Most people have at least one bad habit that they would like to stop or do less of; drink less alcohol, eat less food, quit smoking, do more exercise, stop biting their nails, etc. We can all relate to bad habits in some way. To an outsider looking in, when people are overweight it would be easy to say, just eat less and do more exercise, but they are in a pattern of habits that are difficult to change. Why are they difficult? Because they’re habits!
This is no different with becoming a better leader. There will be bad habits that you will need to change or stop doing.
This doesn't just apply to you either. Everyone in your team will have bad habits. Just pointing at someone and saying “stop doing that and start doing this” doesn't mean they will automatically form a new habit.
A few things to consider before you consider changing or stopping one of your bad leadership habits… or suggesting someone else should change theirs:
- You need to have a strong desire to change (or want a better outcome) – If you have no desire or reason to change it is never going to happen. Why would you change something that you don’t have the desire to do so? Consider how much desire for change you have on a scale of 1-10? If your score is 7 or less maybe you just don’t have the will.
- Explore your options and be aware that you have a choice – Changing a habit is a choice. You have the choice of continuing to do the same you've always done. That is your choice. You have the choice to do something different. If you feel you have no options other than the way do it today, this is when we get stuck. Working with a partner or group of people may help in this circumstance. Working with others exposes you to more potential options. Someone else may be able to provide different ideas and ways of doing things that you have not been exposed to before.
- Understand the two main drivers of undesirable habits: stress or boredom – Your mind is a fantastic tool that has been designed to protect you. You mind ensures you stay safe and come to no harm. One way your mind protects you is by avoiding stress and boredom. If you perceive something as stressful your mind will provide you with thoughts that will suggest you avoid it. For example, exercise is great for our health, but a lot of people try it for a short period and give up. Exercise is not easy but it is good for us. Your mind tells you it’s too tiring, so you stop. Is this the right thing to do?
Challenge yourself. Is this habit bringing me the outcomes I am looking to achieve? Do I need to change something?
What is the current bad habit?
Before you start to work towards forming the habit of great leadership, you need to understand the existing bad habit.
- Understand the trigger that is forcing the existing habit – what is the situation or event that triggers the habit you wish to change? Is it something someone says to you? Is it the way they say it? Is it something different? The way in which someone screws their face up? How they point at you when they are talking? There are literally thousands of triggers that could set different people off. We sometimes refer to it as “having our buttons pressed”. DO you know what it is that sets you off?
- What are you thinking when you experience the trigger – What is it that you are thinking when this situation occurs? Is this perception a healthy view of the experience? What is it that you say to yourself when the situation occurs?
- How does it make you feel – When you experience these thoughts how does it make you feel? Do you always feel the same way when the situation occurs or does the intensity vary for some reason? Can you easily describe the feeling when it happens?
- What is the current behaviour that follows the situation-thinking-feeling pattern? – So when this ‘thing’ happens have you recognised a pattern of behaviour that follows? i.e. when someone raises their voice and starts to shout towards you, you immediately start to think ‘why are you being aggressive towards me?’, this makes you feel uneasy and you feel your anxiety levels building up. Your typical response to this is to shout back as soon as you feel your adrenalin going and get angry with the person in your face.
- How are you reinforcing / rewarding the current pattern – Are you providing yourself with a reward that reinforces the habit? Is the outcome of your behaviour suggesting that you may be doing the right thing? (Even though deep down you question yourself). Taking the example above. If when you get angry and shout back, the person walks away and does exactly what you shouted at them. You could start to convince yourself that this was the correct response for the situation.
I would recommend you explore the bad habit you are looking to change or stop with a partner or group. This will help to build a good understanding of your perception and allow other people to challenge your thinking.
Asking for feedback and giving others permission to be honest helps us become more self aware and will make the change a much easier experience. You are much more likely to get the support you need if you are open and honest about your thoughts and feelings.
Don’t share yet. Get a good understanding of your bad habit first and during Part 2 of How to Form the Habit of Great Leadership I will share a step by step guide on how you create the great leadership habit.
Click here for: How to Form the Habit of Great Leadership (Part 2)
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