8 Tips For Changing Leadership Habits

August 29, 2013

20130829-034050.jpgBy Laurie Clarke, COO, The Tatham Group

Productivity and innovation. Two things everyone is looking to achieve. This Harvard Business Review article, Your Innovation Problem Is Really A Leadership Problem, presents an interesting perspective: ‘It isn’t either/or. It’s both/and.’ Or as we would say, one and the same. For both to be effective and lasting, leadership must be, or learn to be, comfortable with experimentation, failure and ambiguity.

For those who have attended Boot Camp, you may remember that the steps to achieve productivity gains and innovation are the same. You address both in due time. Leadership skills are built as the work changes and is a different, often uncomfortable, style that succeeds in the new version of the company.

How do you build leaders that are comfortable with this style? By teaching leaders to be systems thinkers one habit at a time. But remember, just as there are root causes to tactical work there are root causes to the leadership habits that are currently in place. It is only when those are known that they can be addressed and new ones introduced.

A couple of tips as you dive into experimenting with current behaviors:

  1. Dust off your Socratic Method handbook. Most people don’t know why they are currently doing what they are doing. You will need to lead them through self-discovery.
  2. Be patient. It’s uncomfortable to question habits.
  3. If you are the boss, look in the mirror. Have you done/said, or are doing/saying, something to cause the behavior? However unintentional, it’s usually a good place to start looking.
  4. Be kind. Most people don’t set out to do things that impede the success of the company they work for. It’s usually a byproduct of many experiences built upon the next.
  5. Focus on growth. Acknowledge then quickly move on from the failure. It will get easier to foster change if people see failing as a step toward success not a ‘beat up’ session.
  6. Offer a picture of what the future looks like. Even if it is not 100% defined and changes frequently. Modeling is still the most effective way.
  7. Provide a way to build new skills and habits to replace the ones you are trying to undo. The new world is unknown and scary enough without the uncertainty of support to get there.
  8. Make it fun!