Good habits, bad habits, old habits and new habits

personal development word cloudHave you noticed how much easier it is to fall back into old habits than it is to maintain new, positive habits?

So often, we know exactly what it is we need to do in order to be stronger and healthier, physically and financially, personally and professionally and yet .. we either don’t make the changes necessary or we don’t maintain positive, new direction.

Why is that? Personally, I think it’s because a lot of times, we don’t really buy into, believe or want the results the change in behaviour or attitude will bring. Other times, quite frankly, we get a rush or a kick out of the results our “negative” behaviour provides.

For example:

Unless you truly believe that taking (making?) the time to connect with your team in the morning is more important than checking emails, that change in behaviour won’t last more than six weeks.

Unless you truly believe that taking a break and stepping away from your computer screen and going for a walk or joining the table in the lunch room is going to improve relationships and productivity, that change in behaviour won’t last for more than six weeks. The same applies if working through lunch feeds your ego and makes you feel indispensable.

We make a lot of promises to ourselves and those around us because we’ve read blog posts, research paper, or participated in workshops, etc but unless we believe that the change will provide a personal benefit (yes .. sometimes, being selfish and looking after YOU is absolutely the right thing to do) … we quickly fall back into old habits.

Or perhaps we’ve just decided to make too many changes all at once. Outside of one person I know (whose New Year’s Resolution list generally tops 20 bullet points!) most of us need to focus on change in one, two or maybe three areas at at time.

Whatever the reason … if you’re finding yourself falling back into old habits, ask yourself why and refocus. Find YOUR reason, not anyone else’s or, take your list, prioritize and focus on one, two or three at at time. The others aren’t lost .. they are just on hold.

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Pros and consThere are times in our lives when, in spite of all the experience we’ve gained, in spite of all the books we’ve read, in spite of all the advice we’ve asked for and received, there is no clearly obvious answer to the question “Now what?”

When sitting still, when maintaining the status quo is not an option; when the pros and cons have been written down, when the risks, benefits, potential outcomes have been analyzed and then analyzed again and there is still no clear solution, then what?

When the only obvious choice is to move, close your eyes, take a deep breath and go with the option that feels right, or perhaps, just feels less wrong. Once you’ve started to move, don’t second-guess your decision even if everyone else around you is. I don’t mean you should stubbornly refuse to alter from the course; just recognize you made a decision based on what you knew and felt at that moment.

Not making a decision is a decision. Not making a choice is a choice.  Sometimes a movement in one direction is just what’s needed to clearly demonstrate movement in the other direction was the better option.  So turn around.  At least you moved.

Book Review: Challenge the Ordinary

ChallengetheordinaryIn my post, Upright and Breathing Are Not Key Qualities, I shared two reasons why some employers hold on and keep less than stellar performers on their payroll.

Reading ‘Why Evolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Challenge the Ordinary, Question Long-Held Assumptions and Kill their Sacred Cows’ confirmed another suspicion I had as to why some employers let them stay.  It’s easier to settle than create the environment where exceptional thrives.

Being the kind of company exceptional people want to work at and then want to stay at, demands a commitment to exceptional and a whole lot of hard work.

There is a wealth of information and wisdom in Linda’s book. I have tabs stuck on numerous pages and lots of highlighted information. Here are notes from just four of those tabs:

1.  The Competitive Advantage quadrant outlines four ways companies operate.  Some companies have a clear vision of future but no clear plan on how to get there. Others rest on the laurels of previous or even current success. Because they are successful now, they continue to operate exactly as they have always done and therefore, quickly fall behind.  Some companies look for instant gratification. They have short-term goals which are successfully implemented, but those goals are without long-term focus. Companies in the competitive advantage quadrant have a proven track record of success, but unlike those resting in their laurels, they ask the question “Is this still working  Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Companies in this quadrant also have clear direction and take the time time develop strong execution plans.

2.  A change-oriented, learning culture is needed to achieve exceptional.  This really ties back to willingness to ask “Is this still working? Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Providing training and coaching support is critical and exceptional leaders ensure their teams get that support, but a learning culture goes beyond that.  A learning culture also includes the assumption that positive change, improvement, happens when there is a pro-active approach to problem-solving.  It means an understanding of and willingness to take on the inherent risk of trying a new approach and perhaps failing. It is through trial and error that better solutions are found.

3.  Setting, sticking to and living  high standards.  Exceptional companies expect so much more than good or great companies. They set their standards high and they don’t let them slide. Mediocre or ‘good-enough’ is not accepted.   The leaders of exceptional companies understand that they must be the living, breathing example of what they expect from the people on their team.  They do not demand or expect more from others than they themselves are willing to give.

4.  A one-size-fits-all approach to coaching doesn’t work.  Some of you will know how much I dislike the one-size-fits-all approach to anything, so I couldn’t help but love this statement.  Coaching, rewards, recognition .. they all need to be done with the individual in mind.  What works for one individual won’t work for another.  Too many companies have approaching coaching, training, rewards and recognition with a one-size-fits-all approach and then abandon them because they don’t work.

These are is only four quick take-aways from Linda Henman’s book. If I kept writing, and I could, you would all need to go and get another cup or two of coffee.  In short, if you want to be the kind of exceptional company that draws star performers to you and then keep them with you, create an environment where stars flourish and shine.  Stars ditch companies that tolerate mediocrity and companies filled with mediocrity don’t attract stars.

Now go, work hard and shine!

(Thank you to Career Press for the opportunity to read and review Linda Henman’s book, Challenge the Ordinary.)

Encouraging Accountability & Responsibility

Your team is only as strong as the weakest link.  What does your team look like?  Is there someone on your team who consistently causes problems or conflict? Perhaps it is someone who points her finger at another member on the team when a deadline is missed.  Or someone who blames his alarm clock each time he is late (which is often)?  Or faults the information or the instructions received when an error is made?

So how do you, as a leader, take control of the situation?

Some managers choose to ignore it, in the hopes it will get better.  Or they choose the opposite direction and immediately remove the person from their team.  The first choice never works.  If left unchecked, one team member’s apathy and inability to accept responsibility negatively affects the whole team.   And while removing a person from a team may have to be done eventually, there are other things to try first.

When you notice someone pointing the finger of blame elsewhere, stop them and redirect the conversation.  Have them focus on what can be done to fix the problem, instead of focusing on reasons (excuses?) why something went wrong.

It’s also a good idea to have a conversation with the employee.  When people feel bored, under-appreciated or overwhelmed, they may lose motivation.

If your team member is bored, is there something you can do to provide a new challenge or learning opportunity?  Are you giving all of your team members regular feedback and recognizing them for a job well done?  Has their workload increased significantly?  Are they feeling overwhelmed due to lack of training or inferior or out-dated tools?  Are you providing clear direction as to expectations, duties, responsibilities?

And last but not least, take a look at yourself.  What is your response when an error is made?  Do you get angry or do you look for solutions?  Are you leading by example?  You are ultimately responsible for the team, so when things go wrong, do you stand up and accept overall responsibility or do you start playing the blame game?

As a leader of a team, it is your job to encourage your team members take more responsibility for their work.  Be sure they have the skills and resources they need to do their job effectively and then create an environment that encourages responsibility and accountability.