18 May 2021
How to build habits for leadership success
From daily meditation to scheduling uninterrupted time for strategic thinking, great habits can help us achieve our potential as high-performing leaders. But despite starting off with enthusiasm, many of us fail to maintain our good intentions for longer than a few days. To effectively embed the new behaviours we want to achieve, it’s much more useful to think ‘tiny’.
Why we form habits
In order to save energy, our brain constantly tries to turn our repeated thinking into habits. As leaders, we obviously want those hard-wired behaviours to be useful ones!
Habits are created through a neurological feedback loop involving the repetition of a 4-step process – cue, craving, response, reward. Take this example:
- Cue – You are on a deadline to complete a tough task
- Crave – You want to avoid the pressure of having to complete it
- Response – You take a break to get a coffee
- Reward – Taking a break to drink a coffee becomes associated with relieving a stressful situation at work, and so you form the habit
The neurological feedback loop occurs constantly (and instinctively) throughout our day.
Stanford University Behaviourist and Tiny Habits author, BJ Fogg, has a revolutionary approach to forming habits. He proposes that we should forget the idea of relying on willpower or motivation. Instead, we just need to start small and continue that way.
He has a deliberately simple action plan for building new habits:
- Identify a trigger point in an existing daily behaviour ‘After I ……’
- Attach a new tiny behaviour ‘I will ……’
- Now celebrate your tiny habit
If we out-perform our goal, we should congratulate ourselves – but we shouldn’t use that as an opportunity to lift our expectations (and make things harder) for next time.
Getting started using tiny habits
Using BJ’s principles, let’s consider the scenario where you want to form the habit of relieving stress by incorporating mindfulness into your working day.
- Identify a trigger point using the existing daily behaviour – ‘When I drink my morning coffee at the office….’
- Attach a new tiny behaviour to it – ‘When I drink my morning coffee at the office, I will concentrate on the taste and aroma.’
- Now, celebrate your tiny habit – take notice of what you achieved each and every time. Don’t forget this crucial step!
- Watching this TED Talk featuring BJ, Forget Big Change
- Reading his book, Tiny Habits (he even offers a free 5 day course online)
You may also find Atomic Habits by James Clear to be a useful resource. He has a similar approach to BJ and offers 4 helpful principles to form new habits.
Creating habits that make us better leaders
When it comes to embedding new habits, rather than focusing on a specific time period, instead concentrate just on starting (and staying with) small behaviour changes. If you’re considering other practical steps to achieve leadership potential, the team at Mantle could help. Simply contact us for a no obligation consultation.