Every executive coach knows that breaking bad habits is exponentially more difficult than establishing new ones.

Habits are hardwired, and executives or managers will revert to their hardwired habits when running their company or department, especially in times of stress.

Executive coaches need to remember that helping clients break bad habits is just as important as establishing productive habits; perhaps more so. Any productive habit will be diminished if you don’t first identify bad habits and coach your client to eliminate them and replace them with better methodologies.

Identify Your Client’s Managerial Habits

Identifying your client’s bad managerial habits requires a multi-pronged approach. Most executives won’t be able to tell you their bad habits since they either aren’t aware that they have them or consider their managerial approach effective.

You can use a combination of tools to assess the managerial habits and styles of the executive you are working with.

  • Interview Your Client: Have a list of scenarios and ask how they handle those situations. Topics can include leadership development, sales strategy, cost control, etc.
  • 360 Feedback: Send out feedback forms to the executive’s leadership team, asking them to identify any positive or frustrating leadership habits that they like or dislike. Also ask questions about delegation, if they feel valued, workplace environment, etc.
  • Sit in on meetings with your client and leadership team. Observe the executive’s leadership style and habits.
  • Meet with HR, discuss common employee complaints.

Some of the bad habits to be on the lookout for include:

  • Micromanaging/lack of delegation
  • Close-mindedness
  • Avoidance of decisions or conflict
  • Perfectionism
  • Not listening to leadership team input
  • Lack of team recognition
  • Excessive worrying

How to Help Management Successfully Break Bad Habits

Breaking bad habits is hard work; there is no easy way around it. Change is hard, especially when you are changing hardwired habits and personality traits.

Before you start, discuss the positive outcomes that the desired habit change will produce. Benefits such as lower employee turnover, faster production rates, a more manageable workload, and higher sales are great motivators for many executives.

Highlight Positive Executive Habits

Help your client become more aware of habits of successful executives, such as:

  • Recognizes employees and rewards their hard work
  • Listens actively
  • Assesses employee strengths and delegates responsibility that capitalizes on those strengths
  • Publicly recognizes team member contributions
  • Develops employee pride and ownership in the company’s success
  • Encourages respect and communication between management
  • Leads by example
  • Connects company success to team and individual contributions
  • Has weekly one on one meetings with direct reports and encourages the same of the management team
  • Genuinely cares about employees

Highlighting the habits of successful executives will help them examine their own habits and identify areas for improvement.

Break Bad Habits with These 5 Critical Steps

  1. Develop awareness.

    Breaking bad habits first requires a concrete understanding of the limiting behavior and its negative impact on employees. Help your client understand the far-reaching impact the behavior has.

    Example: Close mindedness can lead to frustrated management, higher management turnover, and lower profitability when cost-saving opportunities are missed by not listening to the management team and trusting their expertise.

  2. Increase understanding.Once you have identified the bad habit, further explore and define the problem. Are there specific issues or people that trigger the behavior? How does the executive feel before and after the behavior occurs?

    Example: Discuss how the executive feels in a meeting when management is suggesting solutions that are different from the solution that the executive has identified in his/her head. What does the executive typically say when other ideas are discussed? How do the meeting attendees respond?

  3. Define a replacement behavior.One of the best methods for breaking a bad habit is to replace it with a new and more effective habit. Discuss alternative behaviors and evaluate their pros and cons. What would the outcomes of the new habit be? Do those outcomes tie in with the executive’s goals?

    Example: Brainstorm how the executive could give more consideration to management ideas. One idea would be for the executive to identify a team to research and report back with top solutions to an issue or goal. Another would be to arm the executive with a list of affirming responses to use in meetings, such as “That’s an interesting idea, tell me more about it.”

  4. Identify settings, processes, and triggers that will prompt the new behavior.If you identified triggers in step 2, find a way to connect the triggers with the new habit/behavior. There may be employees, meetings, or other settings in which the bad habit is more likely to occur.

    Example: Your executive’s educational background is in mechanical engineering. She tends to micromanage engineering decisions for product design. You work with the executive to identify the meetings in which it is hard for her not to jump in and take over, and have her prepare for those meetings by reviewing a list of prompts that solicit and respect managerial input.

  5. Practice, practice, practice!This step can happen in multiple ways. Discussing potential scenarios and how your client would respond is great preparation. Reviewing when your client will use the habit, and what triggers will help them remember to use it, is also helpful. Follow up with meetings after the executive is implementing the new habit to analyze and affirm the new behavior.

    Example: Follow up with your client after they have had a month to start implementing their new habit. Ask questions that analyze how the new habit is working. How did management respond to the new behavior? Was a different decision made than might have been made if the old habit was still in place?

 

Is Breaking Bad Leadership Habits One of Your Skills as an Executive Coach?

As John C. Maxwell said,

“Everything Rises or Falls on Leadership.”

If your client has bad leadership habits, your coaching will be less effective unless you address the habits and help your client establish more effective ones.

Take your coaching skills up a notch and watch the beneficial impact it has on your clients when you help them eliminate bad leadership habits and grow as an executive.