhanced skills in their contextual environment.

There is a vast difference between acquiring knowledge about a skill and actually demonstrating the changed behaviour. That is the cornerstone of the formulation of developmental programmes. We expect outcomes, changed behaviour, a picture that resembles our ideal selves. Therefore, each programme must be individualised and orientated around a particular individual’s needs, strengths and growth areas.

When an individual becomes aware of the dissonance between reality and desired perception, that self-awareness generates a need and, hopefully, an intrinsic motivation to learn and improve. Need manifests in a search, an exploration to find ways to acquire the wanted skills and knowledge. The most evident conclusion of Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Model is that the individual has to take charge of the change.

The model describes five criteria that an individual has to consider when intentionally changing. Whilst, for explanation purposes, it is convenient to separate the different criteria; it is important to understand that the process is not static, but organic as each individual’s process of development is fluid and unique.

Firstly, astutely determine and identify the “ideal self”. This incorporates existential questions such as: Who do I want to be? What is really important to me? Where would I like to be in the future?
These questions enable the individual to focus on introspection and understand what the goal of the process is. Asking the right questions will empower the individual to actively strategize and plan constructive steps to implement and generate change.

The perception acquired through the exploration of the “ideal self” will often indicate differences from the “real self” if the individual is aware of his/her reality. There is a reason that Plato stated, “Know thyself.” This is an understanding of where the individual is currently. It incorporates identification of individual strengths and areas of development. It is also important to take others’ opinion into consideration and this can be gathered through having the courage to ask, 360-feedback, observations and a willingness to receive feedback.

Through this new self-awareness, the individual is able to formulate a “change agenda”. At this point of the process, one has to ask what is needed to move to the “ideal self”. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound should be set as beacons against which the individual can measure the progress. Christopher Babson wrote, “If you don’t know exactly where you are going (and why), that is exactly where you will end up.” The focus should be on development and not condemnation.

Through the revelation of the “ideal self” and the establishment of goals, the individual should break those goals down into manageable objectives and plans. A personal programme will remain an idea if it is not acted upon. Therefore, the individual must experiment and practise within an environment that is objective and safe. It is through experimentation and practising that the individual can create opportunities for learning and be active in the learning process. As each individual has a unique brain preference and learning style, each individual will need specialised learning opportunities to benefit meritoriously.

The Intentional Change Model is grounded in strengthening and trusting relationships. This process (particularly when focusing on communicative development) is not a process that can be done in isolation, primarily because interpersonal fluency is dependent on interaction. It is vital that the individual is supported by and connected to people who can work closely with the individual to identify strengths and areas of development.

The focus remains on the specific individual throughout the process. That is why a personal programme for development is beneficial. The individual is able to explore the “real self” in an environment that is conducive to development and change. Together with a coach, the individual can identify areas of development and areas of strength. The individual can also experiment with different behaviours grounded in scientific research to find a communicative approach that is optimal for the individual. By practising in a safe environment, the individual will build confidence and will be able to apply the changed behaviour in the work environment and gauge the effectiveness of the new behaviour and the perceptions of peers, colleagues and superiors.

This worthwhile process requires time, dedication, commitment and will. These necessary qualities along with trusting relationships will ensure that the process will be beneficial and results will be a certainty. As Aristotle stated, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

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