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Secrets of Success

Change the Stimulus. Change the Response.

Longtime readers know of my devotion to the sport of triathlon.
This is the time of year I begin swimming, biking and running in earnest.
I am fortunate to be a student of an approach to swimming called Total Immersion (
and more fortunate still to be under the guidance of friend and TI founder, Terry Laughlin.
My swim practices are a little different than most people’s practices. Rather than piling up yards, when I go in the water
I focus on how many strokes per length I take keeping my body streamlined and getting power from my hips.
Each session in my “aqua-lab” is an opportunity to learn more about swimming efficiently and, as it turns out,
an opportunity to learn more about how we approach problem solving in general.
During a recent practice, my stroke count began to rise above a level of efficiency so I stopped swimming

and started doing some drills to see if I could see any changes.
By simply entering the water in a more relaxed way, I was able to reduce the number of strokes per length by over 25%.

When I changed the stimulus, I changed the response.

And then I began to think.
This principle has universal application.
It applies to communicating.

It applies to problem solving.
It applies to planning.

To be more effective in these areas, start by changing these three stimuli in your organization:

The Trust /Control Relationship

Do you trust the people who work for you?
(If you had to hesitate, I’d like to see you after class…)
There is a correlation. When trust is high, the need for control is low.
When trust is low, the need for control is high.
So how do you become more trusting?
It starts by taking a risk and letting go of control.
The next time you have an opportunity to give someone a job, let them have 100% ownership.
If there is a problem or if they make a mistake, let them be the one that fixes the mistake.
Advise them if you need to, but let them do all the work.

Change the stimulus. Change the response.

The Correction/Criticism Relationship

People sometimes display behaviors that need to be corrected.
No one needs to be criticized.
If you criticize people, they will see you as unsafe.
They won’t like you and they’ll avoid you.
They won’t give you information you might need.
The next time someone frustrates you, avoid the impulse to either act out with them or cut them off.
Instead take time to figure out what you want rather than what you don’t like.
When you have collected your thoughts, then and only then will you be to ready to talk.
That way you can discuss ways to change behaviors rather than criticizing the person.

Change the stimulus. Change the response.

The Assumption/Curiosity Relationship

The easiest way to deal with a need or a problem is to make assumptions:
This is the cause.
This is why it happened.
This is who is at fault.
This is how it can be fixed.
The problem with assumptions lies in the math.
The odds that you will guess THE correct outcome in a given situation are unbelievably small.
Rather than assume, get curious and ask questions. You will be surprised at what you learn
with your ears open and your mouth shut.
Also, in the absence of not knowing, try assuming good intent on the part of the
other person by giving them the benefit of the doubt.
You’ll be amazed at how open they will be to your questions.

Once again when you change the stimulus you will change the response.

I discovered these lessons in the water.
Try them on dry land and before you know it your relationships with others will begin to move along swimmingly.

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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488