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  • Writer's pictureJon Mechan

Putting Change Into Practice

I talk a lot in these articles about making changes, improvements, and evolutions in yourself and your leadership. The other day a client said to me "That's all very well, but how do I actually do it?", which is entirely reasonable feedback.

I've talked in the past about experimentation, and today I want to share some ways about how to put changes into practice.


In a research exercise a few years ago participants rated how effectively they picked up new skills based on how they learned. 70% of the knowledge was learned via challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from mentoring and coaching, and 10% from training.

This is why every good coach will make sure you have follow-up actions between sessions, if you're working on something where that would make sense.

Putting what you've learned via training, or discovered through coaching into practice is a critical step in making the changes you want to see in yourself a reality. Part of the growth experience is for you to identify where you can practice the new skill.

It's important to stress that all three methods are relevant and should be used - not only experiential learning, but also identifying appropriate coaches or mentors, and formal training.

So how are you going to go about it?

See One, Do One, Teach One

An old adage from the world of surgery, using this approach can be tremendously effective.

Take the example of wanting to improve your presentation skills. You could begin by perhaps watching some TED talks and presentations from people who you admire and would like to (loosely) imitate. Then you can put the things you've observed into your own presentations. Finally, you can teach what you've learned to your team members or to a mentee.

For the "Do One" phase, you'll want to practice the skill yourself. Start small - put some ideas and techniques into a presentation to your team to begin with. Then work your way up to your boss or other senior stakeholders. Then perhaps look for some small public speaking opportunities, and grow that as you see fit. All along the journey make sure you're getting feedback from people you trust. Record the presentations and review them yourself and with a coach or colleague. Put that feedback into practice.

The last step is actually the hardest - in order to be able to "teach one" effectively you'll find you have to achieve some level of mastery in the subject. You'll probably need to do some research and think carefully about how you went about being successful in order to share that knowledge with others.

It should probably be something like "See a few, Do a lot, get some feedback, do some more, then you can Teach one", but that doesn't roll off the tongue so easily.

The very act of teaching means you need to have your thoughts on the subject organized.


A client of mine is currently working on a large organizational transformation. Part of this involves stakeholder management at a senior level that he wants to build his experience in. We're starting off with him practicing his message with execs that he already has a good relationship with and creating a feedback loop, and from there he'll expand outward to the wider audience. We're firmly in the "do a lot" phase. Once he's mastered this he will pass it on to his managers, as they will take on more of this responsibility going forward.


Triple-Loop Learning

A lot of what I've talked about above is skills-based - i.e. how you do something. That's the first loop in triple-loop learning. The second is in how you think about the change you're wanting to make. Are you doing the right things? What's the mentality with which you want to approach the new skill? The final loop is the being loop - who do you have to be to achieve your desired outcome?

Let's use our presentation example again - we've covered a lot of the 'do' loop - how you can practice your new skill. What would you do to think about it differently? Where could you explore new ideas or alternative approaches?

The 'being' loop is the hardest...and perhaps most interesting. Who do you need to be? How do you want to internalize these new skills? Who do you want to become?

The important part about all of this is ensuring you have feedback loops. Make sure you're reflecting on what you're doing (or thinking, or being) and using that reflection to expand your options and change what you choose to do next.

What are you going to practice this week?

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