The routines and habits you need for developing a leadership career

Routines and habits

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

This is Part Seven of the Women’s Agenda Emerging Leaders Playbook, supported by Charles Sturt University. See the series here.

Consistency is a key trait of effective and respected leadership. It proves you’re clear in your direction and focus, and you have a set method for decision-making. It also shows you maintain a predictable mood and reactions that others can come to expect, no matter what the challenge.

But staying consistent day to day can be difficult and exhausting.

That’s why habits and routines are excellent tools for leaders and help to minimise the likelihood of developing decision fatigue – a theory that posits your decision-making capacity deteriorates throughout the day due to the number of decisions you’re required to make. This can range from the smallest decision such as choosing a place for lunch to large decisions like recruiting for an important role.

Read more from our Emerging Leaders Playbook here, thanks to the support of Charles Sturt University.

Habits and routines also underpin the basis of presenting a consistent approach to people management, managing ideas and projects, and reporting on how you’re tracking against goals. They can help establish frameworks for dealing with the varying situations that come up day to day.

There are talking up some of the key habits of highly successful leaders, including everything from how they ‘read every day’ to the fact they prioritise their health, plan methodically or regularly check in with their goals. These are excellent habits and should be considered – some of which have been shared in other parts of this playbook.

But the routine habits around managing your teams can also really set you apart, showing that you’re consistent as a leader and you value and respect the input of others.

The following plays will help you develop effective routines and habits.

Plan your time

Your time is precious, limited and vital to your overall leadership success. So create a habit of establishing just how you’re going to use and protect it each day. This may mean regularly checking in on immediate goals to establish how you’re tracking and determining well in advance what can be outsourced (either externally or to team members). Planning your time is not a set-and-forget equation that happens once. Set aside a regular time in your week to make this a priority.

Establish a (reasonable) morning routine

Some leaders live by the notion that a dogmatic morning routine (complete with meditation, green smoothie and egg white omelette) are critical to success. If that’s your thing, so be it. If it’s not (or you have kids or something else that makes your mornings unpredictable), don’t fret.

There are other ways to establish a successful morning agenda. That routine can be the one you kickstart from the minute you begin work or walk into an office. It may include a morning greeting to colleagues, reading the paper and industry news, or taking a moment to enquire about and study the day’s key priorities. Find a routine that works for you, and factor in at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to make it happen.

Be a proud firefighter and put out the problems that come up

As a leader, your ability to resolve conflicts—external or internal—will be paramount, and there are methods to help you achieve this successfully. Empower your team to act autonomously where possible by setting clear guidelines around best practices with clients, stakeholders and/or colleagues. Certain conflicts, however, will require your specific input and mediation. Set aside space in your day to manage this effectively.

Experiment with the PPP weekly reporting approach

As a leader, adopting an effective and swift approach to managing people from week to week—a weekly PPP habit—could seriously help to maximise efforts from your team. PPP reporting is where you ask each team member to report on three areas of their work each week including progress, plans and problems. Employees will feel supported by this weekly check-in with you. They’ll also feel motivated to establish and maintain strong work practices.

Make immediate decisions—or put deadlines on those that you can’t

Too often we procrastinate when it comes to decision-making, and there’s a good reason for it. Decisions make us accountable and this is both challenging and daunting. But leaving a decision to fester will only exacerbate anxieties. Establish a list of key priorities: ones that need to be actioned immediately and those which don’t. Write down a set time and date for when the less-pressing decisions must be made. Get used to putting these deadlines in your diary and push yourself to source the information or resources you need in order to meet the deadline. Teams suffer when leaders are indecisive.

Take time to recalibrate

As we’ve established, sticking to routines as a leader can be exhausting work. And when things get busy and stressful, routines are often the first thing to be disregarded in the push to meet a deadline, or simply get through the day. Be aware that this can and will happen – and that at these times, routines are particularly essential.

Routines for health and wellbeing are also imperative for effective leaders and will help to minimise the potential for burnout. Map out a set schedule for exercise and accept that time is as important as anything else in your diary. Take a walk, grab a coffee, socialise and plan regular holidays. Give yourself a focus outside of a chaotic work life!

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