Small Move, Big Change | Book Review

Caroline Arnold’s personal musings and self-improvement journal is an excellent companion for goal setting. Two sections, The Seven Rules of Microresolutions and Microresolutions in Action, comprise the book. Read the introduction, scan the seven rules, and reference the eight microresolutions according to your priorities. For individual goal setting, and even more so for coaching others, this book is a versatile tool. This review will address the two sections and several key themes.

Leadership Themes

Most [New Year’s Resolutions] of these are what I call wannabe resolutions…These iconic resolutions are much like wishes in disguise…These resolutions focus on being, not doing.

Caroline nails it. Similar to our goal setting exercises, it is useful reflecting on personal dreams and goals. However, absent the rigor of SMART (Specific, Measureable, Agreed-upon, Realistic & Trackable) criteria translated into action, nothing usually happens. Arnold explores root causes leading to goals, articulates very small behavioral changes, and defines these as microresolutions. Further, she advises readers to start with just one microresolution, for proof we can succeed, and have no more than two at a time.

The Seven Rules

Chapters one through seven introduce rules of microresolutions. In Chapter one, pages 6 and 7, Arnold describes her discovery of the “edges” of self-improvement, or the vital margin. This concept aligns with our goal setting focus on leverage points and measureable aspects of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A nugget from Chapter 6, Give it Some Spin, page 37: “For nearly any professional, learning how to receive and use feedback is critical to advancement, and defensiveness in the face of negative feedback is seen as a sign of immaturity.” How very similar to our focus on continued leadership growth via feedback.

Microresolutions in Action

Chapters 10 – 17 describe many usual self-improvement suspects: Sleep, Fitness, Diet and Nutrition, Clutter, Relationships, Spending, Punctuality and Organization. Of these, Chapter 14, Relationships, receives the strongest treatment, and is the recommended one to start with. On page 149, Arnold wisely implores we shift behavior at the vital margin with focus on changes in our behaviors, not the other guy. Page 155 goes deeper: “The ability to respond to the content of a communication rather than to its tone and manner is a very valuable skill, both inside and outside the workplace.” At this point, Arnold has intersected with the pathfinder book Crucial Conversations, suggesting this book an appropriate leadership library predecessor.

A worthy addition for your coaching library, and for periodic self-assessment.

JE | August 2014