Bad habits can be hard to break, and for business leaders who have them, they can be deal-breakers.
In a survey by Leadership IQ, an online training firm, the primary reasons CEOs were fired — mismanaging change, ignoring customers, tolerating low performers, and not enough action — were often related to unproductive habits.
Although leaders who display these behaviors generally know what to do, and how to do it, their unproductive habits render them unable to get things done — with dire consequences. The most common unproductive leadership habits include avoiding decisions and conflict, maintaining comfort-zone networks, needing to be liked, neglecting to listen enough. And those habits are hard to break.
However, leaders can break those habits by replacing them with foundational habits that make leaders successful. Here are six:
• Capitalize on luck. This is a habit of forward-moving thinking in response to both good- and bad-luck events. Bad luck, such as the extended absence of a key employee, affords an opportunity for the leader to empower others by challenging them to learn, grow and contribute in new ways. Whatever the circumstances, leaders rapidly come to understand the value of generating return on luck. Everyone wins.
• Be grateful. When you appreciate and value what you have, you gain a clearer perspective. A daily meeting ritual of appreciation creates space for executives to share what they appreciate most, and it opens up the room to clearer thinking and increased collaboration.
• Live — within limits. Research shows there are many advantages to being a giver, but striking a balance is important to remain productive. Sharing information and resources cultivates an abundance mindset, bringing benefits that both the company and the leader can reap. But there are limits; if you’re giving away too much time and too many resources, you won’t be able to accomplish your own objectives. Give, but know when to say no.
• When problems arise, focus on process — not people. When something goes wrong, a common approach is to find fault with the people involved. But bad or poorly communicated processes can make even the most talented, dedicated staff look terrible. Question processes and communication first, before you explore the intentions, character, or capabilities of those involved. Research shows that believing in your people pays off.
• Have high expectations of others. Leaders who set the bar high and then give their teams latitude to execute reap more benefits than those who simply tell their teams what to do. Those whose habits include valuing autonomy and individual responsibility can build something great over time. High expectations and empowerment are key.
• Maintain intentional focus. Countless research studies have exposed excessive multi-tasking as ineffective. To make real progress, hold a small number of very important things in your mind and let go of the rest. Ruthless prioritization and focus in execution will set you free.
With our thoughts, we make our world. Check your beliefs about your leadership habits, choose just one or two to change, enlist others to support your efforts, and then get to it.
Mark E. Green, author of “Activators: A CEO’s Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done” (www.Activators.biz), is a speaker, strategic advisor, and coach to CEOs and executive teams worldwide. He is a core advisor to Gravitas Impact Premium Coaches.