As we step into 2022, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions to change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve our work or personal lives. The key word here is “change.” When an estimated 53% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within six months, what steps can we take to assure that we are in the 47% who succeed?
James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” describes the book as the “definitive guide to breaking bad behaviors and adopting good ones in four steps, showing you how small, incremental, everyday routines compound into massive, positive change over time.”
Small Habits, Big Results
Desmond Tutu once said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” The point of the “Atomic Habits” approach is to make minor changes in habits and repeat them consistently. If you can improve by 1% each day, you will be 37 times better after a year.
Clear’s key point is that success is not a one-time event. It is based on a system to improve, an endless process to refine. I was so inspired by the book that I applied the principles to my own development and encouraged my team to do the same. Here I share the four laws of behavior change and how we apply them.
Make It Obvious: Rather than keep goals and intentions abstractly in mind, create a system with specific metrics.
- Focus on systems, rather than goal setting. As a sales professional, you might set up your laptop to open to a customized dashboard in Salesforce that provides metrics that are meaningful to you, such as the previous day’s activity.
- Create and track new activities that are basic sales 101 but are often overlooked due to our already busy daily activities. A good example would be reaching out to superfans and asking for referrals. This is especially helpful since the number of stakeholders involved in the sales process has grown exponentially over the last several years.
Make It Attractive: Bundle the new behavior that you need to do with a follow-on habit that you enjoy doing.
- After completing 10 sales calls each morning, I can call a colleague and catch up on company and industry updates.
Make It Easy: Set up a work environment that helps you focus on the task at hand.
- If your plan is to make 10 new prospect sales calls every Monday and Wednesday, organize their contact information in a CRM list. Have your talking points in front of you and calendar the time to routinely make the calls in a distraction-free environment.
Make It Satisfying: Nothing is more motivating than incremental successes.
- Work with an accountability partner or hold regular reviews with your team to share wins, tips, and ideas and review progress on the quarterly or annual plan.
- Use visual indicators as psychic rewards for progress. Salesforce.com has digital recognition badges. Users who meet goals in sales activity, keep contact records up to date, or learn new skills in the CRM earn a digital badge recognizing their success.
As you succeed in building new habits, pursue new and bigger challenges. The Goldilocks Rule, according to Clear, says that to keep motivated and keep growing, work on challenges that are slightly above your current ability or experience. Pursue opportunities in a new niche, learn a new tool or technology, or take on a visible role representing your company in an industry organization.
When Satya Nadella took the helm at Microsoft, he was quoted as saying,
“Longevity in this business is about being able to reinvent yourself or invent the future.”
In my 30+ years of management I have primarily focused on reinforcing each person’s strengths to encourage good habits and allow them to flourish. Doing so reaps benefits for their cache and career path while supporting the company’s goals and initiatives. “Right person, right seat!” as the saying goes.
As 2021 ended, my team and I identified areas for improvement that could make an impact on our individual performance. Clear’s methodology creates a straightforward process to make incremental improvements without having to climb a mountain. Successful people maintain dense schedules by nature, so we found “Atomic Habits” methods for carving out time for self-improvement to be highly valuable. Thank you, James Clear!