Craig Groeschel - Breaking Bad Leadership Habits
Let's dive into the third episode devoted to your leadership habits. Why three episodes on leadership habits? Because hope doesn't change your leadership, habits change your leadership, and what we're doing is we're taking a little bit of a different approach. If you listened two episodes ago, instead of asking what do you want to do this year, we're asking the question, as a leader, who do you want to become? Instead of creating do goals, we're creating who goals. Who do you want to become as a leader? And then in the second episode, we answered the question, based on who you want to become as a leader, what is one habit that you need to start. Based on who you wanna become, what do you need to start? And we talked about the three secrets to starting habits that stick. We're gonna make it small, make it obvious, and make it automatic.
If you remember, James Clear, in his book, "Atomic Habits", he says that we all have similar goals, but we have different results. Think about this. No business owner ever dreams about struggling to meet payroll. My goal is to fight bankruptcy for our whole tenure. No leader wants a toxic culture with high turnover and low morale. In your own personal life, no one I know ever says, "Hey, I wanna be really overweight. I wanna struggle with my health. I wanna die young and miss my grandkids". Nobody says that. No one says, "I want a mediocre life, where I'm addicted, I lose my marriage, I've got no passion, no drive, no vision, and I wasted my leadership potential". No one says any of these things, and yet they happen all the time.
We need to recognize, as leaders, that we rarely end up at the wrong place because of one bad choice. Why do we end up at the wrong place? We usually get there one step at a time, one day at a time, one bad habit at a time. And that's why one more big question we're gonna address today, this one has an important application that will determine the potential impact of your leadership, and the question we're gonna address today to help you grow in your leadership is this: Based on who you wanna become as a leader, what one habit do you need to break? Let me ask it again. Based on who you want to become as a leader, what one bad habit do you need to break? What's the one behavior, what's the one bad habit, that's limiting your leadership?
And what I wanna encourage you to do is to be very, very specific, and give it a name, because you cannot defeat what you do not define. You must acknowledge, somewhere in your leadership, we all have vulnerabilities; this is the area where I'm weak, or this is where I'm consistently irresponsible, or this is where I'm losing credibility and trust with my team. You wanna define very clearly what's the one bad habit, the bad behavior, that you want to break. Now, the challenge is, the more you rise in leadership, the harder you need to work to acknowledge that area, and the reason is because the more you rise in leadership, the more people tolerate your weaknesses, the more they overlook them, the more they actually tell you what you want to hear, and so they'll actually work hard to compensate for your deficiencies, and that can be okay over time.
The challenge is when you have something that is so out of line that it holds everybody back, you have to address that in your leadership, and the bottom line is this; you cannot change what you're willing to tolerate. Some of you, you've been tolerating, and your team's been tolerating, a bad behavior for way too long, and I wanna encourage you to change it, and change it this year. Name the one behavior limiting your leadership. What would it be? Maybe professionally, you might say, "Okay, I've gotta stop procrastinating". Or you might say this: "I have a bad habit of interrupting". This is one of mine that I've had to break. Like, people talk, and I just interrupt them, and it's incredibly rude, and discouraging, and disrespectful.
You might avoid difficult conversations, and you need to have them, or you might have the bad habit of micromanaging, or you just take your team for granted; they're performing great, and you never tell them, you never show gratitude. In your health, you might be overeating, eating too many sweets, you eat too much fast food. You might be addicted to some substance that you've got to break that or it's gonna break you. It might be you just waste time scrolling through social media, or wasting time playing video games, or binge watching, whatever. What is the one habit that you need to break. In the last year, there was one thing I stopped, and I really did stop, I stopped overcommitting myself. I was just doing way, way, way too much, and so I worked with my performance psychologist, I worked with my team, and we redefined what I would do and what I would not do.
