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Why Habits Are The Building Blocks Of Powerful Leadership

Consider this: an average human being has 60,000 thoughts in a day. (This does vary by individual, yes.) Of those, 95% are habituated, repeated thoughts.

The majority of your day is habit, then — and, in fact, the more aspects you can habituate, some believe the more successful you will be. That’s the oft-cited reason for why Steve Jobs wore essentially the same clothes every day; one more habit becomes less brain power in the morning on that, and more towards something else (i.e. iTunes).

If you want to be a better #leader, then, you need to think about what your leadership habits are good and bad — and you need to find ways to tweak those to serve you better.

Here’s a small example that gets almost everyone: when you have a need from someone who reports to you, how do you communicate the resolution to that need? To many leaders, it’s a ‘quick email’ or a DM or IM.

This is seemingly the most efficient process, yes, but it’s almost never the one that produces the best results. Rather, a quick coaching conversation with background context would probably get the project further along — but because that can take time, it’s often not the norm. We’re all busy, so why add more time-consuming tasks on top? Because in the end it gets better results.

You need to find a way to tweak and shift your habits from “A” (where you are) to “B” (where you could be more productive).

There are a number of different approaches to tweaking habits, including some work by Gretchen Rubin. One of the best parts of Rubin’s interview at that link is this:

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We’re constantly told, “If only you would do it this way or try this. This is the magic solution.” Some things work for some people, sometimes. But nothing works for everybody all the time. A lot of things that work very well for some people actually are counterproductive for some. You really have to think about yourself. Even things as simple as, “Are you a morning person or a night person?”, when you think about yourself, then you can shape the habit to suit you. That’s what allows people to succeed. We get discouraged because we try and fail. But often, we haven’t set ourselves up for success because we haven’t shaped it in a way that’s going to be in harmony with our nature, our values, our interests. When we do that, then there’s a lot more that we can do that’s going to allow us to succeed.

The bottom of that quote is important: you need to set yourself up for success in a way that’s in harmony with your pre-existing nature, values, and interests. If you try to “square peg, round hole” certain habits into your lifestyle, oftentimes they don’t work immediately well. (Look at a gym on January 2nd vs. February 20th.)

Charles Duhigg has also done habit research, and he believes everything around habit formation is a three-step process: A cue, a routine, and a reward.

You need to tweak all three aspects of various habits — the process you follow, for example, or how you reward yourself for completing the new habit properly.

I work with leaders consistently on determining their habits, then tweaking them to be more successful. It’s a big component of coaching and leadership development programs, which aims to create what I call high-impact, thriving leaders. These are people who drive results, i.e. make their numbers, but also drive the growth of others in a respectful, purposeful way — and come home to a non-work life where they still feel connected and valued.

That research above indicated that 95% of our actions are habituated to some level. It’s nearly impossible to become a great leader, then, without an understanding of which habits might be holding you back and how to tweak them.

Leaders who work with Lisa as their executive leadership coach have seen great results when it comes building habits that stick. Perhaps this is the next step for you?


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