Tag Archives: habits

Required Behaviors – Habits

Elliott’s Four Absolutes, required for success in a role (any role, no matter the discipline), here is the list.

  • Capability (measured in Time Span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors

Required behaviors, with three strings.

  • Contracted behaviors
  • Habits
  • Culture
  • Today is about habits.

    When I interview a candidate, I look at the role description, identify the critical role requirements and those habits that support those role requirements. We all have habits that support our success, we all have habits that detract from our success.

    Habits are those routine grooved behaviors that we lean on during times of decision, times of problem solving and times of stress. Some habits, we lean on, even if those behaviors were not successful in the past. Habits are familiar, habits require less brain power. Habits are a short cut to decision making and problem solving. In the face of urgency, we lean on our habits.

    As a hiring manager, interviewing a candidate, we can anticipate the problems to be solved and the decisions to be made in the role. The question is, what are the habits that contribute to success, what are the habits that detract from success?

    We all think we choose our success. We do not. The only thing we choose are our habits, and it is our habits that determine our success.

Must Become a Habit

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I feel like I am in big trouble. I was just promoted to manager. So, I understand I am the one who is supposed to make all the decisions, and that I am accountable for all the results.

But, it seems like I have to make up all the plays, call the plays, take the snap, throw the football, catch the football, and run for the touchdown. I am a bit overwhelmed.

Response:
Did you forget to block? My guess is you worked over the weekend and logged about 60 hours last week. Your manager probably told you had to delegate, but that has not been in your nature, you don’t have a habit of delegating.

Delegation is more than a series of steps –

  • Selecting the task to delegate.
  • Selecting the person to delegate to.
  • Holding a delegation meeting.
  • Describing the purpose and vision of the completed task.
  • Describing the specific performance standard, goal or objective.
  • Describing the guidelines, constraints, budget, access to resources.
  • Creating the action plan.
  • Setting the interim followup.
  • Evaluating the execution.

Delegation is a mindset. Your first question is not how something should be done, but who? Yes, you have the accountability for the outcome, but you have to accomplish it in a whole new way. And, delegation must become a habit. Over and over. Again. -Tom

Even If It Wasn’t Effective Before

How do most managers manage?

Most managers manage the way they were managed, even if they hated it. Especially under pressure, most of us return to routine grooved behaviors, even if the behavior was not effective back then, even if the behavior failed back then.

Learning something new is only half the battle. The other half is changing your habits to integrate something new. It takes conscious thought and a bit of persistence. -Tom

Routine Grooved Behaviors

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In the Four Absolutes, under Required Behaviors, you talk about habits. How do you interview for habits?

Response:
Habits are routine grooved behaviors kicked in by the brain in an approach to problem solving or decision making. To set the context, here are the Four Absolutes (required for success in any role).

  • Capbility (stated in time span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors

Under Required Behaviors, there are three strings attached.

  • Contracted behaviors
  • Habits
  • Culture

To be successful in any role, there are some required behaviors. When I interview a candidate, I examine the role description, in each key result area (KRA), I identify the critical role requirements (required behaviors) and identify the habits that support and the habits that detract.

We all have habits that support our success, we also have habits that work against us.

Reading the resume
Habits are patterns. Read the resume from the back page to the front page. Most resumes are written in reverse chronological order, very tough to see a pattern going backward.

Identify the habit, then look for it
When I hire for a project manager, one habit I look for is planning vs improvisation. Improvisation is fun, but creates chaos. Improvisation may get the job done (once), customer may be very happy, but the cost is organizational body bags and friction, negatively impacting project profitability.

Effective project managers possess the habit of planning. Planning is a behavior that I can interview for. I will look for patterns of planning behavior as I move through the resume from past to present. Then I specifically look for planning behavior with specific questions.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where planning was required?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project
  • How many people on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • At what point during the project did planning begin?
  • Step me through the planning process for the project?
  • What was the form of the plan? written? whiteboard? verbal?
  • How was the plan used during the course of the project?
  • How often was the plan referred to during the course of the project?
  • How were revisions to the plan handled during the course of the project?
  • How were revisions to the plan documented during the course of the project? written? whiteboard? verbal?
  • What were the results of the project in comparison to the original plan?
  • Step me through the debrief (post mortem) of the project in relation to the plan?
  • What did you learn from the project debrief that impacted your plan on the next project?

Habits are those routine grooved behaviors automatically initiated by the brain in response to a problem that must be solved or a decision that must be made. -Tom

Habits Help, Habits Hurt

“But habits can help and habits can kill,” I said.

“I don’t understand,” Muriel replied. “We just talked about how competence and habits go hand in hand.”

“Yes, they do and like many things, your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.” I could see Muriel’s face scrunch up, mixed in resistance and curiosity.

“Competence requires a set of habits. Habits help us, habits hurt us. Think about a new problem that must be solved, like that change in production last month.”

