3 Habits to Make You More Successful at Work
Our world is full of ordinary people who make an impact on this world through their extra-ordinary hard-work. The successes these people achieve are simply because of their personal habits that make them what they want to become.
The need for good habits
Isn’t it true that throughout our childhood we have been constantly instructed, directed, and commanded to develop and practice good habits? It’s also true that to thrive in this competitive eco-geo-system, we may need to remind ourselves of some of those habits that we learned long ago.
Habits make our time at work more efficient as we can choose to rewire our brains to be more productive. When we do something repeatedly, our brains convert it into habits, making it easier the next time when we do it.
We have zeroed down some of the best habits that need zero talent but hundred percent hard work:
- Commit to Excellence in whatever we do
- Adopt a life-long learner mindset
- Develop a team-work and team-first attitude of working
Commitment to excel in whatever we do
Here we are effectively talking about two habits in one – commitment, and excellence.
Commitment is a combination of responsibility, duty, and accountability, and at the workplace, we spend time balancing all three. Have you noticed that commitment does not mean promises, assurances, and guarantees? True commitment transcends the latter three.
Excellence is not something you do once, it’s a habit.
To be committed to excel means:
- Skillful execution of business obstacles
- Continuous improvement in our offering
- Finding ways to love what we do
- Being passionate to learn and adopt new ways of executing tasks
- Putting the interests of the customers/client ahead of ours
- Maintaining high standards of work and achieving them
- Outperform our own expectations
The famous Abraham Lincoln’s struggle during the Civil War showed the truth behind the connection between promise and reality. The link that joins these two is commitment. Lincoln’s words gave hope, but his actions made them real.
The political arena was Lincoln’s workplace.
Fast forward to our time, there is a growing need to convert promises to reality, and hopes to certainty. We live in a time where a place of work is a melting pot of talent, culture, and work habits. Enthusiasm levels vary, but the basic expectation remains the same for all – get the job done.
Commitment means that you do more than just meet this expectation.
Commitment to excellence motivates us to be the best of our capabilities. Thus leveling up our skills through each project, each task. The recipe for success involves excellence at all stages of work, and it means you add value to each task in your pipeline. So at the end, you give more than what you originally promised.
If you promise yourself to do this every time, then you need to act now, because Peter Drucker said,
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes – but no plans.”
To develop this habit you need to:
Carve a blueprint for each task. They help you assess your priority and let you know which task needs more attention. When you categorize your tasks, you can ensure that each task receives full attention. With a blueprint, you get a bird-eye-view of your incomplete tasks. They would be the hardest tasks and how you complete them defines your excellence.
Begin your work with a desire. The stronger your desire, the greater will be the motivation. If excellence is ingrained in our desire, then achieving success is not a distinct impossibility. Promise yourself that you will achieve, and you add a commitment to virtue.
Add a backup plan for uncertainties. The last thing anyone wants is uncertainty and having a backup plan ensures that obstacles are taken care of. Your desire will help overcome it and even if you fail, you have a blueprint to tweak.
It’s true that you want to find novel ways to do every task that you got. Some of us have jobs that are mundane or monotonous and have a set way of doing it. If you feel that you are stuck-in-a-rut, the hear what Vince Lombardi says,
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
Lombardi believed in what he said and excelled as the American Football coach and an executive of the NFL. His recipe to winning a game was excellence, and excellence is what he got from his players. His commitment to acceptance and tolerance made him dear to his players, who in turn enshrined the same habit.
Always remember – Excellence is not just about doing things always different, but doing things consistently well.
If you feel like a cog in the wheel, the next habit will solve your worries.
Adopt a life-long learner mindset
One moral that the tortoise taught us from the famous “Hare and the Tortoise Story” is that consistency is more important than speed. However, what if the hare hadn’t slept during the race? Or what if the race path involved swimming through a river? The outcomes would have differed.
So is our workplace. We don’t have a straight path in front of us. It’s riddled with hurdles and the silver lining is – with each hurdle, comes the opportunity to learn.
I believe that learning is not a habit. In a sense, we all start learning from the time we are born, if I could say - even before we are born. However, being a learner is definitely a habit. How?
When we learn, we retain knowledge, but if we are learners, we cultivate skills to use that knowledge.
