The 4 Parts of the Wheel of Change

Behavioral change is one of the most difficult things to accomplish.  In Marshall Goldsmith’s book, Triggers, he uses a device called the Wheel of Change to address behavioral changes both on a personal and collaborative level.  The main point is to actually reflect on how we want to improve as individuals, as well as a team. How often do we talk about that as a department, a family or as an individual?  Unless you are being coached, it’s not likely it’s being discussed.


This is a great tool to use to coach yourself on a regular basis.  It’s divided into four areas: Creating, Eliminating, Preserving, and Accepting.  It’s relatively easy to look at what you want to do going forward when it’s broken up in this way.  I like the fact that it’s a form of forward-thinking, instead of the traditional approach of dredging up blame and scapegoats.  This is a much more positive experience.  It’s similar to when I’m working with a client and they haven’t done the exercise they’d set out to do.  Questions to consider:  “No sweat. Is it still important to you?  Should it be phrased a different way so that you’ll feel forward motion?”  I have a client who walks at work but not on his treadmill at home.  So he won’t count that as exercise.  I’ve asked him, “Is your heart rate elevated?  Would those steps count on a Fitbit?”  “Yes. Hmmm.  Maybe it is exercise and you’re not giving yourself credit.”  It’s amazing how we won’t give ourselves credit for what we actually accomplish.  Being forward-focused instead of berating the client for not achieving what they said they wanted to achieve can make a huge difference in accomplishing goals.


Here are the four parts of the wheel of change:


  • Creating.  This is the innovation or creation portion of the wheel.  What do you add or invent?  When I work with teams, I ask what do we want to do differently?  Sometimes it might mean adding a team member who can bring a different perspective.  Sometimes you decide that you want to use a different software to track progress going forward.  I recently decided that I wanted to perfect my team facilitation skills and committed to reading more about the topic for 30 minutes a day.  So I added it to my schedule.  I created a new habit to help me increase my knowledge and skills in a certain area.  What about you?  What do you want to add to your life that will make you a better contributor, husband, partner or accountant?  What can your team add to make it work more effectively, serve the customer better or improve quality?


  • Eliminating.  This is eradicating or reducing things that are outdated and ineffective. What do we need to eliminate?  When I work with teams, I ask, “What should we do less of?”  It may be eliminating a step in the process that doesn’t make sense now that we are paperless.  It may be reducing the meeting time from one hour to 15 minutes to keep everyone more efficient and on-task.  It might be reducing your commute by moving closer to the office.  I eliminated actually putting together my weekly newsletter and delegated it to my daughter.  She earns money as my virtual assistant and I save time not having to do something, that for me, is tedious and not the best use of my time.  Organizations frequently get wrapped up in the status quo and never think that maybe if they eliminated a particular technology that has been around since the company was founded, they would have forward motion instead of being dragged down by old technology.  What do you need to eliminate?


  • Preserving.  What do we need to improve or maintain?  When I work with teams, I ask, “What do we need to keep?”  The answer might be “a sense of humor” or “meeting times”.  It’s likely the heart of the organization likes family values.  I also love when I work with teams and one of their values is fun.  Isn’t that something you want to preserve and enhance?  Don’t you want to be on a team that values fun? Sometimes we want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Taking time to reflect on what you want to keep in your life is important.  Personally, my husband and I eat dinner together every day.  I remember when he first started living with my children and me, he suggested we eat dinner together as a family.  This has been a uniting ritual.  So now, even though the kids are long gone from the house, we maintain this nightly ritual of eating together.  What do you need to preserve?


  • Accepting.  What do we need to delay or make peace with?  This is an important piece of the wheel.  We can spend a lot of energy getting angry or resenting something when what we really need to do is just make peace with it.  I was in a job where there were one or two sacred cows in the organization.   I spent a lot of time getting angry about the sacred cow.  “They never show up.  They never do the job.  What are we doing with these folks?”  Problem was that the powers that be had no issue with the performance and had no intention of eliminating them.  When my energy around it turned into one of acceptance, I became much happier.  I didn’t have to spend my time focusing on their failures.  Let it be.   It might be that you don’t have the capital right now to spend on improvements.  Maybe it needs to be delayed until 2017.  What do you need to accept?


The important thing about the Wheel of Change is that all four areas need to be addressed.  This makes sense.  An example that Goldsmith uses in his book is of his client who wants to preserve his family, eliminate his commute, create a new commute and accept that he wasn’t good at golf.  He decided that he would move from the suburbs of New Jersey to Manhattan, reducing his 3-hour daily commute to a 10-minute walk.  So he gave up golf and is spending more time with his family.  They are all interconnected.  What do you want to work on?

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