After years of limping, I scheduled an appointment with a surgeon to identify the problem and understand my options. I walked into the appointment with little direction or sense of urgency. Imagine my surprise when the surgeon looked at my x-ray and said “Oh my! This is bad”. I asked him to define “Oh my”. He said “You need a total hip replacement. You have some time”. I breathed a sigh of relief as my calendar flashed in my mind, and I asked “2019”? He shook his head and said “No, April is the latest”. My only response was, “Oh my”!

On February 20, 2018, I had a total hip replacement. I am now under house arrest for four weeks as I recover and bond with my new titanium body parts and my physical therapist. Yesterday we practiced walking with my walker, and fashionable yellow basket, and he told me that my limp was coming back. I did not understand how that was possible since I had just undergone surgery to fix the problem. My PT said, “You have muscle memory. You have been walking with a limp for a long time. You created a shortcut to alleviate the pain and your brain goes back to its old patterns when you get comfortable. Now, you have to learn to walk.” My jaw dropped, and the unspoken words communicated the message, I don’t understand. He continued and said, “You have to learn what you have forgotten. You found a quick fix, and your body and mind compensated. Now it is back to the basics, you must understand all parts of your gate so that you can walk correctly. This is an everyday job and you have to concentrate to change your behavior”. My first thought was, could I do it? Yes. There is no other option. My physical therapist sensed my apprehension and said “Don’t worry, over the next four weeks I will be here to coach and make sure you do it correctly. After that, you are on your own”.

Over the next few hours, the conversation replayed in my head…
– You created a shortcut and a quick fix;
– You must learn what you have forgotten;
– Your brain goes back to its old pattern when you get comfortable;
– You must go back to basics;
– This is an everyday job;
– You have to concentrate to change your behavior;
– I will coach and make sure you do it correctly.

Learning to walk the first time took time, patience, tenacity, and fearlessness. We fell and bumped our head but getting up and moving forward was the goal. Changing any behavior takes the same skills.

So, how does this apply in business, in relationship, on a team? Here is an example.

Let’s say that a manager identifies a behavior that an employee needs to change and brings it to their attention. If this is a first-time conversation, the employee is listening and processing at the same time. The employee may be quiet, and their silence may be misinterpreted as agreement by the manager. The manager may believe once the need to change is shared with the employee, they have done their part. An assumption has been made that communication equals immediate results. If only this were true!

Perhaps the manager should take a lesson from my physical therapist and realize that the employee may have created a quick fix or shortcut and that an old pattern must be broken. How is this accomplished? Go back to the basics, break down the task or desired result, and consistently coach to ensure the employee is performing correctly and achieving results.

I recently started working with an employee who rushed through their work and missed details. When I brought this to his attention, he mentioned that in a prior company he was rewarded for “getting it done” versus “getting it right”. I had to go back to the basics and reinforce that the positive outcome was to do it right even if it took a bit longer to accomplish the task. I positively coached every time I received great work and over time the behavior changed.

When the goal is personal and meaningful – change is likely.
When the coach is invested, compassionate, and patient – change is likely.
When wins, even small ones are celebrated – change is likely.

Today I walked 450 feet. My physical therapist gave me a high five! I felt like I was in the Olympics.
Hip, Hip, Hurray!