The 3-step process for creating better habits across your team

August 20, 2015

As a leader, it’s your job to ensure you’re always pushing your employees to form positive workplace habits. But like any ingrained routine, it takes more than motivation for it to truly sink in. Even the most promising change can fizz out if it’s not repeated on a daily basis.

According to international business speaker and author Michael Kerr, successful people tend to thrive on routine and consistent habits. Of course, you can’t force your employees to adopt a habit, but by finding the right work pattern and reinforcing it daily, you’ll build a culture that’s driven by consistency. And as a result, you’ll foster a more productive workplace.

Habit formation is a team effort

In his book “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg attributes the formation of a habit with a psychological pattern called the “habit loop.” This routine consists of three key steps: the trigger, the routine, and the reward.

According to Duhigg, once a habit is formed, the brain starts working less and less while engaged in that task, and eventually, it can virtually shut down. As a result, mental capacity is cleared up for tackling other duties or forming other habits.

Still, knowing the science behind habit formation and putting those ideas into practice are two distinct concepts. Here’s how you can help your team form lasting, positive habits:

1. Motivate.

Gumption is what separates the desire to change from the will to change. As the leader, your teammates must share the same goals as you. You have to motivate them to care about the new habit you’re promoting.

Consider having an entire meeting based solely around the new habit you want your employees to perfect to stress how important this process is. By getting your teammates on the same page and placing a degree of urgency on the habit-forming process, they’ll begin to understand why these habits are such an integral part of their success and will draw motivation from you and from within.

2. Craft a plan.

Once you’ve got the troops motivated, you need to capitalize on their gumption and help them create a plan to solidify their new habits. After that first meeting, you need to follow up with your teammates with snippets of advice on how to keep up the progress. Forming a new habit isn’t easy, but with a strong leader behind them every step of the way, your teammates will adjust more quickly than expected.

I recommend setting up a 12-week plan for your employees with ample opportunities for check-ins, one-on-ones, and constructive feedback.

3. Coach them.

There are numerous ways you can coach your teammates — it all depends on how they respond. One technique I’ve found helpful is identifying an employee who is really taking the lead on forming a new habit and making him or her an example for others. For instance, if John in accounting was able to adopt a new piece of software, you might have him talk about how he was able to do so in your next meeting.

This is not only a great way for employees to grow into their new habits together, but it’s also a great way to boost morale. The key is coaching people until they find a way to do it themselves.

Small habit changes may seem granular, but minor improvements can add up to big results. By empowering your employees to make positive changes, you can reap the benefits of a more productive workplace. You just have to attack this process with the mindset of a stonemason: one brick at a time.

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