By Jackie Luo, TCV Growth Partner -
Recently, a friend of mine jokingly told me about his experience visiting his sister-in-law’s house. Days before their scheduled visit, the sister-in-law said she would clean her house, tidy up things, to get the house ready. But by the time my friend arrived, her house was still unorganized, with things spread around in the living room and kitchen, and the sister-in-law kept apologizing for the untidiness. When my friend told me about this, we both laughed hard, because he knew how much I dislike unorganized space.
I have a habit of keeping my house clean and organized, and what’s better, I never stress about it. That’s because I have developed a routine. Since the routine is well integrated in my daily habit, the cleaning doesn’t take much time at all, usually no more than 5 to 10 minutes a day. Most of the time, I do the cleaning and organizing of my house without even thinking about it, and it’s never a stress.
95% of our daily actions are driven by habit. If we want consistent results, we must build a habit of doing things that deliver consistency. I firmly subscribe to the theory that habits determine what we are. This not only applies to housekeeping but also to everything else like sports and businesses.
Great athletes all have developed routine practice, whether it’s for individual or team practices. Legendary basketball player Lebron James is known for his routines. He works out 5-7 days per week. He does fitness classes such as versa climber, spin, and Pilates. He often wakes up at 5 am to exercise, even on days when he’s supposed to be resting. In season, James works out 7 days a week, playing basketball every single day. Moreover, he drinks plenty of water, sleeps 8 hours at night plus 2-3 hours of nap a day. These routines have made Lebron James a consistently great player.
Habits or routines are what separate great performers from mediocre ones. According to Sean Covey, author of many personal improvement books, “Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do”.
Habits are equally important for building a successful business. These habits are often referred to as organizational processes, rhythms, or culture. They do make or break business. Ultimately, they are the only competitive advantages a business can sustainably keep. If a business can build the habits of high performance, it thrives. If not, the business struggles.
So, what are the examples of high-performance habits a business can build?
1. Think critically. Define the problem and find the root causes. Take the 80/20 approach to prioritize time and resources for most impactful activities. In some low performing organizations, people and leaders are bogged down by a never ending to do list, and the list is never done. Building the habit of thinking critically will help people clear the clutter, improve productivity and avoid employee burnout.
2. Respect diverse thoughts. Creative thinking is the source of innovation and excellence for businesses, but too many organizations are under utilizing that source of advantages. Make a rule that everyone in a meeting must speak and be heard. Meeting organizers should have a habit of calling out to the introverts in the room to speak up. Executives should listen to the input from the team, and habitually be the last one to speak, to avoid
framing the issues prematurely.
3. Practice constant learning. All great businesses have an organizational habit of constant learning, and their leaders are voracious readers. Learn from other businesses’ best practices, learn from internal best practices. Provide training and development for the staff. Give each other feedback. Get in the habit of asking the question, “so, what did we learn from this?”
Building these habits takes time and repetition. So, start now. You shouldn’t expect to build all these habits at once. Depending on where you are, you may want to pick a few habits to start with. But stick to it, and the results will show.
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi