In my previously published book “The 6 Sales Habits”, I talk about the incredible importance high-performing sales professionals place on identifying, creating and institutionalizing winning habits. It’s clear that whether you are in Sales, Marketing, Executive Management, or in fact any job function where consistent and high-level performance is required, then great habits needs to be institutionalized. But why?
Positive habits imply repetition and a level of consistency. They imply making choices, but ones that are now automatic in nature. They imply a level of personal testing has been undertaken, and the corresponding results found acceptable. Positive habits when practiced regularly can allow you to de-stress, encourage rapid decision-making, guarantee an acceptable level of output and prove to others you are both dependable and highly capable. Phew! Sounds as though they are worth developing; but why are the hyper-performers of our industries able to master positive habits the best?
At the very root of identifying positive habits is inquisitiveness. A desire to question, contemplate and seek out what is best - best for business results as well as best for you! This ability to question, to contemplate, to think about a given situation is paramount in the habit-making process. Only through thinking (and believing) that there is a better, more robust and more repeatable way to do something can the idea of a positive habit begin to form in your mind. With any discipline, and at whatever seniority level, this inquisitiveness is something that immediately separates the hyper-performers from the rest. It’s the starting point for everything that naturally comes later. The trick is to be like a detective - to question with a view to uncovering something of value - something meaningful that will direct you to the next stage of the process.
In the creation of positive habits, practitioners are looking to create something that is personal, something of value, and something they intuitively know will help them and others. It may sound boring to create a habit since its something that will be used (hopefully consistently) with much repetition. In fact I know people who don’t have these positive habits and somehow desire to treat every situation (even if it is exactly the same as one they have known before) with complete surprise. This can be exciting and fun, but reality points to wasting too much of their vital thinking and doing time, when simply activating the positive habit will get it done faster and with less energy. Without doubt there is a discipline required to decide to use a habit you know well, to choose this option over other options. And of course everyone on occasion has bouts of laziness or “I don’t care”, which suggest that using the habit now is simply too much work. With experience and discipline these feelings can be controlled and a more positive focus on consistently applying the habit, and benefitting from its outcome.
By institutionalizing positive habits, the master practitioner is acknowledging the need to create a system, an approach, and in essence a machine, that will propel and keep their performance above the masses. With the application of steely determination, and always looking for improvement potential in their habits, a sizeable level of differentiation against others can now be achieved. Of course with the proper application of these positive habits it will look to others (as well as you feeling inside) that you are in control of things - surely a great place to be! So, what’s the best way to create these positive winning habits? Try this simple, accelerated approach, one that I call the IC2 Approach:
Step1: IDENTIFY (I) When you know that something will be required again (or should be required again), then start thinking about how to create a mechanism to resolve it in the most efficient manner possible. It’s this efficiency that’s important at this stage since it has to be something that is not onerous on your time, and also something that makes you feel that you have in fact created “a little process”. The higher the value of this process, the more you are likely to resonate with it in the future, so take your time and come up with something that uses all the smarts that you have.
Step 2: CREATE (C) It’s now time to take the challenge and find a solution to it. One that you believe is logical and smart at the same time. Don’t be afraid to spend a few extra moments investigating options for optimization, since it’s likely you will use this habit time and again in the future. Wherever possible, use the systems and processes you have institutionalized already. For example if you have mastered using your calendar and think that can help, then use it for this new habit. Something as simple as color-coding categories can be all that’s required to draw your attention to things. Whatever the solution resist the urge to go and create something completely new unless there is no other option.
Step 3: INSTITUTIONALIZE (I) Look for smart ways of making what you have created repeatable and logical for you. Whether its putting a periodic and timely reminder in your calendar, creating memory triggers when an event happens, or simply taking a few extra moments to think before you action something, are all great options. Without doubt you will have institutionalized many positive habits in your life already - so try and understand why you have done so and why they are still alive and well today. And, of course you should reflect on the advantages that their output gives you even to this day. This may also give you some much-needed clues to your own psyche and how to further teach it new positive habits.
Step 4: CELEBRATE (C) In the busyness of our jobs and our lives, we often forget to treat ourselves to a much deserved celebration, something that recognizes both the creation and the implementation of a positive habit. Choose wisely and at a level commensurate with the level of success achieved. It’s a little psychological trick that further embeds the new, positive habit even deeper into your psyche. Resist the urge to “keep working hard” when you have created a positive habit of value, since you will undoubtedly use it many, many times in the future to generate great, repeatable outcomes, and so deserves a little bit of celebration to mark the moment!
I encourage you to believe that hyper-performance is possible no matter what level you are at, or what job function you are in. You have it in you to become one of the hyper-performers of your profession and industry. Just remember the need to keep yourself balanced along the way, and you really will have it all. It’s this creation of positive, lasting habits and finding the right life-balance that is the true key to long-term success. I personally think of hyper-performance and balance in life as being two sides of the same magical coin - a coin that you can discover and own, if you so choose! Creating positive habits therefore really and truly is THE HABIT!