And so the problem was, for a long time, if someone would say, "Hey, can you do this"? we would look at my schedule, and we would ask, can I do it? And if the answer was yes, then I typically would do it. Here's the problem. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. And some of you, this would be your one, you're overcommitted way, way, way too much. And why is it so difficult for you to stop being overcommitted? And the reason is because being busy makes you feel important, which is actually really a silly measurement of importance. What we need to understand is this, is that our importance isn't a reflection of what we do, but who we empower. Our importance isn't a reflection on how busy we are, but our importance is reflected by the leaders that we empower to get things done.
In other words, it's not what happens in your presence that determines your effectiveness, it's what happens in your absence. And so in my office and my personal life, we redefined what I do and what I don't do. Instead of just responding to "Hey, can you do this"? instead, we're initiating rather than responding, and that is a habit that I had to break. What's yours? Based on who you wanna become, what one habit do you need to start, and what one habit do you need to break? Let's talk about the challenges, because this is really, really important to understand. When it comes to good habits, they're really hard to start. Why? Why are they hard to start? Because the payoff is usually in the future. Good habits are hard to start because the payoff is usually in the future.
Let me explain. Let's say that you decide, "I'm going to get in the good habit of giving helpful feedback to people, but oh, my gosh, it's time consuming, and I feel uncomfortable when I sit down with someone for a developmental conversation, and I don't see the results for months to come". These good habits are hard to start because the payoff is usually in the future. You might say, "I wanna start jogging in the morning, and in the morning it's cold and it's difficult," and you don't notice your weight loss for six months. Or, "I wanna pay down debt," and it takes you months to make any progress, it takes you months to pay off what took you three minutes to buy. Here's the challenge. Good habits are hard to start because the payoff takes time, but bad habits, they're the complete opposite.
What do we see with bad habits? Bad habits have an immediate perceived benefit, and the negative results, they usually come much later. A bad habit, immediately, it'll seem like, hey, this is fun, and this feels good in the moment, but the negative results come much later. Let's look at some examples. Maybe you lose your temper with someone at work, and it feels good in the moment, 'cause they had it coming, but it might be months before you notice your team's afraid of you and your culture is a wreck. Or let's say you just have the bad habit of ignoring problems at work. It feels good in the moment, 'cause you can go home early, and it's weeks before you realize the problem's gotten worse and it's harder to solve. Or let's take it outside of work, and let's just say, you start smoking, and it relieves the stress, and it feels good in the moment, and it takes decades before you realize this had a negative impact on your health. And that's why it's easier to start a bad habit, because it takes so much time before you see the negative impact.
Here's what we need to do. We need to acknowledge that if you have a bad habit, this action, this negative action, it's eventually going to cost you. How's it gonna cost you? Over time, if you consistently do the wrong thing, what's gonna happen in your leadership is you're gonna lose credibility, you're gonna lose trust, you may hurt your health, or you may hurt the people that you love in your organization or your family. And what's gonna happen is if you consistently do the wrong things, and if you let these bad habits live, you're gonna take your life and your leadership where you don't want it to go. So the big question is how. How do we break the bad leadership habits? Well, what do we know about the habit loop? Anytime there's a habit loop, there's always a trigger, this triggers you to do the wrong action, and there's a reward. What are we gonna do? The first thing we're gonna do whenever we can, number one, is we're gonna remove the trigger.
Number one, we're gonna make it difficult to do. Any time that we're tempted to do the wrong thing in our leadership, we're gonna make it way more difficult to do. In other words, we're gonna choose wisdom over willpower. We're not gonna try to fight off the wrong trigger, we're gonna try to eliminate the trigger. And what I wanna do is, I wanna give you the five major triggers to watch out for. In any area of leadership or any area of life, you've got place, time, mood, moment, and people. You've got place can be a trigger, a time of the day or time of the week can be a trigger, your mood can be a trigger, a moment in time can be a trigger, or the people around you can be a trigger.
Let's think about it. Let's talk about place. How might a place trigger you? Chances are, you don't overeat when you go to the gym, or you don't get high when you go to the gym, but you might overeat and get high at a party at your friend's house, right? It's the place that triggers you. Let's talk about time. You probably don't overreact on a Monday morning, when you're rested, but at the end of the week, when you're exhausted, you might overreact then. You find your mood to be different, or the time of the week impacts your mood. There may be a time where you don't ever look at porn, when you're at church, okay? You wouldn't do that. But when you get home late at night, and you're a little angry at your spouse, and you're bored and alone, you might look at porn.
