Help Your Team Break Bad Habits, Be Happier and More Productive

Feb 8, 2016
9 Min Read

help your team break bad habits, be happier and more productiveIf you want your team be happier and more productive, help them develop the individual habits that are right for them and you will reap the rewards of a better team.

Do you have team members that drive you crazy?

Perhaps one employee hates rules and fights any kind of oversight. Another worker seems to get upset when not given lots of deadlines and structure. In frustration, you decide everyone will just do as you say – with no whining. The result: unhappy teams who become less productive over time.

“It’s very difficult to understand how people might be different from ourselves,” says Gretchen Rubin, a bestselling author who writes about happiness. “If I’m a manager and I work a certain way, then it makes sense to me that things should be done that way. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to others who do not work that way.”
So while managers may want team members to adopt better work habits and drop others that are seen as less desirable, it’s not something that can be accomplished merely by issuing a memo or adopting new software.

“The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists,” Rubin says.

In her book, “Better Than Before,” Rubin explains that before individuals can adopt new habits to improve their work performance, they must first understand how they respond to expectations. Once they do that, then workers can better understand how to embrace habits that will be most beneficial.

Rubin says that her research shows that people fall into these four groups:

1. Upholders. These people respond readily to both inner expectations (such as New Year’s resolutions) and outer expectations (such as meeting work deadlines). These types wake up each morning and think: “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They avoid making mistakes or letting people down – including themselves. However, they may struggle in situations where expectations aren’t clear or the rules aren’t established.

2. Questioners. These individuals question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified. They’re motivated by reason, logic and fairness and wake up thinking: “What needs to get done today and why?” They often may be seen as “crackpots” because they’ll reject expert opinion in favor of their own conclusions.

3. Obligers. Such workers readily respond to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. They wake up and think, “What must I do today?” They go to great lengths to meet external demands and deadlines and make terrific colleagues, but it’s also difficult for them to self-motivate and say “no.” For example, they may drop everything to proofread a colleague’s report, and in the process they miss their own deadline.

4. Rebels. These employees resist all expectations, period. They wake up and think: “What do I want to do today?” They work toward their own goals, in their own way and refuse to do what they’re “supposed” to do. It may drive managers crazy that they do what they want on their own terms, but their voice of dissent can be an asset.

Rubin stresses that managers who understand these tendencies can help workers adopt habits that are a good fit for them. “We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses,” she says. “We must know our own nature and what serves us best.”

Specifically, a manager may believe that an employee who questions everything is being obstructionist, but the worker is just following his own tendency to find his own way of doing a task. The key for any manager is helping a worker know himself better by asking questions such as:

• How do you like spending your time? When are you the most energetic during the day and when are you dragging? What can you do for hours without feeling bored?
• What do you value most? Is it saving time, money or effort? Do you like to listen to experts or figure things out by yourself?
• What are your current habits? Are you more likely to indulge in a bad habit in a group or alone? If you could magically and effortlessly change one habit, what would it be?

Once employees understand themselves better, then it’s time to look at what Rubin calls the “pillars of habits,” which include:

• Monitoring. “If we want something to count in our lives, we should figure out a way to count it,” Rubin says. For example, many employees may be overestimating how much time they spend making sales calls, when monitoring will show they’re spending more time on Facebook. Better self-awareness, she says, strengthens self- control.

• Foundation. Habits in four areas – sleep, movement, healthy eating and drinking and de-cluttering – help people increase their feelings of self-control. Employees who are getting enough exercise, for example, are able to sleep better.

• Scheduling. Setting a specific, regular time for an activity to recur is one of the most familiar and powerful strategies for habit formation. Upholders are particularly attracted to the predictability of schedules and the satisfaction of crossing off items on the to-do list. But Rebels want to choose when they do an activity, so putting something on their schedule “may dramatically diminish their inclination to do it,” Rubin says.

• Accountability. It’s best that scheduling be paired with accountability and let employees face the consequences of what is being done – or not done. While upholders don’t need much supervision and don’t struggle with deadlines, obligers need more accountability. Rebels will do the work in their own time, in their own way.

“People will be happiest at work when managers take the time to make sure that each person is in the environment to do their best work – what’s the best fit for them,” Rubin says.

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