Developing Healthy Habits Of Successful Leaders

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit”

Aristotle


Back in early January, when I was planning my 2020 goals and considering the opportunities and challenges I wanted to experience as an executive coach, the habits of ‘always sneeze into my elbow’, ‘regularly handwash while singing happy birthday’ and ‘elbow bumping rather than hand shaking’, definitely weren’t included anywhere in my action plan!


The past two months have been a time of radical prioritisation for many people due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the impact it is having on all areas of their business and home life. This is a new challenge for us all, and everyone is being encouraged to review and change their habits to ensure they can stay safe and well and protect others.


At the same time of all this rather unsettling activity, I have been revisiting and appreciating the work of Dr Stephen Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, as I complete their facilitator/coach re-accreditation process for delivery of Franklin Covey’s leadership development programmes later this year.


The insights Dr Covey shares within the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, (first published in 1989), are still highly relevant today in our VUCA world, as leaders are required to constantly optimise and identify their most essential priorities and activities while facing into the next big challenge arriving on the horizon. As a result, it can be hard for leaders to maintain that ‘in the moment focus’, during the whirlwind of some pretty intense moments in the C-suite. Dr Covey says that developing daily and weekly habits that are fully aligned to an organisation’s strategic long-term goals, can help keep leaders on track and maintain their personal effectiveness.





Individual personal and professional lives are all different of course. But everyone will have periods in their life which are busy, uncertain and often highly stressful. In these times, having a set of well-practised and regularly maintained habits is essential to focus, survive, and thrive.

Here are four things that you can do right now to start developing the habits of success:


1. Personal reflection.

A willingness to reflect and examine our current habits will identify new ways to upgrade performance and can become a highly effective habit in itself! This creates a culture of continuous improvement with a powerful impact at individual, team and organisational level.


Personal reflection can range from keeping a Diary to track personal progression on a project or your career generally; completing a Gratitude Journal in which you record what you are grateful for in life or conducting an end of day Check In to reflect on the following areas:


o What was the win for me day

o What was the learn for me today

o What can I do differently tomorrow


2. Build and maintain your relationships.

Social science is clear on the importance of relationships to personal well-being* It’s important to prioritise, develop, nurture and manage our relationships. This sounds like a small thing, but human beings are social animals and need that regular connection with others for their emotional well-being especially during times of uncertainty and ambiguity.


One of the biggest barriers to creating connection is the crossed wires of communication. Dr Covey states that we can cut through this by clearly declaring our own intentions and checking our assumptions.


In our world of distributed and virtual teams with relationships curated through social media, it’s becoming more challenging to connect deeply with others. Author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, describes these technology-mediated communications as “thin”, with the result being that we don’t always get the full human context. Leaders need to focus fully on developing their relationships for alignment and a deeper connection with others.


*A New Look at Social Support: A Theoretical Perspective on Thriving Through Relationships, Brooke C. Feeney, Nancy L. Collins


3. Developing physical and mental health.

Studies show that people who get at least two days of exercise per week are happier* (with each additional day boosting happiness further) and as little as 20 minutes of exercise can boost mood and 11 minutes of lifting weights can boost metabolic rate.


For good mental health, practices including regular mindfulness and meditation can help in restoring order and balance in challenging and uncertain times. Apps like Headspace and Calm have made these practices more accessible and good habit forming, plus they make it easy to track and maintain overall levels of well-being.


*Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a critical review, D. Scully, J. Kremer, M. M. Meade, R. Graham, and K. Dudgeon


4. Work with an executive coach.

An executive coach can kick start this process and support leaders in developing the right habits for them, their teams and the organisation. Habits don’t just occur at an individual level, they become embedded in the behaviour of teams and the culture of organisations.


Performance excellence is habitual. An executive coach can help leaders identify the habits that lead to success and the habits that hold them back. Having this increased awareness will create a powerful platform for success.


The Leadership Coaches work with a range of simple frameworks to quickly help leaders identify and understand their patterns of behaviour (habits). Once these patterns are understood, we support leaders to adapt and develop the highly effective habits for success.


Please call us on 0800 3457727 to discuss how we can help your leaders to develop the habits of excellence.


Article written by The Leadership Coach Heather Rayfield

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