Two ways to change (piece of cake)

Casey Onder, PhD
3 min readDec 7, 2022
Photo by Slashio Photography on Unsplash

Imagine a specific change you’d like to make that you don’t have a plan for. For example increasing visibility, doing work you’re more excited about, feeling more confident, collaborating better with a difficult coworker, increasing efficiency, cultivating a skill.

Is the change incremental — do you want to play the game you’re playing or have played successfully, only better?

Or is it radical — do you want to change the game you’re playing full stop?

Take the example of gaining more visibility (let’s say you work for someone else). Chances are you know what to do — raise your hand more and add more value, volunteer for high visibility cross-functional projects, communicate your interests, ideas and/or goals to the right people, find new ways to share accomplishments. You’re already somewhatvisible — just not as much as you’d like. Unless you have significant internal or external blocks to visibility this is incremental change. Strategically engage in visibility-boosting behavior, and while there’s no guarantee you’ll be promoted you’ll be doing all you can.

On the other hand, let’s say you sense you’re actively sabotaging visibility. You let others take credit for your work, you demurely deflect compliments, you end up putting your foot in your mouth in important meetings, or you perform well below capacity for fear of scrutiny or increased responsibility you don’t really want. Or maybe you’re avoiding potential negative consequences to visibility, like not-so-collegial peer or higher up backlash. This is radical change territory, change in the “who” as well as the “what.”

It’s rarely black and white, but you probably have a gut sense of which change fits best.

Why does this matter? It informs best approach.

If you like the game and want to play it better… great! Quantify desired end results, and slice and dice your data — your behavior and current results. See what’s working and what’s not and create a logical, measurable plan of attack. Incremental change is often more analytical, practical and data-driven. No need to fix what’s working or make things harder than they need to be.

If you want to change the game entirely, amazing! You’re on a creative, visionary and experimental path. Get clear on the need or desire that does not yet exist. Envision the future. Ask probing questions to identify current assumptions, status quo (e.g. pain points), and “known unknowns.” Brainstorm viable pathways and test what seems best. Objective outside perspective that nurtures and sharpens your thinking will be a huge help. If you have no idea, try something that looks or feels reasonable and test. No need to stumble blindly into the unknown unless you want (in which case, take care and go for it).

What’s common to both change pathways? Keep an open mind and regularly revisit data, subjective and objective. On steep learning curves, the data changes quickly so checking in allows you to adapt quickly, with a solid center of gravity and self-assurance as you expand into future possibilities and growth.

To sum up:

  1. Identify a goal you want to make major headway on.
  2. Categorize it as a incremental or radical game change (broadly).
  3. Take the relevant recommended approach.

Need help or want to speed up or enhance your process? Run your change by me or another coach.

Bon appetit — to your change and your cake.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Executive Coach | Psychologist | PhD. Follow me on LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter @ caseyonder.com.