This is a guest post by Andrew Filev is the founder and CEO of Wrike.
Various studies show that we spend about 45% of our time every day on habitual actions. People all have different work styles, but, as my experience shows, an important soft skill for a project manager is to help his employees develop the optimal mix of productivity habits.
Your team’s productivity habits are the magic ingredients to your project’s success. If you have the right recipe, your team will complete the project on time and collaborate in a hassle-free way. On the contrary, if the ingredients aren’t right, there could be procrastination, unproductive meetings and other problems.
Why the reluctance to change?The reluctance to nurture productive habits can’t be blamed on a bad temper or a conservative mind. Rather, the issue lies deep in human physiology. No matter how simple a habit is, our brains need to do a lot of rewiring, and even though we may not notice it, this involves physical change.
No wonder making a habit stick takes 66 days on average, according to research. Classic psychology also supports the point: denial is a natural first reaction to change. So, in order to create a productive habit, the main goal is to get past denial as quickly as possible, moving to acceptance and new confidence.
How to smoothly introduce new habitsLet’s look at some practical strategies for bringing new habits into your team’s culture and making these habits sustainable:
1. Lead by example
To plant a new productivity habit, define what behavior you want and then practice what you preach. Your team will immediately see it in action. In such a credible manner, you communicate the outcome as you keep leading by example.
Author and speaker Scott Berkun gave this really good description: “I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are nonobvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things.”
2. Share the power to change (“peer pressure”)
Your own example is an essential starter, but it’s insufficient on its own. Additional support from a group of pioneers might be extremely helpful. Some of your employees might be more productivity-oriented than others. The tactic that I suggest is to form a core team from those most open to change, build the right productivity habits among them and empower them to influence others.
3. Apply horizontal or vertical rollout
You can move forward with the adoption of a new productivity habit in one of two ways: The first is to begin with a part of the team and then gradually roll it out to the rest of the employees. This would be a horizontal approach. The second is a vertical rollout, where the idea is to split the new method into parts and make them stick one after another. For example, it could be helpful in forming a culture of sharing, which is critical for smooth project collaboration.
Changing habits involves both our rational and emotional sides. To influence the emotional, you should give your team extra incentive to repeat the new methods more frequently, integrating these into their work styles. Being a leader, you need to provide feedback, answer any questions promptly and go through the change together with your team. A bit of competition can make the habit introduction more natural and fun. Introduce some sort of gamification. Get creative with prizes.
5. Blend new work styles into existing practices
If an old habit in the team is useful, don’t break it. What’s more, you can leverage it in adopting the new habits. To quicken the adoption of productivity methods, you could blend new and old practices that exist in your team. This would make the new feel more familiar, ensuring a more natural transition.
To wrap up, let me quote motivational speaker Brian Tracy: “Successful people are simply those with successful habits.”
The task of a project manager is to guide his or her team to its greatest potential, so that team members collaborate effortlessly and achieve great results together. As both experience and neuroscience research shows us, behavioral change isn’t easy. It’s just how human brains are wired. So, if you want to introduce new methods to your team, prepare well and actively participate from the very beginning.