Five simple concepts that can make a good leader great—and a great leader a master.
The results we get in our lives can be directly attributed to the habits we form. And the more effectual habits we can execute from the level of mastery, the better our results will be.
Walt Disney. Henry Ford. James Cash Penney. Iconic Top leaders reap a double win from forming and following exceptional habits: they glean the valuable results their habits produce toward their priorities, and they earn the wins that come from the modeling of behavior for those they lead.
Years back, when we developed both the RESULTS Faster® course and the RESULTS Faster book, we deliberated intentionally about whether to put the lesson on habits at the beginning of the book or put it at the end to shore up the other twenty lessons. We decided the lesson on thinking should go first, and habits would be the strong piece at the end to serve as a foundation for anyone wanting results faster.
The purpose of this article is not to convince you of the value of forming great habits; as a leader, you are very aware of that. We simply hope to provide a few “a-ha”s or even epiphanies that would strengthen your thinking about the power of habits. Additionally, you could potentially have these available to share with your direct staff to help them get the best results as well.
As I’ve worked with and advised many of the very best leaders across industries all over the world, I’ve come to believe that there are three basic steps to becoming a master at anything—whether that’s to live at the mastery level in your parenting, marriage, leadership, mentoring, health or any other facet of your life.
Step 1 / You must be aware of the different levels of proficiency. For me, mine consists of three levels: good, great and mastery. It’s important to know in what level you are operating.
Step 2 / You must understand the benefits of living at the mastery level so your “want-to” factor kicks into high gear. Then, you are self-inspired and motivated because you better understand the feelings and the results you can experience by living at this success level.
Step 3 / Repetition is integral to forming habits. You must execute steadily and constantly to the point of habit, so the right things (in both thinking and doing) become automatic. The right habits allow you to produce incredible results over and over. But make sure the habits you are developing keep you on course—the wrong habits also produce results, just not the ones you are looking for.
We can achieve mastery in virtually any area of our lives if we’re truly willing to commit to our habits entirely. And that includes continually raising our (clearly documented) standards and not tolerating anything less than the very best. This is what it takes to be a true master. Here are five concepts I believe will help take you to the level of mastery in your habits.
1 / Eliminate: Take a hard look at your bad habits and focus on improvement.
Mastering the habit game is more than just having a collection of good habits. It’s also becoming aware of your bad habits and then looking at yourself in the mirror and challenging yourself to change or eliminate them, so you can avoid the negative outcomes they produce.
For example, if you have a habit of showing up late at a staff meeting, don’t be afraid of self-reflection. Are you doing that because there is routinely a more important item you need to handle? Or, have you developed the poor habit of failing to study your calendar and preparing properly?
That one negative habit impacts the culture, your personal brand and often the level to which you inspire your entire organization. Here’s a profound truth—you have to strategically lift up and see the big picture and then make whatever changes are necessary to improve your habits.
If you’re intentional about developing good habits, you will eventually replace the bad habits. It’s like growing grass. If you grow grass, it chokes out the weeds. If you put good habits in, you can choke out bad ones. Getting rid of bad habits by bringing in more good habits is a big piece of the mastery puzzle. So—bottom line—don’t let bad habits grow in your garden.
2 / Continuous Improvement: Don’t rest on your laurels—every day is a chance to get better.
Seek to improve habits that are already working. For example, if you have a reputation and a habit of hosting inspirational briefings, are you satisfied with the current content or could you make them even better?
Is there a mastery level you can go to in any of the habits you are currently proud of? I have had the same coach and have happily paid him for over thirty years. And I consistently ask my coach to evaluate blind spots, including areas where I am already great—and that includes habits. To put it simply, greatness is the enemy of mastery.
3 / Start Right: Set personal standards that apply to the habits you are forming or mastering.
How intentional are you at employing the right habits as you start your day? Most leaders start their day on their phone. Then—after taking care of their daily maintenance that equips them to be ready to see the world—they begin seeing people; talking to people; and appearing at meetings.
Personally, I set twelve standards for how I operate every day, and some of them are directly related to the habits I developed for starting my day. Item number five on my list is to greet my staff inspirationally. I’m intentional about having gratitude for my blessings and being an inspiration to my team when I first see them. I’ve included my personal standards on the following page to give you context for setting your own. These standards are a clarity list of habits I want to deploy on a daily basis to be an exceptional leader.
Tony’s Daily Standards
- Ask in prayer for smartness and Holy Spirit support and alignment with God’s will.
- Do team huddles and stimulate huddles.
- Glance at “pipe” each morning to have actions fresh in mind.
- Determine VIPs (Very Important Points) for the day (from Master list).
- Touch team members inspirationally.
- Communicate appreciation to all those around me (personal and professional).
- Strength, flex and breathe with confidence and think gratitude.
- Organize (rationalize) so more good things can come in.
- Visualize with further “clarity” our goals, direction, vision and refinement.
- Model exceptional behavior; including enjoying life.
- Eat healthy.
- Do favors and help advance my clients’ success.
I hope this inspires you to create a header called “Daily Standards” in the Notes section of your phone and then type in five, ten or 15 standards or habits you want to deploy to have a masterful day, every day.
4 / Next Level: Understand how your behaviors (good and bad) impact those around you.
Select habits have double and triple impact. For example, leaders who have the habit of eating well are modeling for their kids at virtually any age the value of being thoughtful about what you eat. At the same time, they are modeling for their team. And, as an added bonus, the habit of eating well can often help both you and your team operate at peak performance. Multiplying that out even further, being healthier often means you attract healthier people to your organization, as many people want to be around healthier environments. And there are many more positive impacts from eating healthier. So, the takeaway here is simple—your good habits impact many more people than just yourself.
5 / Habit Audit: Make a physical list of your positive qualities and the qualities you hope to develop.
List out ten personal habits you possess that have brought you to the top of your game, then list ten habits you are weak in or that you need to form. Consider sharing this activity at your next staff meeting.
Your brain is masterfully designed to save energy by detecting patterns and creating habits of things you do over and over again. In fact, at the center of your brain is something called the basal ganglia. This walnut-sized piece of “neural tissue” basically offloads from the cerebral cortex (the “thinking” part of the brain) any sequences that have turned into habits, therefore freeing the cerebral cortex up to handle other things. The brain actually craves habits so it doesn’t have to work so hard! Certainly, it’s more complex than that; however, our message with this article is not to scientifically unpack how habits work. Rather, we want to give you five powerful concepts that could up your game as a leader. I hope we’ve done that.
Tony Jeary—The RESULTS Guy™— is a business strategist, prolific author, results coach and the founder of the RESULTSCenter.co.
From the September 2022 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.