…until they are too strong to be broken.”
I have been thinking a lot about this quote from Warren Buffet as the topic of habits comes up frequently in my work as a business coach. What do habits have to do with leadership? Everything! Our habitual thinking about what leadership truly entails determines our eventual success in a 21st Century business environment. So let’s break down the quote into its two parts to see what we can learn about being a more effective leader.
“The Chains of Habit are too weak to be felt…” We have often heard the road is “…paved with good intentions.” How many times have we attended a leadership-training course, or any training course for that matter, that had little effect on our current behavior? In the same vein, how often have we read a good business book that had little effect on our current behavior? The truth is, with only one exposure to a new idea, we will only retain 2% of that idea after only 16 days time. Without reinforcement, we fail to build new habits. We don’t feel different because we have not changed our attitude, which by itself is a habit (habitual thinking). Without reinforcement, our current mindset will not change enough for a new behavior to take shape. We have not replaced the old, ineffective way of thinking with a new mindset for the new habit to be felt in a meaningful way…
“…until they are too strong to be broken.” New habits must be repeated often and in a purposeful way to effectively overcome the old ones. As ineffective as only one “rep” or exposure to a new idea is, repeated exposure to a new idea as little as five times over five consecutive days can lead to retaining over sixty percent of the new idea for over fifteen years to the rest of your life! Clearly, repetition is the key to building new habits that are sustainable and lead to desired results.
The irony of all this is the habit that matters most to 21st Century Leaders is the habit of change! Habitual adaptability may seem counter-intuitive, yet it may well be the attitude that saves the business from the dangers of the status quo and complacency. Getting into the habit of evolving at the speed of global business keeps us from the fate of so many businesses in the last century. As Charles Darwin once said ““It is not the strongest species that survives, it is not even the most intelligent; it is the one most responsive to change”
As you look at your business and the direction it is going, how strong is your adaptability chain?
It's always a pleasure to read your articles about leadership in a changing world. Change, I think, is a powerful force; an engine that drives many aspects of our lives.
A lot has been said about change and how necessary and inevitable it is. We are constantly surrounded by it, change is here to stay. Ironically, change is among the few constants in life.
And so as change is inevitable, so is the perception for people to resist it. Human beings are creatures of habits of some sort. But change itself is rarely the reason why people resist; it is the way it comes down. I say that because people are changing all the time: new cars, new jobs, and new habits, but those are changes of their own choosing. In fact, people resist being told what to do, and that’s the crux of the problem.
And so if we need to move people into transformative action, we must be in the business of selling the "idea" of change and let the people figure out the best way to implement it themselves. When people are truly inspired and motivated it is amazing what they are capable of doing.
Well said. We are comfortable with change that we want, yet how often do we wait to be told what to do; and then resist that change because we don;t like it? As you say, it is the crux of the issue which making adaptability a habit all the more important. Thanks!