August 30


When Good Habits Go Bad

By Sara Canaday

August 30, 2019

blind spots, business leaders, career, career success, coaching, emotional intelligence, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership characteristics, leadership development, leadership qualities, leadership skills, self-awareness

Sometimes we get into the habit of doing the same things we’ve always done. Personal and even workplace habits that once served us, can become stale and even obsolete.

I’ll use my own father as an example. Since I can remember, Dad has kept a handy little logbook in his glove compartment to document the dashboard mileage reading every time he fills up the car with gas. Doesn’t matter if he is in a hurry or on vacation. He dutifully records the mileage at each fill-up to track his miles per gallon.

Ever the engineer, he loves keeping precise records. On the other hand, every car made after 2012 (including his) automatically tracks the miles per gallon. I suspect he already knows this, but mileage-tracking has become a deeply ingrained habit. Why trust the system when he can calculate that himself?

Is my Dad’s outdated habit hurting anyone? No! But it is a classic example of how we, as humans, tend to cling to the familiar. We get used to doing the same thing over and over again. We get comfortable with it. Even look forward to it.

Here’s the problem. When those habits occur in the business environment, the negative impact can be much greater than just annoying the other family members. (Ahem. Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

Think about the work habits and practices you’ve accumulated over time. We all have those near-and-dear processes that have become “baked in” to our workdays. Maybe you have been producing a monthly report for years that, quite frankly, no one is still reading.

It can be uncomfortable (and sometimes even daunting) to re-examine our workplace habits and narrow our focus. But don’t let yourself become intimidated by the process of changing your routine. It’s the key to your future success.

Companies do this all the time. Last year, Ford Motor Company stunned the auto industry by announcing that it was phasing out its small car and sedan lines, narrowing production to the Mustang (because a classic never goes out of style) and the Ford Focus Active crossover/SUV. Despite the fact that cars were certainly a “habit” for Ford, the organization stepped back and reevaluated how to better serve its customers during challenging economic times. Industry experts are calling this decision a brilliant move, and I predict we are going to see more and more companies getting greater clarity on their core markets.

If you think you may be relying on old habits, take a closer look at the things that occupy your workday. Then apply these three filtering questions:

1. Does this practice, meeting, project, or even product still add value to what we are trying to accomplish?

2. Am I doing this to drive results or to make someone else comfortable?

3. Is this the best and highest use of my time?

4. If I were to make a “STOP” doing list, what would be on it?

The ability to break free from outdated habits is just one of the strategies used by today’s modern leaders. To learn more, I invite you to explore my new online course, just released on LinkedIn Learning or purchase my new book, Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance.

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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