Taking a Leadership Position? Start with the Right Habits

Leadership Position ChangesQuick question:

If you are starting a new job and you want to start going to the gym again do you:

  1. Wait until you settle in, then figure out how gym time can fit into your schedule
  2. Start hitting the gym the first week of your new job, making both a bit harder (but, you are doing both)
  3. Gym? Why would I go to the gym when I have a new job that I want to focus on.

The answer is B. You may or may not be surprised that, according to Gretchen Rubin (best-selling author who focuses on happiness, habits, productivity and creativity), how you start something is how you will continue.  In other words, use the momentum of one change to move you along to another. Continuing the example, if you don’t start the gym with the job, you are much less likely to be weight training any time in the near future.

At nonprofits, someone taking a new leadership position – whether board members, committee chairs, and/or staff can help create the necessary momentum.  Let’s look at a nonprofit-centered example.

You are about to become the chair of the fundraising committee. You have been a member of the committee for 3 years. What you could implement, from your first day in your new leadership position, that will help you achieve more. Consider your experience and think about:

  • Meeting structure:
    • How closely do you want to follow the suggested time allowed for each topic?
    • How much of the agenda do you want to get through?
    • Do you want to start and end on time?
    • Should there be a time limit for an individual to speak on at topic?
  • Creating assignments and responsibilities for each member. Should someone be charged with:
    • Sending reminders before the meeting?
    • Taking notes? And circulating the notes after the meeting.
    • Ensuring everyone has an assignment and feels they are contributing (whether that is ownership of a sub-committee, participation on a special project, or standard committee work like stewardship )?
  • How you want to encourage others to create new habits like:
    • Rewarding yourself and your team with treats
      • Drinks/snacks
      • Outings (visit a potential venue or a lecture together)
      • Session with a therapy dog (think outside the box)
    • Asking for input on what committee members would like to see changed
    • Creating “buy-in” for shifts so everything is not simply a top down decision
  • Follow through:
    • If you make a change, try not to slip into old habits. Be conscious if your meeting goes over 20 minutes one week and make sure it doesn’t happen the next time.
    • If you are creating substantial changes, it may take time but stay the course. Remember why you are trying to make change
    • Get “buy-in” again. You may have to remind everyone of the benefits of change.

One last idea, Gretchen Rubin also talks about the idea that convenience pays off. That is, at a salad bar, people take less with tongs than spoons because it is just more work. I take that to mean that too much change that causes too much work without obvious reasons for this extra work will find resistance.  Someone in a leadership position has to make impactful changes that have obvious benefits (leaving on-time or not having to listen to one person hijack every meeting). Change for change’s sake is as worthless as a gym membership that is never used.