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Who hasn’t gone to a training session or a conference and written down a ton of ideas, only to come back and several weeks later look back and say, “Man, I really should have done more with what I learned there”?
What we’ve learned is most people go through their entire day in a series of habits, things you just do automatically from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to sleep at night. Changing those habits requires conscious thought but you can’t just have a wish list.
You need to actually figure out how to integrate new behaviors into your regular flow.
The way you can do that is by having a trigger and the trigger would be something that happens during the day, where instead of doing it the current way you’re doing it, you decide to substitute a different approach and then see how it works.
For example, let’s say you went to a session and you learned about listening skills and you wanted to become a better listener. You might decide your biggest problem in listening is that you don’t pay full attention to the person when they’re talking. So, you’d write your behavior change habit like this:
“When somebody comes into my office, instead of trying to do my emails while I’m trying to listen to them, I’m going to stop, turn and face them directly and pay full attention while they’re speaking.” Doing that can make you a better listener.
One of the key topics in our training program is the importance of explaining why. When you ask your team to do things, especially things they don’t like doing, such as changing jobs or working in another department, you might write down in our course, “I’m going to be sure to explain why”, but then you go through your daily routines and you still haven’t changed anything.
The way you’d write your habit trigger would be, when I assign a task to somebody that’s different from what they thought they were going to do that day, instead of telling them to just do this other job, I’m going to take a minute and explain the reason why I need them to change jobs. That reason could be they’re shorthanded in the other department, you’re the best person to do that job, or some other meaningful reason. It turns out, by the way, the reason itself is less important than simply offering a reason.
Those are two examples with listening and explaining why, but you could apply this to so many of your leadership practices. When you know you need to change to be more effective, you’ve got to figure out what is the triggering event where you can substitute a new behavior for the old. When you’ve done that, you can work continuously on your leadership habits.
Our normal recommendation is to work on one leadership habit for 30 days. That way it will become automatic and you won’t have to think about it in the future. At the end of 30 days, you determine what’s the next habit you want to implement. By doing that, you can increase your leadership effectiveness extraordinarily even over the course of just several months.
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