The time impacts what you do. Think about your mood. You might be short with people when you're hungry, I know I am, or you might be short with people at the end of the day, I know I am. Oh, my gosh, I think I've got a problem. My mood can impact my relationships. There might be a moment where you do the same thing in the same moment of time. For example, for me, each time before I take a work trip, in that moment, my behavior usually becomes more controlling, I'm more demanding of the people around me, and I need to recognize, in that moment, that's a trigger for me. If you have a hard day at the office, you might come home and the house is in chaos, and you lose your cool with your family. What we're gonna do is we're gonna look at the place, the time, the mood, the moment, and the people.
Let's talk a little bit more about people, because people matter so much when it comes to your habits. Studies are absolutely conclusive. The closer you are to someone, the more likely you are to imitate their habits. In fact, there was a study done that tracked 12,000 people for 32 years. It's fascinating. And your chance of becoming obese, are you ready for this? It increased by 57% if you have a friend who is obese. Think about that. The other thing is true, as well, that if one friend loses weight, guess what? The other friend loses weight one third of the time. You become like those you're with. In fact, scripture says it very clear in the Bible, Proverbs 13:20 says, you walk with the wise and you become wise, but scripture says, "a companion of fools suffers harm". So you're gonna look for the triggers.
If you want to stop being a controlling leader, hang around people that are empowering leaders. If you wanna stop wasting resources and being bad financially, hang around a leader who's got experience with great resource allocation. If you wanna stop being out of shape, make friends with three people who are fit, and what's gonna happen? Over time, you're gonna start conforming to their habits. I wanna talk about my closest friends for just a moment. I'm incredibly blessed that my closest friends are very spiritually strong, they're all committed in their local churches, they all work out, they all have great diets, they live beneath their means, they have great relationships, almost all of them have good marriages, good relationships with their children.
I want you to think about this, how much easier it is for me to live in the right attitudes and habits with friends like that, versus how difficult would it be for me to have integrity, or to be financially wise, or to have a great marriage, or to raise my kids in a way that is honorable, if all my friends were drug addicts, right, if all my friends were leaders that had no integrity if they're all addicted to video games or partied their brains out, or wasted all their money at casinos, gambling it away. We know it's almost impossible to live the right life with the wrong friends. The same is true in leadership. It's almost impossible to be a generous, integrity-filled leader when you're surrounded by self-centered takers. What we wanna do is we wanna look for the triggers in our life, and we're gonna remove whatever triggers, the place, the time, the mood, the moment, maybe even the wrong people, that create the environment in which we're tempted to do the wrong thing.
How do we break the bad leadership habits? We remove the trigger, we make it difficult to do. The second thing we're gonna do is we're gonna interrupt the action. If we do find ourselves doing the wrong thing, we're gonna interrupt the action. For example, let's say, if you find yourself hitting Snooze four times every morning, when your phone goes off, it sends your alarm off, what you're gonna do is, you're gonna take the phone and move it all the way to the other side of the room, so when your phone goes off, you have to get up out of bed to turn it off, and that's more likely to get up, and you won't hit Snooze.
Let's say you're always overspending on Amazon. Give your friend your password before you can buy anything. You're interrupting the action. If you're always looking at inappropriate images on your phone, get rid of the apps or block adult content, or whatever you wanna do to interrupt the action. If I could get into your work life, maybe there's someone at your office that's consistently toxic. You know the person, the one who's always triggering the arguments and always creating problems, and not bringing solutions, you might actually need to remove that person, maybe out of that meeting, or maybe even out of the organization. What you're gonna do is, you're gonna remove the trigger, and then you're gonna interrupt the action.
