In his 2012 book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses the power that habits have over our lives. Think of putting your shoes on; each time you likely put on the same shoe first and tie it without consciously thinking about it. These habit patterns were built in childhood and, by automating the process, your brain is freed up to pursue higher level tasks. Without habits, our minds would be consumed by moving through the world every day and we would struggle to make any real progress.
However, just as not all tasks are equal in importance - tying your shoes versus driving on the highway - not all habits are equally weighted. Duhigg also discusses what he calls “keystone habits”. Keystone habits are responsible for cascading impacts in areas beyond the specific habit itself. For example, take rising at 4:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. If you were to begin rising early consistently enough to convert this new pattern into a habit, this change would likely impact a number of other behaviors. You might start reading, journaling, meditating, exercising, or getting a jump on the workday.
The same is true as a business owner. There are organizational habits that are considered keystone habits. Do you hold staff meetings on Mondays or Fridays? Are they in-person or over the phone? What are the Key Performance Indicators that you emphasize as an organization? Do you focus on new sales closed or new prospects called? Each of these are examples of choices that we have made and habits we have built within our organizations, and they have the potential to impact a large number of areas. If we hold our staff meetings on Mondays, we are likely to spend the meeting focused on the week to come and what we need to accomplish. If these meetings are on Fridays, we are more likely to spend the time discussing the prior week and what worked or didn’t work. Either can be effective, but it will impact how we look at the world and the decisions we make for our business.
If you are looking to create or change a keystone habit in your company, take a look at the following three questions:
- What do you measure and how frequently do you measure it?
- How do you pay your people, and does it match the goals of the company?
- When you conduct your performance evaluations and individual goal-setting, what questions do you ask?
Keystone habits are powerful and have a significant role in creating the change we seek for our companies.
Have any questions? We're here to help!