BUSINESS LEADER: Rituals, routines, habits: The blueprint for transforming your business growth
In this article, first published in Business Leader, I shares Rituals, Routines, and Habits: The Blueprint for Transforming Your Business Growth.
Once your business has achieved a ceiling of performance, how you invest your time and attention determines your future success. To understand how we invest our time and attention, we can look at the habits that drive us, consciously and unconsciously, every day. Our habits form behaviours that manifest both good and bad outcomes.
Habits form when you do something that makes you feel good and can be initial and ongoing. Here’s an example of each.
A cigarette makes you feel good when you light and drag on it. You might feel awful after, and swear to stop smoking, but you won’t and don’t. I’ve observed this as a non-smoker for years. So why did you start smoking in the first place? Was it to be cool or fit in?
Whatever it may have been, you likely developed a habit around it – a morning and evening smoke or when things get rough in life. Mostly, you don’t even think about it. You light up and draw, reminding yourself that you are going to die one day or promise yourself you’re going to give up next week.
A good habit might be brushing your teeth twice a day. Don’t do it and feel uncomfortable. Do it, and you feel virtuous, clean, and fresh. You likely do it now without even thinking. It’s a habit.
Both are mainly unconscious. You do both whilst thinking or doing other things. And yet, these acts bear consequences. They shape your future despite your aspirations and intentions.
What does this have to do with business growth?
Upon reaching a certain level of business performance, your time and attention, more than money, skills, strategy, and advice, are the greatest determinants of future growth.
Understanding what guides your time and attention becomes the most critical insight into your company’s future and leadership imperative.
There are primarily 3 drivers:
These are considered actions and behaviours intended to yield a clearly defined outcome. For example, 20 min of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of meditation first thing every morning. It is deliberate, purposeful, and practised.
Patterns of behaviour set by circumstances. For example, a weekly routine that sees you go to work differs from a weekend routine that does not. In each case, the routine is governed by the day’s or event’s logistics and requirements.
Both routines and rituals can become habits. A ritual that becomes a habit loses its purpose since rituals are meant to be intentional and purposeful, requiring conscious, practised presence. Routines lead to habits more often. But habits also form based on past behaviours, responses, practices, and circumstances. It makes them the hardest to see, understand and change and skews your ability to evaluate how you invest your time and attention.
As a business grows from one level to the next, fundamental changes are needed to support the growth. How you lead, manage, and behave as a business owner in a company generating £5m annual revenues is fundamentally different to what is needed for a company generating threefold that. And to get a company from there to that future revenue requires different routines and habits to those that got you there in the first place.
So, can you change your habits to enable this growth?
Popular culture says yes. Identify the habit, understand the trigger, replace it with better behaviour, reward yourself each time and after 21 or 33 and ¾ days, a new habit is formed.
I don’t buy it. Many business owners backslide from leading growth into operating the business. What’s needed is more than willpower and six steps to success in habit formation.
By creating a monthly ritual that holds you accountable to your intentions and goals, using a trusted observer who asks the right questions, challenging and debating your answers, and using data and evidence to maintain clarity and truth, the likelihood that you will always practice the right habits for the right time is greatly enhanced. Consciously investing time and attention to growth, rather than having time and attention absorbed by old habits, is the key to unlocking your full potential in life and business.