Last month, we dealt with the biggest mistakes we make when trying to change people. Let’s now work through a more effective model.

Here is a quick recap of the Accomplishing Real Change (Part I and Part II) blogs from the last two months:

Before we can change how others engage with us, we must experience real change within ourselves. To learn how to start this process, we discussed four steps:

    1. Find a good principle
    2. Accept the principle as true and valid
    3. Apply the principle to who you are
    4. Practice until ‘caught’

We cannot change people who refuse to embrace humility. We can only be an example of humility. We cannot change people we don’t know and interact with regularly. We can, however, impact people we don’t know and inspire them to desire to change. We cannot change who people really are on the inside, as in their DNA and personality traits. But we can change how they engage with us and others.

The biggest mistakes we tend to make when trying to get people to change are:

    1. Get on their case
    2. Set improper expectations
    3. Refuse to look inwardly
    4. Give up

Now, let’s dive into proper steps to take to help others change:


While mistake number one involves getting on another person’s case, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t confront the issue; especially when the behavior comes from another team member. But confronting an issue and getting on someone’s case are two different things.

Getting on someone’s case is often perceived as an attack on their identity. Confronting an issue is when we address an unproductive behavior constructively. For example, Joe is prone to making condescending remarks to other team members. We can:

  1. Get on Joe’s case: “Joe, you can be a real jerk sometimes. Why are you always so negative and rude to others?”
  2. Or, confront the issue: “Joe, you might not always be aware, but your tone can come across as condescending towards others. Condescending tones are not effective within our team.”

Notice how number one says, “Joe, who you are, is a problem.” Whereas number two states, “Joe, this particular behavior is a problem.”


Even when productively confronting an issue, individuals can still feel discouraged if they are unaware of their behavior and don’t believe that is how they come across. After confronting a problem, it’s important to encourage. If an individual is left discouraged, trying to modify their behavior becomes more difficult.

Several years ago, a Regional VP that worked for a company I consulted put a Direct Report on a Development Plan. The individual placed on the Development Plan was a high producer but had some behavioral struggles. It was very upsetting to him when he found out about the Development Plan. He became discouraged and assumed he would be fired.

However, the Regional VP was once put on a Development Plan within the same company. He was able to turn things around and eventually became promoted to a Regional VP position. When asked if he had told his Direct Report any of this to help encourage him, he replied, “No, the thought didn’t even cross my mind. But I will now!”

Relating your own struggles or connecting with the individual is often enough to encourage them.


In the example I gave last month about the company that at first, didn’t think they had the time needed to help their employee change, it was because of this step. They didn’t want to take the time to be persistent. If the problem is a blind spot for the individual in question, it will take constant attention.

Every single time the unproductive behavior occurs, it must be immediately addressed. When I say every single time, I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME. That sounds like a lot of work. It really isn’t. Not for an employee, or a relationship, that is worth keeping.

By confronting the behavior each time, it helps the individual start to recognize it on their own. Each confrontation gives them examples they can recall, to remind them of what is unproductive. Eventually, it will click, and they will begin to catch it themselves.


If an individual starts to recognize their behavior and accept it as unproductive, direct them to the four steps covered in Part I. That way, they can continue to work on the behavior themselves in other areas of life. Help them find a principle that they see as true and valid. Allow them to apply the principle in their own way. Encourage them to continue practicing the principle.