From the Experts: Micro Habits

By the Turknett Team

We have all heard the phrase “it’s the little things”. Well, you may have heard of a term called “micro habits”. Although seemingly small, effective micro habits are a crucial part of anyone’s leadership toolkit. We asked our experts what they felt are the three most important micro habits for leaders, and also what micro habits they find valuable in their own lives as leaders.

 

Answers From the Experts:

 

Lyn Turknett, Co-founder and Co-chair

I love the idea of micro habits – easy, painless, small steps are so much less daunting and so much easier to maintain. For that reason they are likely to actually be sustained – to actually become habitual and to become what Incognito author David Eagleman calls “zombie subroutines” that occur without conscious thought.

What three micro habits do you think are most important for leaders?

  • In meetings, especially with the people they lead, they let others speak before they speak. Great leaders recognize that their voice carries tremendous weight, and when they speak first they may shut down other ideas.
  • They insert a pause between stimulus and response. In the language of some, they “respond” rather than “react.” Pausing before speaking or gesturing gives them time to consider their response, It also calms others because the leader appears calmer and more resilient.
  • When possible, they speak to everyone when they enter an office or a room. They work especially hard to speak to people who have less formal power than they do. I can’t count the times I’ve been told by employees that they consider leaders arrogant and uncaring when they ignore the person at the front desk or scan the room for the “important people.”

In your own life, are there any micro habits that have been especially valuable for you?

  • I like to develop routines so that the micro habits are strung together and occur without thinking. I have a morning routine that is pretty much inviolate when I’m at home, so that after 20 minutes the dishwasher is empty and I’m sitting down with coffee. Also, I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast so that I don’t have to think. For years it was oatmeal. Now that I eat a low carb diet, it’s a smoothie with full-fat plain yogurt, cream, and wild blueberries – no sugar.
  • Also, I pair new micro habits with things I’m already doing. I need to work on balance, so one of my new micro habits is standing on one leg while the water from our tank-less water heater heats.
  • I like using rewards, too. My morning includes eight minutes of resistance exercise (itself a micro habit) and one minute of stretching, and I do it at either 6, 7, or 8 depending on the morning so that I can watch the top of the hour news. Don’t ask me why I find the news – especially today – rewarding!
  • I’m also working on a new micro habit – asking myself throughout the day – “am I being the person I want to be right now?” I think that I first heard this from Marshall Goldsmith. The question reminds me of a favorite quote of mine from James Clear in Atomic Habits: “Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you want to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so is the evidence of your new identity.” We can always be changing and growing.

 

Patricia Thompson, Ph.D., Senior Consultant

What three micro habits do you think are most important for leaders?

  •  In the morning, spend five minutes thinking about your top priorities and what you need to get done by the end of the day.
  •  At the end of the workday, reflect on how you spent your time. Are there activities you should have delegated to others? Did anything happen that suggests that you need to address a process or coach someone? Across time, as you address these, you’ll be able to increase your efficiency.
  •  Before you go to bed, put your phone somewhere that’s not within arm’s reach. Sleep is critical for helping you to have the energy needed to be at your best.

In your own life, are there any micro habits that have been especially valuable for you?

My own micro habits include planning in the morning, listening to podcasts while I’m driving my son to school, keeping a giant water bottle on my desk to make sure I stay hydrated, doing a daily gratitude practice, and taking a moment for meditation to keep myself grounded.

 

Tim HuffTim Huff, Senior Consultant

What three micro habits do you think are most important for leaders?

  • Saying “thank you”! Over the years, I’ve learned how important and powerful it is to simply say “thank you” to everyone on your team as well as others who cross your path every day. Leaders need to make a habit to express gratitude and appreciation to others, probably more so than they realize.
  • Put the phone/e-mail away when talking with others. As difficult as it is, especially working remote, it’s critically important for leaders to be fully present when engaging with someone. Giving someone your full and uninterrupted attention is a wonderful gift, and for a leader to be effective with their team members, they need to be fully present in conversations without the distractions of e-mails and texts.
  • Leave the office (or sign off) at a reasonable time every day. Too many leaders allow themselves to get consumed in their work and put in way too many hours. Although this might be necessary for short periods of time (critical projects with tight deadlines), it can be very unhealthy for sustained periods of time. Transitioning from work to personal time is a very important habit for a leader’s success, and it’s a great way to demonstrate healthy habits to others as well.

In your own life, are there any micro habits that have been especially valuable for you?

I’ve found tremendous value in a daily habit of proactively blocking out 1-2 hours per day on my calendar every day to focus on things most important to my success that day. Considering the significant demand of my time from various stakeholders, I’ve learned to take control of my calendar and dedicate some of my time to myself.

 

Richard StoneRichard Stone, Chief Storyteller

What three micro habits do you think are most important for leaders?

I talk a lot about three kinds of stories that leaders must be equipped to tell. These aren’t exactly micro habits in the manner in which you are discussing, but I think they are essential. They need to answer these three questions: Who am I? Who are we? Where are we going?

In your own life, are there any micro habits that have been especially valuable for you?

For me, the most important micro habit which isn’t so micro is to listen deeply.

 

Viktoria AbelsonViktoria Abelson, Senior Consultant – Healthcare

What three micro habits do you think are most important for leaders?

At the end of the day, I make a ‘Done” list. It’s a list of all the things I have accomplished that day, both big and small. Oftentimes, it is easy to focus on everything we have not yet completed. We forget our accomplishments. Making a “Done” list ensure that I remember and celebrate the things that I am accomplishing. This focus on the positive helps me build momentum to keep working hard the following day.

In your own life, are there any micro habits that have been especially valuable for you?

My favorite book about micro habits is BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits. It’s easy to read, but impactful. It helps to see that behavior change doesn’t have to be big and scary. Small changes can add up to a lot, as long as you are consistent.

 

Want to get to know our consultants and staff? Check out their bios!