Tag Archives: habits

Practiced, Grooved Behavior

“But, I thought my team was competent. They have worked under this kind of pressure, solved these kinds of problems before,” Marion reported.

“So, what do you think is the problem?” I asked.

“I know we spent a lot of time working from home over the past couple of months. And, now we are back in the office most of the time. Things are different. People stick to their cubicles, practice social distance. It’s like Men-in-Black erased the memories of how well they used to work together.”

“What’s missing now, that was there before?”

“They seem out of practice. It’s not like they are screwing everything up, but they used to be tight. Now, every hiccup creates a little team stumble.”

“Marion, you say they are out of practice. What have they been practicing?”

She chuckled. “They have practiced being apart, practiced being disconnected, working alone, not talking to each other.”

“We are always in practice,” I said. “Just sometimes we practice stuff that’s counter-productive to where we want to go. We get good at what we practice. If we practice being lazy, we get good at being lazy. If we practice enough, it becomes a habit. Don’t practice things you don’t want to get good at.”

It’s Not a Technique

“I am thinking about taking a course in time management,” Earl announced.

“So, you think you need more time to get things done?” I asked. “I have some bad news for you. The clock never slows down. I cannot give you any more minutes in a day and the rate of those minutes never changes. You cannot manage time.”

Earl had a quizzical look on his face. He was certain that I would give him a referral to a time management course, or at least give him a book to read.

“You can manage yourself, you can be more productive, you can manage tasks, but no matter how much you stare at the clock on the wall, the second hand will continue to tick. You know the techniques.

  • To do list
  • Prioritize
  • Uninterrupted time
  • Time budget
  • Weekly review
  • Only handle it once
  • Action list
  • Say no
  • Delegation
  • Pareto principle

“And, understanding techniques to be more productive, techniques for self-management, techniques for task management seldom work.

“It is not desire that fails people, for most want the outcomes that time management produces.

“What fails people most is discipline. The discipline to perform something over and over until it becomes a habit. It is only when you create a habit that you will gain the benefits from any time management technique.

“I can teach you the techniques, but only you can supply the habit.”

Off Balance

“Sometimes, during the day, I feel like I am lost,” Miriam lamented.

“How so?” I asked

“Things just seem off-balance. I don’t know if it’s the circumstance we are in, with all the changes, or if it’s me?”

“It’s easy to see the circumstances that have changed. And, part of it is you,” I nodded.

“So, it is me?”

I continued to nod, “Yep. Think about the moment you feel off-kilter, what happens?”

“I am just about to do something, out of instinct, then I have to second-guess, is this what I should really be doing, right now?”

“So, you have a habit that is breaking, at least in question?”

It was Miriam’s turn to nod. “And, breaking a habit feels off-balance. Habits are supposed to help me take consistent action. And, now I am not so sure the next action is right?”

“Miriam, it’s normal, welcome to the world of professional growth.”

New Behaviors and Habits

Muriel took a measured breath. “I have an uneasy feeling, and I don’t know why,” she explained. “Things are going okay, but, as we ramp back up, I think things are going to change. And I am not sure I am prepared to adapt quick enough.”

“Things are going well, now?” I asked.

“Going okay, not great, but okay, kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“When did things start to go okay?”

Muriel laughed. “You are right, it’s been a tough few weeks. I don’t know if I just got used to it, or if I got better.”

“So, things got easier. New unknown problems became familiar, you knew what to do and how to do it.” I said.

Muriel nodded affirmative.

“And, we know things will change, again, because they always do. Change in your company, on your team and with yourself. And when things change, you are faced with your own incompetence.”

Muriel winced. Close to home, perhaps. I continued. “But you do adapt and you do change. But tell me, when you successfully perform something new, for the first time, does that make you competent?”

“No,” she responded. “Competence requires practice, doing it well over and over, until it becomes a habit.”

“So competence is not simply acquiring an occasional new skill, but acquiring a new habit.”

