A friend of mine, Jane, a senior manager with a FMCG company, manages six direct reports who in turn manage four to five people each. Jane to us, is one of the most enthusiastic, authentic and a gregarious person. When she started leading a team, about 4 years back, she faced issues of underperformance from her team. She did not realize that this underperformance was mainly from her leadership skills or rather from one of her age-old habits.
She initially attributed the reasons for underperformance to pressures of time and lack of resources. She decided to hire a coach after reflecting on the consistent underperformance of her team. It was only then that she realized that it was her habit of assuming that her team understood and bought into every change that was introduced, was the key reason for the disconnect.
We are all creatures of habit, good or bad. Some of these habits we are unaware of just like Jane, till we start reflecting, and making ourselves aware and then looking at the consequences.
We become what we repeatedly do. Did you know that our subconscious mind is much more powerful than our conscious mind?
It is our subconscious mind – the habitual mind that dictates most of our thoughts and actions. What does this mean?
Most of us spend our time on an autopilot mode in the way we behave and act. This could be unconsciously competent or unconsciously incompetent part of us. Take the example of someone who has been driving a car for years. This person is almost on an auto pilot mode whilst driving. Most people whilst driving are engaged in a conversation. When you think about this, it is scary.
Our subconscious mind is like a fertile soul that accepts any seed planted. Thus our habitual thoughts, feelings, and actions are a result of what we sow in our subconscious mind. So be it eating dessert after every meal, or acting like a bully in every situation of life, or making yourself loud and known no matter where you are, are habits and they result from our subconscious mind and what we have sown there.
Do we need to get rid of all our habits ? Absolutely not
We manifest good and bad habits and it is some of these bad habits that affects our health, our relationships, our behavior as a leader in day-to-day life or within organizations.
How do we get over bad habits?
1. Reflective stage – habits are ingrained through repeated actions over a long period of time. Many people within organizations who are recommended coaches are at phase one of this stage. This is where they are not yet possibly convinced about making the shift.
Phase 2 is where most contemplate a change but may have some doubts. Typical example are following an exercise regimen or in Janeâ€™s case not making an assumption about her team’s buy in to every change. The conscious mind needs to take control and this can happen only through reflection and self-awareness.
2. Preparation – from contemplation to being convinced about the necessity to get rid of the habit. This conviction could be triggered from a bad experience as a result of the age-old habit. So it could be a health disaster or in Janeâ€™s case when she was pulled up for her relationship with her team which came out in her 360 review. At this stage you are ready to structure an action plan with your coach or mentor or on your own to make the shift. This stage requires commitment, evaluating alternate behaviors, rewards, and supporting networks in a coach, family or friends.
3. Action – implementation of the structured action plan.
4. Maintenance – the sustainability of the new habit. Many changes are initiated, implemented possibly for a long time but not sustained. Possible issues at this stage could be overconfidence, regularly faced with antecedents that trigger old ways of behaving or even fear and weak sense of self efficacy. Working with a coach and your support group especially at this stage is imperative to make sustainable shifts.
The real key to success is in replacing bad or destructive habits with something constructive.
Are you ready to understand that you have the power of choice in making the change?
How aware are you about yourself?
How aware are you on how you are consistently perceived by others?
What do you think comes in between you and your happiness? If you knew that what would you do different ?
What changes are you committed to making once you are aware of the necessity to do so?