OK, I’m as irked by the banking scandals and unfair severance packages as anyone else – but my day job comes first in my list of what to focus on today. Most of us have to be more concerned with selling products and services that don’t come back to customers who do. To sustain profitable growth we need customers and clients who buy and re-buy.
Nevertheless we can learn important lessons – like why do the same people and organisations keep making the same mistakes? It’s probably that, although the rest of the world recognises some bankers are doing the wrong things – the bankers themselves don’t seem to see it our way.
The kitchen is my new home helped my thinking. Just a few moments ago for instance it reminded me how powerful habits are. The new refrigerator is the built in type and to the left of the coffee maker. In my previous home, vacated a week or so ago, the refrigerator was to the right of the coffee maker. Each time I pour a fresh coffee, instead of reaching to my left to get milk from the refrigerator, I have been instinctively turning to the right and my eyes focus on a position that matches the place the refrigerator occupied in last home. It only takes a nano second for the ‘doh – you did it again’ and a change to the correct direction but this small event demonstrates how powerful muscle learn is. Human beings tend to keep doing what comes naturally to them as individuals until something breaks the cycle of repeating the wrong behaviour.
Practice makes permanent
Ask any sports person trying to break a bad habit to improve performance and they will tell you practice doesn’t make perfect it makes permanent. Making the changes needed to get better at something first demands that we break the cycle of bad practice until the ‘right’ way becomes as natural as the ‘wrong’ way. Changing any habit is initially uncomfortable – the way we always did things is easier even if it won’t sustain long term business success (or help me find the milk!). We have to make a conscious decision to behave in a certain way before the change becomes permanent.
Einstein’s definition of insanity was about doing the same thing in the same way over and over and expecting a different result. Most business people nod knowingly when they read that definition but somehow seem to think it applies to everyone else not themselves. Immediately after reading it they carry on doing exactly what they were doing before. Some see the bad practices by some bankers but fail to take a close look at what it is they and their organisations might be doing wrong ‘because that’s how we always did it’.
Get some directions
I guess what I should do is put a little note on the coffee maker to remind me of where the milk is in my new kitchen. In a day or so I won’t need the note anymore because my brain will send me to the right place.
It’s why business principles are so important – they remind us of the right thing to do and keep us on track until the behaviours are second nature. When we apply the right principles to the way we develop our businesses we build long term success.
Stephen Covey says that our guiding principles are like a compass – they show us how to make the right decisions about our behaviours. Of course as we know the delinquent bankers had written down principles – it’s just that they played lip service to them and went on doing what they always did.
I’m now looking for inspiration from my new kitchen so that I can share some ideas on how to align behaviours with principles – how we can put into practice what we preach.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these:
- Doing the right thing – bringing principled behaviours to business
- The art of powerful questions
- Stupid clients
to get free email updates!