Tools Don’t Work, You Work

Posted on January 17, 2024 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Do your tools work?” I’d be a rich man.

When it comes to personal transformation, we aren’t buying the newest Self-Driving Car or Ring doorbell. These tools are built to work for you, without you, and despite you. They are engineered for the lowest common denominator. They are meant to take you out of the equation.

“You can’t outsource your own behavior.”

– Edith Doosje

When it comes to personal transformation, the most difficult and fulfilling work of all, tools don’t work, you work.

This is one of my favorite bits of wisdom from my Next Element co-founder and Chief Training Officer, Jamie Remsberg. She has dedicated her life to creating contexts for leaders and their teams to learn and grow. She is an expert in helping people use tools to transform the way they interact with themselves and others. If you’ve ever been part of an impact group with Jamie, you know what I’m talking about. Will you share your experience in the comments?

In the quest for great tools for personal and professional transformation, here are two checklists to help you; what to look for in the tool, and what to look for in those who are using the tool.

Five Qualities of a Good Personal Transformation Tool

  • It changes the way you look at things to open your mind.
  • It facilitates self-awareness because change starts with you.
  • It identifies observable and measurable behavior so that you can be accountable and track change.
  • It offers a new solution to an old problem.
  • It’s simple enough to remember when it counts but powerful enough to make a meaningful difference.

My three criteria for a good model.

Five Qualities of People (and organizations) Who Can Leverage Good Tools

  • Curious; willing to try new things.
  • Courageous; willing to put in the work because change takes time, effort, and repetition.
  • Coachable; willing to look in the mirror, hear feedback, and apply it to unlock the power of the tool.
  • Compassion Mindset; willing to see themselves and others as valuable, capable, and responsible. Learn more about The Compassion Mindset.
  • Choices; willing to embrace difficult choices and own the consequences of those choices.

Here’s a shout-out to one of my mentors, a person who taught me so much about the purpose of a tool, and how to use personal transformation tools. My friend, Tom Leahy, is one of the most gifted and visionary experiential learning practitioners I’ve ever met. He’s working on a new book that lays out his research, discoveries, and principles for how to maximize the power of choice in learning. Fundamental to the notion that “tools don’t work, you work,” is the element of choice.

These criteria apply to organizations as well as individuals. When we engage with clients, we are as interested in their approach to change as they are in our tools. That’s because no matter how good the tools are if you don’t go into it with the right mindset, the tools won’t work.

We have an impressive track record of transformative outcomes with our clients, but we can’t take all the credit. It’s a synergistic collaboration between the context, the learner, the facilitator, and the tool. When everyone does their part, it makes the tools look pretty awesome!

I got my love of woodworking from my father, who was a master woodturner. I have a shop full of amazing tools and I’ve built some pretty cool stuff. But right now, while I’m writing this post, those tools are doing nothing. They just sit there. How many of your tools are sitting on a shelf right now? How much of it is about the tool? How much of it is about your approach to using the tool?

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2024

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