Harnessing the Power of Habit


It’s that time of year again, you know….the gym is extra crowded, you’ve either been in a meeting to discuss your goals and agreements with your boss or you’ve been the one leading all those meetings, and you’ve probably been asked once or twice about your New Year’s Resolutions. As the saying goes, New Year, New You.


Personally, the past six years I spend the week leading up to the new year filling out a chart. I pull together goals and commitments focusing on specific topics like health, relationships, financial, work, philanthropy, and a few others. Each year I’ve been able to get more friends and family to join me in this exercise and it’s becoming something we all enjoy doing and sharing with one another. What I love beyond that, is regularly checking my progress and accomplishments as well as noticing where I’ve fallen off the path and need to refocus.


Now, I’m not here to share all my goals for 2022 but rather discuss the quiet and powerful engine for said goals…habit. In theory, it’s easy to understand but creating habits continues to be a pain point for the vast majority of people and organizations. At Butler Street, when we’re interviewing leadership teams, we often hear “we have good processes, but we struggle to execute consistently” or “we launched X program but we haven’t been able to provide follow up.”


Does this sound familiar?


Setting goals or establishing commitments is rarely the issue, it’s being accountable and making them stick.


One of the first sessions in our Butler Street training programs is the Four Cornerstones of Success®, one of which is Habit. It's the foundation of all great businesses and successful people.


Here are 3 important factors to successfully build habits in your life and within your team so goals and agreements can read as a list of accomplishments a year from now.


Time


I’m not talking about the time it takes to build a habit but an important aspect more commonly overlooked, dedicating the time in your day to achieve your goals. There can be no repetition if a new goal or initiative is fighting for time against already established habits.


As a leader, one of the best questions you can ask when setting goals, rolling out a new initiative, or reviewing an individual’s annual agreements is “where is the time coming from to achieve this?” If the answer doesn’t include automating a previous task or eliminating something currently taking time in their day, the best thing you can do is guide them through that exercise. Help them determine where they will find the time in their day to devote to said task. In your personal life, this may look like watching one less game or tv show to devote that time to meal prep or reading.


Environment


In the book Good Habits, Bad Habits, Wendy Wood states,

“When we try to change, our go-to approach is will-power and motivation. We don’t realize how much our actions are driven by our surroundings and the pressures on us. But our habits do.”

Offices have gone through a big evolution as many people are now fully remote or in a hybrid model, and while the benefits have been made clear, it’s not all positives. Gone are the days of visual cues to see that your colleague is in a flow-state and shouldn’t be interrupted, or the quiet, dedicated workspaces company offices provide. In exchange are more emails, Teams or Slack messages, and the added distractions that come with working from home.


Now is the right time to have conversations around what’s working for and against you in this new environment. Determine what needs to change as an organization to create an environment with less distractions and help employees determine how to eliminate some of the friction that comes with the home-office.


Reward


A key ingredient to building new habits are rewards. The building process typically takes place in the first quarter but often the reward for annual goals and commitments comes as a year-end bonus. Based on the science of habit, that can often be too late. This is where some creative thinking goes a long way. As an organization, kickstarting a new initiative that offers early incentives is a great way to build buy-in and create habit. As a leader, don’t just file annual agreements away and revisit them at the end of the year. Make a point to regularly review the agreements and celebrate the successes and progress that’s been made. There will always be setbacks but providing recognition and reward early and often will result in long-term gains.


Going back to the chart I mentioned earlier, the first few years compared to recent years was eye-opening regarding how much more I accomplish now. It wasn’t because I was lazy in those early years, it’s that this exercise helps me learn from the past. I have managed to figure out what time swaps are needed, surround myself with the people and things to support my success, find accountability partners, and celebrate each step in the right direction.


I hope you find the simplicity of this uplifting and motivating. If you’re looking for ways to self-improve or provide your team the tools needed to achieve their goals and agreements for the year, we are here to help! Here’s to your success and creating strong habits in 2022!