Permanent and Temporary

What changes have become permanent and what changes are only temporary? As we live in this science-fiction movie, we think, at some point, the movie will be over, we can walk into the sunshine and everything will be normal again.

It is too easy to think that things are temporary, when some things will never return to the way they were. So, some things require only a short-lived adjustment, an accommodation. AND, some things will require new habits.

If it is temporary, we can live with a small discomfort, an awkward way. If the change is permanent, we better figure out a better way and get really good at dealing with it.

Double Edge of Knowing

Habits are routine, grooved behaviors based on what-we-know. What-we-know is always based on the past.

Habits are a two-edged sword. Habits help us understand the world quickly. What-we-know creates patterns we can use to solve problems efficiently using a minimum of brain power.

Habits can prevent us from clearly seeing the present. What-we-know may not be accurate or lead us to mistake reality as a previous pattern (with a mistake).

Habits are part of who we are and resistant to change, because they are based on what-we-know. Habits are more powerful than reality, because reality is always new. Knowing prevents learning.

Habits of Success?

In my last post, A Level of Competence, I ended with an unspoken question.

What habits do you have that support your success? I am curious to hear from you, so post a comment or reply by email. I will collect, manicure and re-post.

Here are two of my habits.

  • Each morning, I fix a cup of coffee, and spend 60-90 minutes writing. This is where the blog comes from, as well as email correspondence with other thought leaders.
  • When I drive an automobile, I do NOT listen to the radio, only podcasts or I simply drive and think.

What are your habits?

A Level of Competence

“We all have habits that support our success,” I started. “We may have some habits that detract. It is those routine, grooved behaviors that chip away at the world. It is our discipline.

“Emily, why does a star quarterback throw more touchdown passes than others? Why does a singer perform so well on stage? Why does an Olympic swimmer break a record?”

Emily knew there was a very specific answer to this question, so she waited.

“They all do those things because they can. They spend great periods of their life creating the habits to support the skills that drive them to the top. They reach high levels of competence because they practiced, tried and failed, got better and practiced some more, with a discipline to master those skills. They perform at a high level because they can. The great numbers who have not mastered those skills, who are not competent, were eliminated in the first round.

“Those who achieve mastery are a select few. And that includes effective managers.

“It takes a discipline of habits to achieve competency. For a manager, these habits support the leadership skills necessary to be effective. And that is where we will start.”

What Determines Success?

Emily shifted to the edge of the chair in anticipation. “Okay, I’m game,” she said. “If I want my team to make changes, I have to look at myself first. So, I am willing to do that. I want to make things come out better, make my team better, make myself better. I want to make a difference. I want to change the outcome.”

“Emily, we don’t choose the way things turn out. I mean, we may think we choose our success, but we do not. The only thing we choose are our habits. And, it’s our habits that determine our success. What are those grooved and routine behaviors that chip away at the world? If you want to know how to influence others, you have to first understand how you choose your own habits.”

Stuck in a Pattern

“I just do what comes naturally,” Morgan started. “I manage my team the way it feels right. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.”

“Sometimes not?” I asked.

“Sometimes, what feels natural, puts me right back in the same problem as before. What feels like progress is just staying stuck.”

“Staying stuck?”

“In the past, I made managerial moves that didn’t work out. Like delegating a project, then dissatisfied with the result, taking the project back. Next project, same thing, over and over.”

“Over and over?”

“Like a grooved, routine behavior. I got used to taking projects back. Almost like a habit, even if it didn’t work. Taking a project back was comfortable. The project got done (by me) and the quality was up to standard. Problem solved,” Morgan explained.

“Then, what’s the problem?”

“Just because we do something over and over, doesn’t make it the best move. I have to do something different to interrupt the pattern, when the pattern doesn’t get what I want.”

“What do you want?”

“I want my team to solve the problem, and I want the output up to standard,” Morgan replied.

“So, how are you going to interrupt the pattern?”