In our offices we have access to structured learning and development programs that are tailored around our needs. The mail goal is to increase our productivity, efficiency, and work expertise. We live in an environment that celebrates learning, and hence cultivating this habit is not as difficult as it may seem.
To develop this habit you need to:
Be a questioner.
Question everything that you do. The Why, What, and How of everything. Be curious to the point of learning, not doubting. If there is a task, the best way is to ask ourselves the purpose of the task and the outcome. Once these are known, the meaty portion of the task, execution, would be clear.
Sometimes, to be a learner, we may need to unlearn something. Useful mental hygiene dictates the need to clear our minds from preconceived notions before approaching a problem. This practice not only improves our cognitive abilities but also prepares us for distraction-free learning.
Next step to become a good learner is to be – well-versed with current affairs.
Our role in our industry demands that we stay up-to-date with trends. Our minds need to self-install updates as soon as they are out in the world. Use all the available resources to build your knowledge base and keep assessing your understanding on your field of expertise.
The best way to learn something is the technique called semantic mapping. Use a notepad to create a map of concepts and establish connections that will help you get a holistic picture. This practice, used by teachers, is extremely useful in creating a mental picture of tasks and solutions.
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft used the “learn-it-all” instead of “know-it-all” method to lead Microsoft to greater heights. Learning became a culture, not just a habit. His 22 years at Microsoft is best described as a ‘learning time’ and what better way would be to imitate the best learner out there!
Develop a team-work and team-first attitude of working
With the world getting smaller and smaller, we all are finding ways to cross borders, cultures, and knowledge boundaries. We are not divided by civilizations and the workplace shouldn’t be too.
Team work doesn’t mean bringing in employees together, but bringing in talent, intelligence, and brilliance to one table. Hence, in an organizational setting, Commitment and Learning will bear fruit only if they are practiced within the confines of your team.
Some call it a sense of togetherness.
And togetherness is adorned by a self-sacrificing attitude, where you put personal choices behind those of others. We need to cultivate the habit of respecting excellence of others and learn from them.
To develop this habit you need to:
- Behave the way you want others to behave
- Understand your role in the team
- Respect diversity
- Be flexible to change and quick to adapt
- Work towards your team's goals
No matter how difficult the project is, the team can successfully complete it only if everyone in the team is optimistic. Optimism brings in flexibility, collaborativeness, and the urge to succeed. This can be achieved only if you learn the different ways of “getting together” and “fitting in” with the team. In the workplace, interests are shared, efforts are shared, and so is success.
In a team, diversity comes in different levels of talent and brilliance. Our commitment and excellence will mean nothing if all in the team do not display them.
The ultimate goal is for the team to succeed, and it will happen only if we help others to succeed.
One company where people just love to work is Apple Inc. Apple’s unique set of values encourage an environment where ideas are brought together to fill customers’ growing demands. It has developed a comprehensive set of seven components that enshrine teamwork. Steve Jobs himself said,
“Teamwork is dependent on trusting the other folks to come through with their part without watching them all the time”.
It is interesting that companies are adopting open office layouts to bring a sense of unity to the project teams. Team huddles are becoming casual and are breaking discomfort by challenging ideas and drawing out solutions.
An excellent resource for developing habits surrounding teamwork is The Medici Effect - Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts and Cultures by Frans Johansson, where he passionately discusses how teamwork can turn ideas into innovations.
The core belief of teamwork is met only when we do our part well in putting the team-first attitude. The common thing between habit and teamwork is both are continuous processes. Sometimes in our lives, someone has the team-first attitude towards us, and we need to replicate it.
Our workplace habits are the core of our work ethics. These habits help us to plan, prioritize, execute, and face hurdles - the cornerstone principles of effective working.
The crux of cultivating any habit is to educate ourselves about it.
According to a 2006 study by Duke University, Scientists say that about 40% of the decisions that we make daily are actually habits. So things that we do unintentionally may also become a part of our life; and if we do it repeatedly, they may become habits.
Our workplaces deserve more than our presence, time, and energy. It needs our excellence, skills, and commitment. So ask yourself,
What habit am I going to develop now?
May this article be the gentle nudge you need in the right direction!