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Keystone Habits for Business Growth

The high impact effect shifting behaviors can have


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In his 2012 book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses the power that habits have over our lives. Think of putting your shoes on. Each time, you likely put on the same shoe first and tie it without thinking about it. These patterns were built in childhood. By automating the process, your brain is freed up to pursue higher level tasks. Without habits, our minds would be consumed by moving through the world every day, and we would struggle to make any real progress.

But just as not all tasks are equally important—say, tying your shoes versus driving on the highway—not all habits are equally weighted. Duhigg also discusses what he calls “keystone habits.” Keystone habits are responsible for cascading impacts in areas of life beyond the specific habit itself. For example, take getting up at 4:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. If you were to begin rising early consistently enough to convert this new pattern into a habit, this change would likely impact a number of other behaviors. You might start reading, journaling, meditating, exercising or getting a jump on the workday.

The same is true as a business owner. Some professional organizational habits are considered keystone habits. Do you hold staff meetings on Mondays or Fridays? Are they in-person or over the phone? What are the key performance indicators that you emphasize as an organization? Do you focus on new sales closed or new prospects called?

Each of these are examples of choices that we have made and habits we have built within our organizations and they have the potential to impact several areas of the business. If we hold our staff meetings on Mondays, we are likely to spend the meeting focused on the week to come and what we need to accomplish. If these meetings are on Fridays, we are more likely to spend the time discussing the prior week and what worked or didn’t work. Either can be effective, but it will impact how we look at the world and the decisions we make for our business.

If you’re looking to create or change a keystone habit in your company, consider the following three questions:

  • What do you measure and how frequently do you measure it?
  • How well do you compensate your employees and does it match the goals of the company?
  • When you conduct your performance evaluations and individual goal-setting, what questions do you ask?

Keystone habits are powerful and have a significant role in creating the change we seek for our companies. They may not be directly cause and effect (i.e. habit equals change), but Duhigg suggests that even a simple change in habit can cause a domino effect of changes in many life areas over time.

What keystone habits can be encouraged in the workplace? Perhaps offering employees a gym membership will promote a healthy work-life balance, therefore leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction. Or maybe everyone in the workplace identifies a daily list of the top five priority tasks for the next day and commits to spending the first “golden hour” of work concentrating on these tasks.

A keystone habit can be one that’s adopted company-wide; something that can be repeated as a simple mantra; and something that when done daily has a direct and tangible result.

Defining a habit that will create positive change in the workplace, getting everyone on board with making the change and using the tools to track progress and implement rewards are a great way to encourage businesses to thrive and prosper.

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