Change and the Power of Habits

June 20th, 2016

Change and the Power of Habits

By Kevin Eikenberry

Better Leadership Habits are 3 Cs Away

In my work coaching leaders and members of my team, I am often reminded of the tremendous role that habits play in our lives and work. Of course that impact can be for positive or not — the purpose of this article is to help you use habits more effectively to create the results you want as a leader.

Two Kinds of Habits

While all habits are automatic responses, they fall into two basic types: considered and not considered.

Considered habits are probably what you thought about when you read the title of this article — when (or whether) you exercise, what (or when) you read, if you eat dinner with (or without) your family. “Not considered” habits are the millions of other things that are, well, habitual (for example, how we respond in certain situations, our gestures, how we greet people on the phone, etc.).

Recognizing that habits, by their nature, are largely subconscious is an important part of this article. More important though, is knowing that any individual habit can become conscious, considered and therefore changed.

You wake up and your body moves into motion. How you stretch, what you do before you shower, how you soap up, shampoo and more — all done in habit. And this isn’t just about what happens when you might still be (partly) asleep. A whole myriad of things at work are done habitually too. Let’s take a meeting. Where you sit, how you sit, how you greet people, when, how and how often you speak, whether you ask questions or not (and lots more) are all habit.

Habits Are Necessary

Overall, habits are an exceedingly good thing — without them, we couldn’t survive life, let alone create the types of positive outcomes we are able to with them. It might be frightening to think about how much of your life, conversations and decisions run on the autopilot of habit. Frightening perhaps, but completely necessary. Our subconscious mind is so powerful that it can just take care of all this stuff for us. Our relatively feeble conscious mind wouldn’t be able to handle all of the input. Our challenge is to know that it all exists (even if we aren’t aware of it all as it is happening), and move to our conscious mind those things that are most important to us or may be getting in the way of our potential success.

Habits Are at the Heart of our Results

Author Robert Collier wrote, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Habits. He could have also written, while less inspirational just as accurately, “Failure is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” Habits are at the heart of our results. If you aren’t getting the results you want in any area of life, a big key is to figure out which habits (considered or not) are getting in your way, then adjust them to create new results.

Moving the change from conscious (a considered habit), which you likely call discipline — to subconscious (a “not considered” habit), which makes it effortless — is where the real acceleration will come.

Our Habits Teach Others How to Work With Us

Here is a quick exercise for you. Think about something that someone does (or people in general do) in response to you that bothers, frustrates or upsets you.

Then look in the mirror and ask yourself, what you are doing (consciously or not) that is influencing their actions. Something we are doing is informing and allowing or permitting people to respond or work with us in that way. Rather than focusing on changing them, why not focus on what is more in your control anyway; changing yourself (first)?

Coaching is Really About Habits

When we are coaching others, whether to stretch them to higher levels of performance or to provide correction, we are dealing with people’s habits. Everything we’ve talked about so far has been about our personal habits. Yet all of that insight applies to our understanding of the habits of others, as well.

Perhaps the step you’ve missed in coaching others has been to help them become aware of a “not considered” habit, because as we have already seen, if we aren’t aware of that automatic habit, it will be very difficult to change.

Habits are Change Reminders

Coaching is of course also about change. Once people are aware of their habits, then they can begin to change them.

What has been your personal experience in changing habits? Was it easy or difficult? Since I can safely assume that you likely answered “difficult,” that provides a window into our challenges with change.

The next time you are trying to influence change, whether encouraging an employee to turn in their reports on time, explain the virtues of the new work process, or outlining the big organizational change, remember that part of the influencing effort is about these necessary, often hidden, and powerful things called habits.

Remembering and using that insight will make you more influential and more patient.

Remember that when we realize and utilize the power of habits, we are more personally effective, but we can also help others be more effective too.

Leadership Tip of the Month:

June 20th, 2016
Leadership Tip of the Month
Leadership Tip of the Month:
“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.”
–Tryon Edwards, American theologian

Employers Warned Not to Use Drug Tests to Deter Injury Reporting

June 17th, 2016

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration could cite employers who use post-incident drug testing policies to retaliate against employees reporting injuries and illnesses under the agency’s electronic record-keeping rule, according to an agency official.OSHA’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule does not ban employee incentive programs or drug testing of employees, but it does prohibit employers from using drug testing or the threat of it as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses, according to the final rule, published in May. The rule takes full effect Jan. 1, 2017, but its anti-retaliation provisions, which establish a new, citation-based pathway for employee complaints, go into effect on Aug. 10. “It does not ban specific programs,” Amanda Edens, deputy director, OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance, told members of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health in Washington, on Wednesday. But if employers are using post-incident drug testing policies as a “distinct pre-text for retaliating” against employees reporting injuries and illnesses, those are the types of situations the agency would “take a careful look at in terms of whether or not we would issue a citation, but in general we are not banning drug testing programs.”Stakeholders objecting to the rule have speculated that the agency will attempt to cite employers who mandate post-accident drug testing without a compelling reason, such as a federal or state law or regulation that requires such testing.

Are you prepared for the demographic time bomb?

June 17th, 2016

A major demographic shift in the workforce is now happening, and most companies are unprepared to address it. The challenge? The impending mass retirements of baby boomers, which will leave organizations struggling to find talent with the skills and expertise to replace them. For some industries, this obstacle has already emerged.  READ MORE

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Leadership Tip of the Month:

June 6th, 2016

Leadership Tip of the Month

“The “fate” of organizations is not based on the stars. The character of an organization’s leadership determines a company’s destiny.”

–Panos Mourdoukoutas and M.A. Soupios, The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership

Fact of the Month: Looking Ahead — Doubling “White Collar” Overtime Exemption?

June 6th, 2016

Fact of the Month: Looking Ahead — Doubling “White Collar” Overtime Exemption?

Fact of the Month: Looking Ahead: Doubling White Collar Overtime Exemption

In July, the Department of Labor (DOL) expects to release its final rule on which white collar workers — executive, administrative, and professional employees — are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime pay protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This could raise the salary threshold for OT exemption to $921/week — over double the current threshold of $455/week.