Habits are curious things. They take a long time to form, but also a long time to break. Negative habits can be disruptive – whether it is a habitual lack of punctuality, the habit of always avoiding speaking directly to people by emailing them instead of calling, or the habit of talking over other people in meetings.
But there are also a set of very positive behaviours that I always look for in people when I am in the process of building a team. Of course, by their very nature habits can be hard to spot initially, as they take time to evolve and to reveal themselves through the daily ups and downs of professional life. But over the years I’ve gradually got a lot better at spotting the warning signs – and looking out for the positive ones too. So, with that in mind, here are a few of the habits I look out for in my team members.
They always take the time to listen to and understand the needs of others.
For me, this is one of the most fundamentally important kinds of behaviour that I look for when I am creating a team. This habit of regularly being interested in other people’s needs is a powerful one, because it is the kind of glue that holds so many teams together. It shows, to me at least, that the person displaying this behaviour has both self-awareness and an awareness of others – and an understanding of how everyone fits together to form a team. It also shows emotional intelligence, because they clearly understand the importance of taking into account the needs of others, of working together and collaborating towards achieving shared objectives.
They talk, but they also listen and respond accordingly.
These kinds of team members understand that communication is a two-way process – and that working effectively as a team is not just a matter of voicing your opinion and moving on, but instead actually taking into account the ideas of others. They don’t talk over other people, but allow them to finish, listen actively to them while they are speaking, and then practically incorporate what the other person has just told them into their own responses.
Too often, conversations can be just two people saying, in turn, what they had planned to say anyway. They might even wait for the other person to finish – but it is often just so that they can then say what they were thinking about while the other person was speaking. It’s the difference between true dialogue, and two monologues running in parallel.
They are committed – to everything they do.
You know that person who is always in the office, every night, long after everyone else has gone home? They’re committed, certainly, but for me this is a kind of behaviour that can become very unhealthy if it becomes habitual. I’ve always thought that balance is hugely important, in every aspect of your life. Too much leisure time and we become overly-relaxed and lacking in focus. Too much work, and it exhausts us, wearing us thin and destroying our enthusiasm and passion for the job.
So I always look out for people who show this kind of balance in their lives – the way that they behave around the office, the hours that they keep, the things that they talk about with their colleagues. It might seem counter intuitive, but to me, it seems impossible to have 100 per cent commitment to your job when that is all you do. It is the other parts of your life – your family, the sports team you play for or support, the musical instrument you’re struggling to learn – that provide you with the counter-balance to your working life that I believe is essential to being able to commit 100 per cent to every aspect of your life, work or play.
Encouraging positive habits
But what about when I don’t see these kinds of behaviours in my teams? What strategies do I employ to try and build positive habits among the people I’m leading, in order to help us all to work better together?
Well, for me it’s all about focusing on a few key steps. Working closely with the team, we’ll pick just one thing that we’re looking to change. We’ll choose something small, achievable and, most importantly, measurable. I’ve also found that, when it comes to changing behaviours or creating new good habits, it really pays to do it together. Make it a public commitment (or at least share it with everyone in the team) and make sure that you get all of the help and support that you can from everyone else on the journey as you make the change together.
And finally, don’t give up. I’ve found that building positive working habits, in both myself and in other people, is a long and slow-moving process – it takes time, it takes repetition and it takes determination.
So, commit to it together, stick at it, and it will happen.
About Rob Weider
Robert Weider is a business consultant based in Hong Kong. He is currently Head of Sales and Marketing for a global supply chain and quality assurance business. He is also providing strategy and management training to a non-profit organization in Hong Kong. Rob Weider has experience with a range of organisations including Siemens, Molten Group and Cathay Pacific (CX). For business enquiries you can contact Rob here.