Perhaps the hardest part of becoming a comfortable leader is that aspect of your leadership relating to being consistent or what I call Continuity. Most groups and leaders I work with love learning the skills around Coherence and Challenge and those skills produce immediate results. Yet the final component of becoming comfortable in your skin as a leader is making those skills a habit.
One of my favorite quotes is from Aristotle where he states; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.” It is in the fostering of the habits of comfortable leadership that you come to make things stick.
I love the story of how Michael Jordan after being cut from his high school basketball team determined to overcome that set back and established a daily routine of shooting and practicing his skills. From all accounts he literally could be found shooting and practicing every spare moment of his day. He built up his “muscle memory” (read habit) through the thousands of shots taken until it stuck.
Practice Like You Never Arrived
Stories like this abound. Tiger Woods, Tony Dungy and his work with the Colts and many others, all of whom worked at the habits that create excellence. What truly separates them from the rest of the crowd is that they did not stop there. Having achieved a high level of excellence they did not stop practicing but indeed ramped it up even more.
This is key to effective leadership. As humans we are tempted to stop as soon as we have achieved a goal or we are feeling better about something. It is one of the greatest challenges around training and organizational change – falling back into old – non productive habits. I tell the groups I work with that they are going to see an up tick in performance because they are trying these new techniques and approaches. But I also tell them to not get complacent because after that up tick they will probably experience a slide back to previous levels.
When Should You Stop? Never!
Why? Because they have not established those new techniques as habits. It's a lot like someone who takes medication for a condition who starts to feel better so they stop taking the medication and they relapse. There are no short cuts to excellence and just like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods you have to practice the techniques and components of good leadership every day to ensure that they become habits that stick.
Providing a clear approach to leading by setting out the goals and objectives for your team is a habit you need to do daily. Collecting metrics or measures and reporting on those regularly need to become habits for you and your team. Creating time on a regular basis to evaluate and discuss measures and come up with solutions and opportunities need to become engrained into the daily or weekly routines of your team.
Are They Automatic?
How many of you have ever set out to drive somewhere for whatever reason only to find yourself taking the route you would normally take to work? Our habit of taking a certain route becomes so ingrained in our mind that we do it often without much thought at all. Habits of comfortable leadership need to be that ingrained. Developing those daily habits ensure they get done but ultimately they will allow you to extend your focus to bigger and broader goals.
Establishing Continuity through the deliberate fostering of habits and techniques around Coherence and Challenge is what will make your leadership not only more comfortable but also more excellent. Performance Leadership – Think About It!