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The habit of changing habits

A few years ago, I discovered the one single factor which has the highest impact on the relationship between effective management practice and emotional intelligence competences: 

‘A manager’s ability to change habits with ease.’

While the discovery in itself is certainly not surprising, there is an important question to ask ourselves, whether we are managers or not:

How easily can you change your habits?

Habits allow us to perform very complex tasks with the minimum effort and time. Yet the problem with habits is that, once formed, they become almost invisible, we forget we have them, we just know we do what we do without thinking. Chances are we end up falling into the spiral of doing what we always did even if it doesn’t work anymore. We enter into he realm of “unconscious incompetence”.

Being able to change habits is indeed important and there are various ways to do so. Many books have been written on the subject, but before we can begin the process of changing habits we need to clearly understand which habit to change and which habit to replace it with.

Lets take an example of how often we see our face in the mirror. Most of us look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning but we won’t usually have a chance to constantly look at our face during the day; we can’t see our own expressions as we interact with others, we can’t see what our expressions communicate to others as we interact with them.

In a deeper sense habits are like facial expressions, unless something reflects them back to us, we can be totally unaware of the true impact they have on others.

Just as a mirror reflects our expressions back to us, ‘candid feedback’ should reflect the impact of our habits as we perform them. Unfortunately such candid feedback is very hard to come by. People around us can see the impacts of our habits more clearly than we can, yet it’s often quite difficult for them to point this out, especially if it has a negative connotation. To make matters worse we tend to avoid any sort of negative feedback in the first place and we brace ourselves when someone is about to give it to us for free. Becoming defensive in such instances is an automatic reaction.

So how do we change habits if we can’t identify which ones to change?

In the last few decades the practice of coaching has began to gather momentum in organisations. We have seen the powerful impact of coaching in developing high performance in sports, and businesses are trying to emulate this impact.

But coaching is foremost a personal tool which enables us to engage in a very open, yet trustworthy relationship with another human being. This relationship is focused on helping us uncover those habits which hold us back while identifying habits to replace them with which open new avenues and opportunities.

Coaching is a powerful ‘habit-changing’ tool that when used appropriately, enables us to truly bring out the best in each one of us. It should form an essential part of our personal development journey, both at work and outside.

Do you have a coach?

Would you like to become one?

IMI Diploma in Executive Coaching combines modern coaching techniques for high performance with a thorough grounding in modern organisational realities.

Fabio Grassi is Executive Learning Director at IMI. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation. He is passionate about the development of ethical leadership through executive coaching. 


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