By Joni Lindquist

Humans are creatures of habit.  As we gain career success, we develop ways to communicate, work, make decisions, manage others, and deliver results.  These “ways” consist of various habits.  However, as you advance professionally, you will likely need to adapt and expand your leadership repertoire.  This will require you to develop new habits.

I have coached business professional s for more than 25 years on how to enhance and expand their leadership skills.  In that time, I’ve identified five steps to building new habits:

  1. Commitment – the individual must have a high commitment level to changing. Change can be hard and doing things differently is often extremely uncomfortable for us.  I often ask clients “on as scale of ‘1 to 10’ with ‘1’ meaning no commitment and ‘10’ meaning extremely high commitment – how would you rate yourself?”  Sometimes, a client will be in the low range and admit that, because of other things going on in their lives, they aren’t really committed.  If that’s the case, postpone working on the change as it simply won’t happen.  Conversely, if the client gives themselves a score of 7 or over, it’s the first step to making changes.
  2. Accountability – making personal change and creating new habits takes time and focus. I have found it helps if the individual is held accountable to someone else.  It’s the same theory that works with programs like Weight Watchers.  The participants have accountability – they have to weigh-in and check their progress at “class.”  The class facilitator becomes the accountability partner.  For your work life, hiring an executive coach is a great way to have someone who will not only hold you accountable, but will also provide guidance on how to make the changes.  Plus, a coach celebrates the small wins you have along the way.  If that isn’t possible, find a friend, colleague, or mentor who will hold you accountable for your new habit.
  3. Cues – this is a critical step that people sometimes overlook. I have clients create cues that will remind them of the new habit.  These cues need to be placed where you will continually see them – so a sticky note on your computer, a note in your planner or a calendar reminder will work.  The cue needs to be personal and meaningful to you. I also believe visual cues, such as symbols, work best.
  4. Practice – My clients often ask, “How do I create this new habit?” Unfortunately I have not found an easy way to do this.  It’s a matter of practicing.  If possible, practice the new habit in a “safe” environment while it’s still uncomfortable to you. This may be outside of your job – in church, volunteer activities, or home life.  Expect to fall down and struggle.  But don’t give up.  Then, as you get a bit more confidence, begin to show the new habit to your team, peers and boss.  There is no substitute for practice.  As they say, “no pain, no gain.”
  5. New Routine – finally, with the use of cues, the help of your accountability partner, and continual practice, you’ll figure out exactly how to make this work for you. Then make it into a new routine.

Follow these steps to break old bad habits and create new, more productive ones.  For more information about career planning, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon / / CC BY-SA