Here's the thing. If you've got a bad habit, you wanna interrupt whatever triggers you into that bad habit. For example, one bad habit I have is when I get upset, in a moment, I'll often send a harsh text to someone, and so I created a rule that whenever I get upset, I start my timer, and I play it for five minutes, and I won't send a text until I wait for the five minute timer to go off, because I've got a bad habit of sending text when I'm emotional; "Why didn't you"? and "This hadn't been done". And so what I'm doing is I'm interrupting the action.
Some of you, you might need to take some severe measures because there's some really severely dangerous actions in your life, like gambling, or drug addiction, alcohol addiction, sexual, whatever, and you might need to go to rehab, and you might need to get real help. And what we're gonna do is, we're gonna distance ourself as much as possible from what triggers us, or what facilitates the action. And what I always say in the church setting is this; I ask the question, why resist a temptation tomorrow if I have the power to eliminate it today? We're gonna move whatever triggers us away from us, so our leadership is more healthy. And we've talked a lot about personal. How does this impact our professional life, you know, like eating the wrong thing, looking at the wrong things, lacking integrity?
We need to understand that what you do in private impacts how you lead in public, every single time. Who you are when no one is looking directly impacts how you lead when you're in front of people. What you do in private impacts how you lead in public, because the habits you have today will shape who you become tomorrow. So the question I wanna ask you is this: Do you like the direction your habits are taking you? If you've got some bad leadership habits, if you got some bad personal habits, just play it forward and ask yourself, how will it play out? You may see yourself years from now saying, "Oh, my gosh, I wish I hadn't cut corners at work, because I lost more than my job, I lost my integrity". Or there might be that bad habit you say, "I wish I'd never started. I had no idea how that one bad habit would ruin my life". Or you might even say, "Man," one day, "I wish I hadn't worked so much, ignored my kids, and lost those relationships".
Play it forward and ask yourself, do you like the direction your habits are taking you? Who do you wanna become as a leader? Who do you wanna become? Based on who you wanna become, what one habit do you need to start? And today we're answering this: What one habit do you need to break? Now, as you grow in your leadership, here's what you're gonna have. You're gonna have what I call some used to stories, or examples, and it would go like this: "Hey, years ago, I used to be too controlling". Or, "Years ago, I used to avoid conflict, but now I don't". "I used to tolerate under-performance," or, "I used to be less focused and really disorganized".
And here's the thing. If you don't have any current used to stories, this is a really dangerous sign that you have something limiting your leadership. Every good leader has some current used to stories. And this is what I used to do, but because I'm growing in my leadership, I don't do it anymore. I wanna encourage you, if you've got a challenge, acknowledge it. You cannot defeat what you do not define. Remove the trigger, interrupt the action, and never underestimate how you can do something big by starting something small, or by stopping what looks like a small, dangerous habit, because Aristotle said this: "We are what we repeatedly do".
Great leadership is not an act, but a collection of habits. And here's what's really, really fun, is when you stop doing the wrong things, and you start doing the right things, then evidence starts to build up that this is who you really are. In other words, if you, like, work out, you start to say, "Oh, I work out why? Because I am an athlete". Or if you intentionally spend time with your kids, you start to say, "Oh, I spend time with my kids because I am a great mom," or "a great dad". And then in your leadership, if you listen, and love the people you serve, and cast vision, and create systems, and give feedback, and solve problems, and build a great culture, one day you say, "Guess what? I am a great leader," because the evidence is there, your small habits you're consistently doing in the right direction that tell you you are a great leader.
And that's what I wanna tell you. Don't let anyone tell you that you're not a great leader. You're becoming better every day, taking small steps in the right direction. What is leadership? Leadership is influence, and you have influence, your leadership matters. Application, here it is one more time. Based on who you wanna become as a leader, what one bad habit do you need to stop? How are you gonna do it? You're gonna get aggressive, no excuses. You're gonna remove the trigger, you're gonna make it difficult to do, you're gonna interrupt the action, and you're gonna take one small step toward becoming the leader that you're meant to become. You're gonna get better, and it's gonna matter, because everyone wins when the leader gets better.