Unlocking the Psychological Secret to Changing BD Habits

“Shifting your mindset is a prerequisite to shifting behaviour.” – M. Schiffner

Over the years, I have observed that many professionals struggle to change despite having genuine intentions to do so. For years, I was perplexed as to why some professionals were resistant to take the action, they needed to take in order to move them closer to their business development objectives.

Then, a number of years ago I was introduced to the work of Professor Robert Kegan of Harvard and the penny dropped. Robert Kegan is a developmental psychologist, author and acclaimed global thought leader who has made major contributions to the field of leadership over the past 40 years.

In his book, Immunity to Change, Robert demonstrates how our individual beliefs, along with the collective mind-sets in our organisations, can combine to create a natural but powerful immunity to change.

Many of us live out our lives based on assumptions which are formed from beliefs we have not tested. Often, these beliefs are then internalised as truths we hold about how the world works and how people respond to us. Most of these assumptions or beliefs are unconscious and drive behaviours that actually undermine, rather than support the goals we want to achieve.

By revealing how this mechanism holds us back, Kegan give us the keys to unlock our potential. Once we shift our mindset, we will shift our behaviour. In other words, shifting our mindset is a prerequisite to shifting our behaviour.

In his book, Kegan outlines four steps:

  1. Clarify your improvement goal,
  2. What am I not doing or doing instead?
  3. Worry box (hidden competing commitment),
  4. Underlying assumptions.

I’d like to share a few examples that I have captured from professionals who I have coached.

Common assumptions or internal beliefs I have observed in professionals include:

  1. If I (sell / spruik) myself, I will lose my integrity / self-respect.
  2. If I actively pursue clients, I will be labelled “too aggressive”.
  3. If I ask for work and I’m rejected, I will lose my client’s respect.
  4. People will think I’m desperate for work if I contact them.
  5. Clients will think I’m a bad lawyer because if I was a good lawyer, I would be busy and wouldn’t need to do BD activities.

Examples of competing commitments based on internal beliefs include:

  1. I’m committed to avoiding failure.
  2. I’m committed to avoiding rejection.
  3. I’m committed to avoiding embarrassment.
  4. I’m committed to not leaving myself vulnerable.
  5. I’m committed to being liked and accepted by others.

One of the ways I help professionals change their behaviour is by taking them through a process of documenting their hidden assumptions and internal beliefs, which are often unconscious. Another way is by inviting them to test their underlying assumptions and internal beliefs by asking:

  • “What evidence do you have to prove that your beliefs and assumptions are factual?”
  • “Would you be open to doing an experiment to test these assumptions?”
  • “What if that were not true… how would that change things?”

As I noted earlier in this piece, when we change our mindset, we can change our behaviour. Subtle yet significant shifts in mindset can help professionals to unlock their potential by aligning their behaviour with their goal of becoming more successful at business development.