In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg coined the term, “keystone habits.” These are habits, once formed, which have a positive ripple effect in our lives and in our organizations. It is an intriguing idea, to say the least. What habits, or routines would increase your chances of a fantastic 2015?

Let’s go a little deeper to be sure we’re on the same page regarding what keystone habits look like…

The habit of regular exercise is perhaps my favorite. The research is clear, people who develop the habit of exercise have positive affects beyond exercising – most notably, they are much more conscious about what they eat. A positive ripple for sure, if you want a higher level of fitness.

In the business world, Duhigg sites the case of Paul O’Neill from Alcoa. When he became the CEO, rather than focus on share price or market share, he chose safety as his focus. He believed that focusing the entire enterprise on creating this single keystone habit would catapult the organization. He was correct.

So, what keystone habits would best serve you and your organization going into 2015? It is probably worth some time to consider. I’ve included a few candidates below for both personal and organizational habits to help you start the conversation…

Personal Habits

Think Others First – This has to be on my short list of keystone habits for leaders to consider. I wrote about this in my book, The Heart of Leadership. Although thinking others first may not be our natural instinct, I believe it is the essential keystone habit for every leader. Until you and I cultivate the ability to think others first, our leadership will forever be limited.

Exercise – This may be one of the most obvious keystone habits for leaders to consider. The idea of being “fit to lead” is more than a clever book title, it is a prerequisite for maximum impact. In addition to giving us the stamina and energy required to lead well, a fit leader models for others his or her ability to lead themselves well. The more fit we are, the better we’ll be able to lead.

Work from a clean desktop – I know for many of you this may seem bizarre. Here’s my story… I attended a workshop on personal effectiveness more than 30 years ago. The instructor told us a study of highly successful leaders revealed only one trait in common: they worked from a clean desk – it sharpens focus and minimizes distractions. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Organizational Habits

These are harder for me to suggest, because I don’t know your organization. However, you can imagine the potential positive ripple effect if everyone in your organization formed the habit to…

  • Return phone calls from your customers within 24 hours.
  • Include community building activities on every meeting agenda.
  • Start every meeting with a review of the status of previous action items.
  • Memorize the names of all your employees and their family members.
  • Recognize the contribution of someone on your team weekly, or even daily!
  • Offer a personal welcome to every guest who enters your establishment.
  • Review safety data at every meeting… it worked for Alcoa.

Make no mistake our habits are key determinants of our success. It was Aristotle who said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.[GLS_Shield]

What keystone habits would have the greatest impact on  your leadership in 2015?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.