Using the ‘Wheel of Change’ to help us become who we want to be

Are you the ‘best version’ of yourself?

Right now – are you the best leader? …best manager? …best contributor? … best innovator you can be? Are you the best …wife / husband / mother / son / friend?

We don’t often ask ourselves this question. Usually we focus on getting on with life, be it work life or personal life, until something happens and it causes us to stop…to hit the pause button for a moment – and examine who and where we are. Sometimes we have some element of choice in making the time to stop (like when the new year rolls around and we search for our new year’s resolution) – and other times it seems to creep up on us when we least expect it (like when a conflict blows up out of no where or something that usually goes right suddenly goes horribly wrong and our identity is shaken).

As Marshall Goldsmith writes in his wonderful book ‘Triggers’, there can be many stimuli that can cause us to reshape our thoughts and actions. People, events, circumstances, environment – good or bad, major or minor. The trigger may be a personal realisation or it may be the result of feedback from others. When we reach this point of wanting things to be better, we need to identify specifically what we want to change. But as Marshall writes : “meaningful behavioural change is very hard to do’, and ‘no one can make us change unless we truly want to change’.

Meaningful behaviour change can be hard to do for a number of reasons :

  • it can be hard to admit we need to change
  • it is easier to keep going with what is familiar
  • we often don’t know how to execute a change

Marshall offers a simple model he calls ‘ The Wheel of Change’ that can help people to process the variety of options that are presented when wanting to become a better version of ourselves. It illustrates “the interchange of two dimensions we need to sort out before we become the person we want to be : the Positive to Negative axis tracks the elements that either help us or hold us back. The ‘Change to Keep’ axis tracks the elements that we determine to change or keep in the future. Thus, in pursuing any behavioural change we have four options : change or keep the positive elements, change or keep the negative.”

Wheel of change

  1. Creating represents the positive elements that we want to create in our future – things to add or invent
  2. Preserving represents the positive elements that we want to keep in our future – things to maintain or improve
  3. Eliminating represents the negative elements that we want to eliminate in our future – things to reduce or eradicate
  4. Accepting represents the negative elements that we need to accept in our future – things we try to delay or make peace with


How could I use this model?

As our current and alumni Discovery in Action – Leading People participants know – working through a process of discovery – examining what it takes to create an environment where those we lead can thrive – presents an opportunity to consider these four options.

  1. Preserving – What have I learned about my practice that is having a positive impact on those around me? How can I keep doing those things in the current context? What do I need to make sure I don’t lose focus on? How can I leverage the things that are working? How I can take what is working to the next level (improving)?
  2. Creating – What is one behaviour I could add to my tool kit that I believe / have been told will have a positive impact on those around me? What is one condition for high performance my team needs – and how can I positively contribute to creating that condition?
  3. Eliminating – What is an act or behaviour I need to stop doing – even something I like doing or am good at ? (eg Where do I need to let go – let others get their ‘hands dirty’ so they can learn and grow?) What action or behaviour do I need to less often because it is having a negative impact on others – even if it is an unintentional impact (eg giving them the answer)?
  4. Accepting – This is often the hardest option to reflect on – What about myself do I need to accept? What must I accept for the now – even if it is below par – as I can’t change everything at once? Over what things must I accept that I do not have control? What points of difference between different parties will always remain?  What battles are the ones worth fighting for – and which are not? As the saying goes…“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Whilst useful for those participating in a leadership program like DiA, these 4 options on the ‘wheel of change’ are worth considering any time we ‘take stock’ or set ourselves new goals – and look at how we can be a better version of ourselves:

  • Get the model out each time you on the receiving end of feedback – after a one-on-one with a team member, or a more formal mechanism like a 360.
  • Get the model out before your quarterly catch up with your manager.
  • Pull out the model next time you feel your confidence is shaken. Remember what is working as well as what can be improved.
  • Use the model after completing the DiA consultation process to help you prepare your Action plan.
  • Get the model out 6-12 months after you have finished the DiA program – and see where you need to focus your leadership energy over the next 6 months.
  • Use the model when preparing your next 90-180 day plan.

The 4 perspectives in this simple model are very powerful as they help offer a realistic – and importantly – balanced view of behaviour change: helping to not let us forget the less sexy things (those to preserve) in pursuit of the new and shiny ‘me’ (those to create.) They help us to make choices about what we need to remove or what might be holding us back (eliminate) and importantly facilitate a realistic perspective by also accepting that we will never be the perfect specimen. Just a better one on the journey towards becoming ‘the best we can be’.


More information on ‘behaviour change’ and helping to ‘make changes stick’.

Click here to access other blogs on behaviour change.

Click here to access a blog about making those personal changes stick.