In 2019, Daniel Goleman wrote an article at HBR about how having focus and direct attention is the primary task for a leader. It is not only about getting distractions out of the way, but being aware of these three layers of reality (self, others, and the world), and the information we can get from any of them.
Focusing on ourselves brings information about what we want, our priorities and our resources. It also allows us to control and manage our emotional field. Focusing on others is necessary to develop empathy and establish relationships. Finally, the world brings information to find opportunities and define a strategy to exploit what’s in there for us.
Last week, I reflected about how increasing our awareness of the world could help us find opportunities. But what happens when we find them? How can we make the most of it?
We need to go back to ourselves.
Once we have our purpose and then define our strategy, our motivation blossoms. At the beginning, motivation encourages us to move towards our goals. But after some time, motivation will wear off. Moreover, we can lose focus and forget why we are doing what we do.
Therefore, if motivation alone can’t make us achieve what we want, we need a backup plan. This plan is called building the right habits.
A habit is a “recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition”; it’s something we regularly do, without much thought. The key thing is that habits are context associated cued by a thought or an event, and don’t require a conscious intention. How can be use this to help us pursue our purpose?
At the beginning we can use motivation to create a trigger, and keep repeating the right behavior, to develop a habit. When motivation goes away, the habit will take over and maintain us on track.
People at the center
This thing of developing a habit can be useful to achieve many things, like having a healthier life or running a marathon. Going back to the specifics of leadership, it also can be useful.
It’s said that leaders should put people at the center. They need to focus on their team as a mean to increase performance and results. At the same time, maintaining this unstable balance between people and task; between the long and the short term can be exhausting.
The motivation to improve team relationships and results can’t be enough to get things done. Leaders also need a backup plan: they need to develop the right habits; they need to focus on themselves.
Developing useful habits is worth it. Managing people will be less challenging.