Systems of Success: Replacing Bad Habits with Great Ones

The most effective leaders are those who develop processes to help their organization reach and stay on top. Habitual systems help people run at their peak without overexerting mental energy when moving into uncharted territories. However, without systems in place, people tend to fall back into their default setting, which can include bad habits. To be an effective leader, it’s important to acknowledge bad habits and replace them with healthier, long-lasting habits, creating a new default setting.

In his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” author Marshall Goldsmith lists 20 bad habits that challenge interpersonal behavior. In this article, we will focus on three of the 20 bad habits and three good habits to replace them with:

  • Failing to give proper recognition
  • Clinging to the past
  • Speaking when angry

Bad Habit: Failing to Give Proper Recognition.
Great Habit: Creating a Culture of Recognition.

While every employee is different, recognition still ranks as one of the most important forms of communication leaders can give to employees. However, after years of star employees building expectations of excellence, some successes and triumphs may start to be assumed. If you have a default setting of not giving employees accolades when due, consider breaking the habit by replacing it with proactively creating a culture of recognition in your office. According to the SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 47% of HR leaders cited retention and turnover as a number one concern, and they use recognition programs to mitigate the situation.

Start small by giving out employee praise at the beginning of each weekly meeting, writing thank-you notes to staff members, or hosting monthly recognition lunches. Creating an open forum that encourages recognition starts with the leader, but can develop into a culture where co-workers give praise to one another.

Bad Habit: Clinging to the Past.
Great Habit: Embracing Failure.

Marshall Goldsmith writes that those who cling to the past tend to deflect blame away from themselves and onto events and people from their past. Most people go through tumultuous times in their careers and face some form of failure. If you’re the type of person who can’t get over the past, it’s time to replace that bad habit with the habit of embracing failure. When goals aren’t reached, plans deteriorate, or investments fail, consider these events as completing an educational course. Effective leaders learn from their failures and move on. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal.” Everything is seasonal. The only time failure is fatal is when we allow it to stop future movement. Don’t waste an opportunity to learn, grow, and lead better.

Start this habitual paradigm shift by writing out the biggest failures that are holding you back as a leader, then write three to five lessons you learned from the failure and what you will do differently in the future.

Bad Habit: Speaking When Angry.
Great Habit: Responding Instead of Reacting.

One bad habit some leaders struggle with is addressing employees in anger. Passion can be a great tool to inspire others to do their best work and be their best self, but when the passion is in the form of anger, it becomes a tool to cut down others and lead by fear. When someone communicates through and from anger, most likely they are reacting to a problem or issue that has arisen. The greatest leaders are those who don’t react, but respond in situations like this. If you tend to be the angry leader who rallies the troops out of fear, consider replacing that habit with a more responsive approach to your employees.

In a recent Refresh Leadership article, we cited that Emotional Intelligence is the ability to monitor emotions, discriminate between emotions, and use the information to guide behavior. Developing the skills of controlling your emotions and reading into others’ emotions will help you shift from a reactionary person to a calm and collected responder.

To start on this habit, consider not speaking until you gather all the information about a negative situation and have time to process what the problem truly is. Then, when you address the employee or team, allow them to explain reasons why they made the decision and respond in kind.

66 Days

Originally, experts claimed that it takes three weeks to develop a habit. However, according to a study by the University College London, for new habits to stick, it takes on average 66 days to develop a new habit that has lasting power. But the silver lining is that replacing a bad habit with a good one is easier than simply breaking an old habit. Take an inventory of your habits, the default settings, and see what areas you can improve. For instance, instead of just saying I want to stop procrastinating, create a new habit like “I will plan my day the night before.” Replacing habits is always more effective than simply eliminating them!

What habits have you replaced with good ones? How has focusing on forming healthy habits helped you as a leader? Let us know in the comments section below!

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2 Responses to Systems of Success: Replacing Bad Habits with Great Ones

  1. Karl August 6, 2019 at 4:07 pm #

    Positive affirmations – as one of my favorite authors, Brian Tracy, says, “you can only think one thought at a time.” So, instead of poor and negative self talk, I start each day on my way to work with grateful and positive self-talk. This translates into treating others better, which leads to better business results.

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