Are you struggling at work? These 3 habits can help you get back on track
These are all signs of chronic performance. While it may seem like minimizing mistakes is a reasonable use of our time or that appearing decisive is a wise career strategy, these habits can have a devastating impact on our skills, confidence, jobs, and personal lives.
Chronic performance could be the reason you might be feeling stagnant in some area of your life. You might be working more hours or putting more effort into tasks, yet you never seem to get ahead. Life feels like a never-ending game of catch-up. That’s chronic performance—throwing more energy at tasks and problems yet staying at the same level of effectiveness.
The key to emerging from the chronic performance trap is to shift our focus from simply doing to learning while doing. This means not only changing our mindset but also developing habits and strategies that support growth. We can separate habits into three categories.
1. Proactive habits are those we put in place to develop a particular skill or body of knowledge. Expert performers don’t just wait for setbacks or challenges to feed their learning journeys. They are always proactively working to stretch beyond their current capabilities.
Linda Rabbitt follows a habit of daily reading. “I read or I listen to podcasts, or TED Talks or whatever, and whenever there’s something that particularly strikes me, I send it to people who I think could benefit from it. So, every morning, from like six-thirty to maybe seven-thirty, I’m reading. I wasn’t schooled in business, but I have been a student of business, and I’ve read everything I can read about succession planning and so forth.”
2. Responsive habits are triggered by events around us. While we want to be proactive learners, we also need to learn from setbacks, missteps, surprises, and feedback.
During a busy period for Rand Construction, the leadership team was under significant pressure and ended up assigning a relatively new staff member as a project manager with a client. But the new hire wasn’t quite ready to properly represent Rand on the job. He reacted defensively to client criticism, which led to an unhappy client.
“I called the client and said, ‘I’m really embarrassed, we’re better than this. I want to hear from your perspective what we did wrong, so that we can all learn from this.’ And the client said, ‘You know, everyone makes mistakes. Here’s what we hate the most, when we give people feedback, and they get defensive. Thank you for not getting defensive.’”
Responsive habits are about how you take action when you make a mistake, receive feedback, are surprised by something, or encounter a challenging situation. You can reflect on how you tend to respond; identify the events that trigger undesirable behaviors; choose your desired response; and establish a habit to remind yourself of how you want to respond when a particular situation arises.
3. Finally, stem habits are stable habits that ensure our constant evolution. While proactive habits change from time to time as we build different skills, stem habits largely do not. These include habits like setting your learning intentions at the start of each week, month, or year, and reviewing them every morning, journaling, or attending a regular gathering to learn with others.
One stem habit I treasure is reminding myself every morning, when I first turn on my computer, what habit I am working to develop or change. I open the same document every morning, which includes reminders to myself. This stable habit fuels my constant evolution and primes a growth mindset and the Learning Zone on a daily basis.
Am I proactively doing something to incorporate learning into my daily or weekly to improve at whatever it is I want to get better at?
Am I regularly soliciting feedback to constantly generate information for my ongoing growth?
Do I have a stem habit that sets me up to continuously drive my own evolution?
Until we truly cultivate the habits to continue learning and growing every day, we’re locking ourselves into a cycle of stagnation and frustration. But when we develop habits that help balance learning and performing, we can finally reach our boldest aspirations