Muriel winced. “I know, I know. We practiced hard on producing that left element. We were really good at it, and it was difficult. Then we got the machine. Using the machine was even harder, so my team kept doing it manually. Someone even sabotaged the machine configuration that kept it out of the loop for two days. All in all, it took us three weeks to become competent on the machine, when it should have taken only five days.”

“Habits can sometimes be a powerful force in resisting change. Habits are grooves in the way we think. They can be helpful, but sometimes, we have to get out of the groove and it’s tough.” -Tom

Competence and Habits

“How are habits connected to competence?” I asked.

Muriel looked at me and remembered. It was a short trip down memory lane. “When I first became a manager,” she started, “I was awful. I thought I was such a hot shot, walking around telling everyone what to do. Within a couple of weeks, productivity in my department was at an all time low, and I couldn’t figure it out.

“So, I started asking questions. Instead of telling my team how to do the work more efficiently, I began asking them how they could do the work more efficiently. I didn’t do it very often, but when I did, remarkable things happened. Over time, I got better at asking questions. Practice. Practice makes permanent. Now, asking questions is a habit.”

“So, describe the competence connected to the habit?” I pressed.

“The competence is challenging my team. Challenging them to higher levels of performance, productivity, efficiency.”

“So, competence is about acquiring a new habit.”

Habits, Success and Choice

There are some behaviors you simply contract for. But, just because we have an agreement, does not necessarily mean we will see the behavior. I always look for habits.

Required behavior is one of the Four Absolutes necessary for success in any role.

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion, value for the work/li>
  • Required behavior (contracted behavior, habits, culture)

I look for those routine, grooved behaviors that support the required behaviors in the role. If a behavior requires a Herculean effort to comply, it is likely that sooner or later, the agreement will be broken. If the behavior is supported by a habit, it is likely I will gain commitment to that behavior.

We think we choose our success.
We do not.
We choose our habits.
It is our habits that determine our success.

Here is how to interview for habits. -Tom

Routine Grooved Behaviors

“I understand,” Marietta replied. “I got it. The way you explained it, now I know what to do.”

“You understand, in one part of your brain, but in the heat of the day, another part of your brain will want to do what it has always done,” I observed.

“But, now, I know what to do differently,” she protested.

“And, when you walk into the situation, that other part of your brain will take over and you will fall back on your habits, your grooved behaviors, even if they were not successful.”

“I hope that won’t happen,” Marietta flatly said.

“The only way to act in your new understanding, is to practice, practice and practice, until your new understanding becomes a habit. Only then will you be able to execute in a new way. We think we choose our success, but we don’t. We only choose our habits and our habits will determine our success.”

Habits That Contribute, Habits That Don’t

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You said in your workshop that we should interview for habits. I agree that is important, but exactly, how do you interview for habits?

Response:
Do you know someone who always shows up late for everything? You get annoyed and suggest strategies to change that habit. “Set your watch 5 minutes ahead. Get out of bed a half hour earlier.” Yet this person is still late, every time.

There are habits that we have that contribute to our success and habits we have that detract from our success. Habits are those grooved and practiced behaviors that a person uses to solve problems and make decisions. Habits are a shortcut to problem solving and decision making. Habits create repeated conditions that contribute or detract from success.

But how do you interview for habits. When I examine the critical role requirements, I identify what habits would be valuable, specifically the repeated behaviors that would be valuable. Then interview for those behaviors. Let’s take showing up early as a habit.

  • Tell me about a project where it was important that the team start together each day?
  • What time did the team arrive?
  • What time did you arrive?
  • Why was it important that the team start together?
  • Tell me about a routine meeting that you were a part of?
  • How often was the meeting?
  • What was the purpose of the meeting?
  • What time did the meeting start?
  • What time did the team arrive?
  • What time did you arrive?
  • What happened when team members were late?
  • What happened when you were late?
  • What did you do to make sure that you were on time?

It is important to listen to how the candidate describes the behaviors of others as well as their own behavior. Their attitudes toward being late will be revealed.

I would rather be a half hour early than one minute late.

Required Habits?

“What habits are required for this role you are designing,” I asked.

“Habits?” Robyn replied. “This is a technical position, lots of things to know. I figured I would spend most of the interview, asking questions about how much the candidate knows about the technical part of the job.”

“I am certain there is technical knowledge that is very important to know, and I assume you will spend a good portion of the interview assessing that. But what about habits? What habits are required for this role?” I repeated.

“What do you mean, habits?”

“It’s nice to understand the technical part of the role, but competence will require specific behaviors in solving problems and making decisions. We all have habits that contribute to our success, we all have habits that detract from our success. Habits are grooved behaviors, repeated time after time. Faced with difficulty or a challenge, we often fall back on our habits, even if our habits were unsuccessful in the past. What questions will you ask about habits? What habits are required for this role?”