“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
As a leader, your habits either support or diminish your leadership.
Given the reflexive nature of habits, we often aren’t aware of some of the behaviors or practices we are doing or not doing. Moreover, we often don’t consider the impact of our habits on our direct reports, problem solving capability, and the success of our teams until problems arise, opportunities are missed, and targets aren’t achieved.
Being more deliberate in your leadership habits can strengthen the beneficial practices you are already doing.
As a leadership coach and organizational performance consultant, I’ve seen many leaders inadvertently sabotage their success and that of their teams by not consistently putting into practice some good habits. The operative word here is consistently. The good news is that you can easily move from auto-pilot to a place of more consciously shaping your impact, supporting your teams, and modelling practices that foster high engagement, effective collaboration, and follow-through with a few simple practices that you commit to using.
To make thinking about and adopting habits a bit easier, I like to divide them into four categories: relational, influencing, problem solving, and executing. Within each category, I’ve identified five to six specific actions that if done consistently will result in tangible benefits for your leadership and the performance of your teams. There are, of course, other actions one could add to each of the categories and I encourage you to do so as you see fit.
Good Habits to Strengthen Your Leadership
– Listen to each person from a place of learning and respect.
– Build trust by only committing to what you will follow through on.
– Encourage and safeguard candor.
– Regularly explain vision, goals, plans, issues, and progress to support connection and alignment. (Weekly or at least once a month.)
– Regularly acknowledge individual and team contributions and successes privately and publicly.
– Resolve conflicts as they come up even if doing so is uncomfortable for you.
– Offer your perspective, feelings, and suggestions last.
– Explore others’ opinions, needs, and feelings first.
– Acknowledge people’s ideas and contributions (even the naysayers) to make them feel valued.
– Identify and vocalize the common ground often.
– Present your ideas in a logical, open-to-discussion way to garner support. (No “my way or the highway.”)
– Create hybrid solutions to support greater inclusion and engagement.
– Do some simple root cause analysis to ensure that you are not just addressing symptoms.
– Frame problems accurately and objectively before beginning dialogue and solution development.
– Surface and assess the validity of assumptions.
– Balance advocacy and inquiry in dialogues.
– Decide how decisions will be made and what criteria will be used before you make the decisions.
– Use critical thinking methods to uncover biases and barriers, analyze data, and create options.
– Create a tactical roadmap (what, how, who, by when) to promote clarity and shared understanding about how execution will take place.
– Communicate with all those involved what their specific role and actions will be. (Avoid the “No one told me, I didn’t know.”)
– Conduct weekly or bi-weekly team check-ins to smooth the path forward.
– Take the warning signals that successful execution is in jeopardy seriously. Intervene to help course correct.
– Acknowledge progress not just completion.
How You Can Strengthen Your Good Habits
Step 1: Review the actions listed in each category and put a check next to the ones you do consistently 75% of the time or more.
Step 2: For the actions that you checked, ask yourself, “What makes it easy for me to do these actions so consistently?” and “What are the benefits my team and I realize because of doing these actions?” The intent here is for you to recognize what you are doing well and its beneficial impact on your leadership and your team’s successes. Your raised awareness will be supportive in helping you add new habits to your practice. We do more of what benefits us.
Step 3: Circle one or two new actions in any category or within a given category that you would like to put into practice consistently over the next three months. I suggest three months because there will be times when you forget to do the new practices, or not have enough opportunities to build the new habit during a shorter timeframe.
Step 4: Write your two new actions in a few places where you will be regularly reminded to do them. Set them as daily/weekly reminders in your calendar. Review what’s on your plate for the week and integrate the new actions proactively into your weekly work. Add them as actions into the agendas for your meetings and problem solving sessions. The intent here is that if you don’t see it, you won’t remember to do it.
Step 5: Set a date with yourself in your calendar three months from when you begin. This will be time for you to assess your progress and the changes you’ve experienced in your leadership because of putting in place the new habits.
Step 6: Keep a simple log to help you track your progress. A post-it with the starting date of the week and a check mark each time you do the new habit can be sufficient acknowledgement of your progress, or a truth-telling indicator when you’ve slipped up. Celebrate your success. If you got off track, don’t beat yourself up. Simply renew your commitment.
Step 7: Your three-month check in date has arrived. Honestly assess your progress with implementing the new habits. In what way was it easy or hard to adopt the new habits?
What shifts did you see in your leadership because of your new habits? Your work relationships? The performance of your teams? Your work culture?
Review the matrix again. Add at least one new habit every three months and repeat steps 4 through 7.
One year from when you started, you will have four to eight new habits integrated into the way you lead, influence outcomes, collaboratively problem solve, and achieve results. You will have also modelled good habits for your team members and colleagues to emulate.
Simple but deliberate changes can have big impacts on the excellence of your leadership, the performance of your teams, and the positivity and productivity of your work culture. All it takes is awareness, real intention, and consistent commitment to do things a bit differently. Practice makes permanent one new habit at a time.
If you found this article helpful, please share with your colleagues and friends.