5 Really Small Habits That Produce Big Results

By Carey Nieuwhof

Sometimes leadership can seem so overwhelming.

In reality, though, leadership is simpler than it first appears.

In many ways, great leaders master some very basic habits that other people miss. The advice in this post is so simple you might be thinking “well, my mother used to tell me to do that”.

Maybe that’s the point.

You can have a Ph.D. in leadership and read everything there is on leadership and still not be effective.

And yet there are leaders who have little formal education but who lead powerfully and effectively every day.

Often, these leaders gain influence because they’ve mastered a few basic skills others miss.

Here are 5 of my absolute favourite basic leadership skills that are far too easy to overlook.

Habitually own them, and you’ll become a much more effective leader.

1. Make someone else the hero

Few of us have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

The narcissists make it all about them.

Insecure people focus on themselves because they can’t bear to give anyone else air time.

And even people who lack confidence can end up being selfish because their lack of self-esteem means no one else gets attention.

How do you escape the trap of narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence?

Just make someone else the hero.

If you’re a preacher, like me, make sure you point to God, not to yourself when you speak. Worry more about whether people connect with God than whether they connect with you.

What else does this principle look like?

Well, if you’re a writer, make your reader the hero. The filter through which I try to run every post I write on this blog is what I call a “helpful” filter. I want the post to help you as a reader. I want you to win.

Think about it. You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader?

So when you struggle with narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence (and we all do…me too), step aside and make someone else the hero.

It works. Every time.

You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader? Click To Tweet

2. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it

If there’s one piece of advice I want my sons to remember, other than everything I taught them about Jesus, it’s this:

Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

It puts you ahead of about 99% of the planet.

Think back on your last week. Who frustrated you most? Probably the people who didn’t do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

Now picture the people you lead. Who are you most likely to promote, reward or even want to hang out with? The people who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.

Doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it is the basis of trust. It’s also the basis for confidence.

Hey…sometimes I’m still the guy who didn’t do what he said he was going to do when he said he was going to do it. But I try so hard not to be that guy.

So what do you do if you struggle in this area? Just stop promising and start delivering.

When your walk catches up to what your talk would have been, reintroduce your talk.

Want to get ahead? Do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it. Click To Tweet

3. Focus on outcomes

Also in the ‘please stop driving me nuts’ category are people who focus on process, not outcomes.

I realize it’s axiomatic these days to say the journey is more important than the destination. But not always. Really. Come on. What fun is the journey if you end up nowhere with any meaning?

It’s frustrating when you ask someone if something is done and they tell you

Well, I emailed him.

She never got back to me.

I’ve called 5 times.

I think they must have changed their address or something.

And they feel like the project is complete because they tried.

Trying isn’t the same as doing.

Often, I feel like saying “You didn’t hear the question. The question is Is it done?

A few years ago, I started encouraging the leaders I work with to stop focusing on the process and start focusing on outcomes.

When you focus on outcomes, you eventually stop emailing someone who never returns emails and you text them instead, or call them, or go to their office, or release them and find someone who will help you get the project done.

If you focus on outcomes, you’ll also have a shot at mastering #2. If you don’t, you never will.

And getting things done actually makes the journey more enjoyable, at least in my view.

Trying isn't the same as doing. Click To Tweet

4. Look people in the eye

Sure, this is an “I don’t need a blog post to remind me of this”. (So is the next point, by the way.)

But do you ever notice how hard it is to actually look someone in the eye—to make them the sole focus on your attention?

I’m pretty sure I’m ADD and it’s so hard for me not to focus on shiny objects, moving parts or anything else in the room. Or my phone for that matter.

But the most effective leaders always look someone in the eye.

Sometimes I’m in a conversation with someone and I’ll create a voice in my head that just keeps repeating “Look them in the eye…look them in the eye.” It helps.

I’ll even position myself in a restaurant or coffee shop so I face a blank wall, not the door or a TV. Otherwise, I just instinctively look at whatever is moving.

Watch for it…the very best leaders look you in the eye and make you the sole focus of their attention.

Practice that this week.

The best leaders make you the sole focus of their attention. Click To Tweet

5. Smile

Everyone has a default expression. It’s hard to know what yours is because you never see yourself as others see you.

I learned years ago that my default facial expression is…uptight. If I’m having a good time, I apparently forgot to tell my face.  I’m also a fast walker, so I tend to look uptight and annoyed.

How’s that for a guy who’s leading you?

People have given me very helpful advice like walk slowly across the room and smile. 

I know that’s so basic, but remember, you’re programming against your default here, so it’s not easy.

I have to remind myself to smile when I teach, to smile when I greet people and to smile in conversations.

It makes a huge difference.

Apparently, Michael Hyatt has a similar issue and in this post outlined 5 positive impacts of smiling more as a leader.

So smile. 🙂

Do what your mama told you. Smile more. Click To Tweet

New Habits Take Time

One of the reasons leaders struggle to improve their habits is they feel like they just don’t have the time to do it.

Change that.

My approach to life and leadership changed radically for me over ten years ago when I figured out how to get time, energy and priorities working in my favour.

I’d love to help you free up hours each day to do the same thing. And I’ve helped over 5000 leaders do just that.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is an online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – Joel Rowland, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell,  Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game changer.” Pam Perkins,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

Click here to learn more or get instant access.

What Would You Add?

So that’s my short list of leadership habits. What are some you’d add to the list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

8 Comments

  1. Cynthia Bailey on June 29, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for the great information. Great reminders when dealing with volunteers. I appreciate your insights for life in general. Thank you, thank you.

  2. Bob Weger on June 26, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    thanks for the reminders!

    • Alan on June 26, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      People who have a default smile are such an inspiration. Just wonder if it’s an acquired default? Thanks for reminding me I need to reprogram me to smile more. Good advise.
      Thanks

  3. Ali Chiadikaobi Ogamde on June 26, 2019 at 10:35 am

    This is indeed an eye-opener for every leader and aspiring leaders.

  4. Bekele on June 26, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Christ likenes life will helps others to see His preffect Lov and His blessings.

  5. Bekele on June 26, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Thank you it is very helpful for me

    • Doug on June 26, 2019 at 8:13 am

      Spot on!!! The five (5) suggested items work; people will be attracted to you. I know because I use them! It’s like a blessing when it comes to Christ.

      • KW Kreitz on June 26, 2019 at 8:38 am

        “Focus on Outcomes”. Wow, this one huge! Thank You, and I’m sure the person who has been waiting will thank you too, when I get the information they requested, regardless of how!

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