Real value from your journey through LEAD 365, or any leader development engagement, only happens when something changes in your behavior. Knowing something doesn’t bring value—unless it leads to doing something in a better way.

Learning a new concept or re-learning a concept you hadn’t thought about for a while doesn’t make you better unless you apply it—unless you really live it. Knowing something but not acting on it can show up as being a know it all: “Yeah, I already know that.”

My experience is that people that really know something in such a way that they’re really trying to live it understand how difficult it is and as such, they tend not to come off as a know-it-all. I have to admit, I have been that know-it-all person at times so I can speak from experience.

Examples are often a great way to communicate a concept, so let me use an example here: Let’s say the thing we’re talking about is listening. I know most of the interesting research and knowledge about how to listen well, but I often don’t listen well. I’m tempted when I hear someone talk about how to listen well, or when I read another article or book on the importance of listening to say to myself, “I already know that—nothing new to learn here.”

What I need to be saying to myself is, “I already know this information, but am I applying it?” If my answer is no, then I need to go deeper and figure out why I’m not acting on what I claim to know. Many years ago I remember hearing Ken Blanchard—a legendary leadership expert—say that the gap between what I know and what I do is much larger than the gap between what I don’t know and what I need to know. I agree with him. Most of us know enough. Most of us don’t apply it enough.

Real growth isn’t captured in what we know. Real growth is captured in what we do.

Really learning something—like how to listen—usually requires going deep. To start actually listening well is often very difficult and requires some deep reflection. Usually we don’t need to learn more information; usually we just need to stop and reflect on how we’re really doing with listening.

Going deep to get clarity on on something, like how well we actually listen, and how that behavior impacts our team and their performance, is often painful, but it is needed to see the blind spots that have kept us from seeing our problems, or to see where our beliefs are messed up. (For example: “My poor listening is understood as a necessary evil for moving at the speed that we need to move.”) Going deep is needed to find the courage and/or discipline needed to start actually listening well.

Going deep in a very busy world doesn’t just happen—you need to be intentional about it. This is one of the reasons why having a coach can be a great value. With a coach, you know that you will stop for an hour or two every month and go deeper than you normally would when life is constantly coming at you so fast. Having a coach puts intentional reflection into your calendar.

Going deep takes intentionality, it’s often hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But it’s almost always needed for real change.

One of the strong beliefs I have is that powerful words, great academic concepts, and the high IQ needed to really understand these things often get in the way of real change. As such, we at Leading by DESIGN put most of our emphasis on what you do with the concepts we teach, not on the concepts themselves. We’ll let those in the academic world debate which model is better and which ways of packaging them in cool acrostics is better. I often find that the effort taken in that arena to be less value than it’s worth. Applying a good concept is where there is real value.

This is why we will never provide development opportunities without coaching as a key component. We use really good content, but we’re not trying to compete with other leader development organizations on having the best models. We do, however, intend to be the best at helping leaders get the most traction on the concepts being taught.

My perception is that this is rare out there. Most get lured into the intellectually challenging—and usually safe—place of debating concepts. It’s often fun. It seldom asks you the tough questions, like “How well do you do this? What keeps you from being better at it? What would you be willing to do over the coming month to get better at it?”

This is where real change happens. And this is why we will always have great coaches integrated into any of the initiatives we offer for the development of West Michigan’s leaders.

If knowing something new changes something in your roots (“the BE of the DoKnowBe Tree”), then it will very likely show up in your behaviors (“DO”). Either way it will be a challenge to you because changing beliefs and values is messy and uncomfortable and the same is true when changing long engrained behaviors.

I recently heard a quote from a new friend. She said, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” I believe this and I like her expression of it. If you want real change, you have to face real challenge and not just put it aside by convincing yourself that you already know how to listen (or whatever the change opportunity might be) and already do it well enough.

Real change takes courage. Real change takes discipline. Real change is wonderful and it compounds on itself for many years to come, not unlike how your retirement savings account compounds over years of investment.

Next week I will share more thoughts about the normal stages adults go through when trying to make real, deep, change.

Stay tuned… and lead well this week!

Image by dolbinator1000. Used under CC by 2.0 license.