I've written before about the cult of busyness, the need to stop making everything urgent and why your people need consistency rather than chaos. For most leaders, understanding the need to make this shift is much easier than taking the steps to do so.
The reality is that the habitual nature of how you lead has grooved the synapses in your brain to respond in the way that gives you the biggest dopamine rush. Namely, jumping in to save the day, lurching from crisis to crisis and constantly putting out fires.
In order to overcome these old 'bad' habits, you need to create new 'good' habits. If you've ever tried to build a better habit, whether that's creating a fitness routine, eating healthier, using your phone less or cutting down on alcohol, you'll know that the most effective way is to create a consistent, repeatable ritual. As you walk through the ritual 10, 20 or 50 times, eventually it forms the new behavior you aspire to exhibit naturally.
Building new leadership behaviors is no different. Here are three weekly rituals you can perform that will, over time, make you a better leader.
1. Opening up your week
Setting your intention for what you want to achieve and why at the beginning of every week (and day) can be the difference between winning or losing.
At the beginning of every week (preferably first thing) start out by asking yourself:
What are your three key goals or deliverables for the week? - What must you achieve for this week to be a success?
Who is on your radar? - Who on your team may need a little extra care or attention due to a tough project or pressing deadline?
Where might you get derailed? - What can you see as the biggest potential blockers or obstacles this week that may cause you or your team to falter?
Kick off your week with purpose and you'll dramatically increase the likelihood of finishing strongly.
2. Individual Check-ins
Each person on your team should get a 'How Can I Help?' check in every week. Whether it's a quick email, phone call or text message, you should ask your team three questions:
What's the most important thing you are working on this week? - What's the top priority that needs to get done for it to be a successful week for them?
What's the biggest challenge you think you'll face this week? - What do they see as the potential obstacles or blockers in their way?
How can I best help you? - What advice, guidance, or support do they need from you in order to make this week a huge success?
Doing this achieves two things. First, it provides a clear alignment between you and your direct reports on what they believe is their current priority and affords you the opportunity to tweak or challenge that as needed. Secondly, it allows them to feel that you have their back as they work through their key challenges. Whether they need anything tangible from you or not, just knowing that you are there for them will increase their chance of success for that week.
3. Closing down your week
There's nothing better than the endorphin rush you get in tying up loose ends. That's one of the reasons why clearing everything off your plate before you head off on a 10-day vacation is so satisfying. You can get a mini-rush of dopamine once a week by successfully closing down and reviewing your progress.
Sit down as close to the end of your week as possible and answer the following questions:
What went well for you and your team that week? - What were your biggest successes individually and as a team?
What would you do differently next time? - What didn't work so well and what needs to be tweaked or changed?
How can you best use your time off? - How can you recharge yourself over the weekend to come back and have another stellar week next week?
Each of these rituals should take no more than 30 minutes each. I highly recommend that you schedule them in on your calendar at the same time every week. Although they may take you away from getting stuff done initially, over time you'll begin to seek the satisfaction that completing these simple exercises will bring.