The Power of Small Wins: What Could You Change?

After reading about turn-around companies and product successes in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I’m fascinated how leaders can use these ideas to improve themselves and their own companies. Apparently, if you focus on changing one keystone habit, you can cause widespread shifts.

It’s identifying which habits to change that’s tricky. What will bring about the most significant results? According to Duhigg, detecting keystone habits means you search for certain characteristics, by looking for behaviors that will cause a culture where change is contagious.

You need to look for “small wins.” Small wins have enormous power because they influence others to change. They fuel change like a snowball effect. They convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

An example would be the research conducted on people wanting to lose weight. When they asked one group to use a food journal, recording everything they ate, they lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t track their food.

When Paul O’Neill wanted to improve safety at Alcoa, he demanded safety reports be submitted on a regular basis. This meant the creation of an internal email system with easy access for all employees. Such a system had unintended consequences: it improved communications throughout the organization, as well as facilitating the submission of innovative ideas by employees.

I’m wondering which small habit change I could make that would make everything else more efficient. In fact, I was noodling a few ideas and here’s a list of possibilities:

  1. Make two to three phone calls a day to ask people a thoughtful question.
  2. Make a point of telling two or three people how much they’re appreciated.
  3. Start (or end) my day with five minutes of deep breathing and meditation.
  4. Get up five minutes earlier each day and alternate exercise or stretching.
  5. Answer emails 4-5 times a day at set times so that I’m not constantly interrupted.
  6. Read from a business book 20 minutes each day.
  7. Write out some thoughts in a journal once a day.

What about you, what would be on your personal list? Your leadership list?

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