Seven Useful Leadership Habit Changes for 2017
New Year resolutions are all about habit change. How can we reform our outlooks, mindsets and behaviors to be better at what we do, and achieve our goals more effortlessly. The core of that is replacing bad habits that inhibit your success with better habits that eliminate the impediment.
The key to making a success of habit change is to keep it simple by picking a few key habits with which to start. Tacking a list of twenty habits that need changing is daunting, and will be set aside by early February.
Keep it tactical. Habits are aspects of day-to-day behavior, so focus on replacing the habits that are driving the most frustrating or destructive behaviors.
Ask others for feedback. Which behavioral habits are driving them crazy, or getting in the way of collaborating with you at a higher level? Match those reports against what you had already thought should be habit-change priorities. If there was a mismatch, you may want to hold off on launching a big habit-changing campaign until you assess what may truly be impeding your personal and collaborative success.
If there is alignment, you have found where to start. Based on our own experience in working with thousands of executives and other leaders over the years, we can guess at some of the priorities that may make your list:
Stop and Think, if only for a moment
Hurried decisions often don’t work out. Indecision is a hurdle to success, too, but we can overcompensate in our desire to “take action.” A moment of calm before acting in the face of unexpected challenges allows you to recollect yourself, get past a visceral “fight or flight” response, and refocus on how best to react to the event and keep your progress aligned with your goals. Counting to ten really does have great value!
Focus on Strategic, not Tactical
Your to-do list should have sections that group day-to-day tasks under strategic priorities. When you create the list, think how each commitment of time and energy will help you move toward your desired goals, and not just fill the day with “busyness.”
Beat Back E-Mail, Texts and Voice Mail – Keep Control
Manage your schedule carefully. Block out time to catch up on e-mail every few hours and ignore it in between those blocks. Set up automatic text responses to phone messages to protect your schedule from being hijacked. Let phone calls roll to voice mail when you are deep into a project, and check it at regular intervals, but not right away. Make and keep appointments with yourself for undisturbed work periods. Note: You must manage expectations with your boss and other collaborators about how you are going to keep daily control of your own agenda! Revisit those parameters every week when you and your boss sit down to update each other on progress and priorities.
Delegate to Engage and Empower
Employees seek opportunities to contribute meaningfully to making progress toward group goals. Find tasks to give them. Keep few tasks for yourself. This empowers them and helps them grow in their roles. It empowers you, too! Gain more time to lead the team, inspire greater creativity and keep everyone’s effort aligned.
Procrastinate only a little!
Procrastination has multiple causes, which you need to face, such as a fear of error and blame, or a lack of energy around the assignment. Winkle those out and manage them better. On the other hand, some pauses are useful (see Stop and Think, above), so find out if your hesitation centers on doubts about the utility of the assignment. Ask the boss about it!
Work on the Art of Having Difficult Conversations
Avoid avoidance of challenging issues.
- Separate the issue from the person
- Communicate your respect for the person while you express your concern about the issue.
- Schedule time to discuss the conflicting viewpoints
- Focus on developing remedies you can implement together.
Everyone has a constructive role to play in your group successes. Indentify each person’s contribution and thank them for it publicly. It means a lot to you when you get positive feedback. Make sure you are providing it regularly, too.
Habit Change is Hard. Keep at it!
Habits form over time, and take time to break. Successful habit change comes in steady increments if you keep practicing. And get feedback monthly from those who are involved in the process (team, boss, peers) to keep you focused on your goal.