Old Habits Die Hard

239Every Sunday, I phone family and friends to chat and catch up on their lives. Connecting to loved ones on Sundays is challenging. If weather permits, they are outdoors. Some are attending church, others doing errands or weeding the garden. So I leave messages and try later. You would think calling folks on a week night would make more sense.

Readers over a certain age know why I call on Sundays. Before the age of cell phones (now I do sound like a dinosaur) long distance phone calls were pretty expensive. Ma Bell incentivized us to call on Sundays, a low-volume day, by lowering the rates for Sunday phone calls. Thus for many of us, Sundays were the day reserved for chatting with out of town friends and family. Without thinking, using old habitual behavior, I still think of Sundays as the day to call others.

Why do I share this sad tale of old age? To illustrate how subtle and insidious our habits can be. When I coach executives and senior teams, one thing I look for are patterns of behavior that are unconscious, actions that are more from running on auto-pilot than conscious decision. I usually find habitual behaviors and actions when I hear stories that don’t make much sense and I am told “this is how we’ve always done it.”

One example of a potentially outdated habit is the Monday morning status meeting. More and more businesses are moving to flexible work schedules, telework, or adjusted work weeks. The most common days to allow staff to work virtually are Mondays and Fridays. This means that a Monday morning status or staff meeting may have few people in face-to-face attendance.

Technology like collaboration sites and Skype can make theses meeting nearly as effective as when everyone sat around the conference room table. Or, one could simply move them to midweek when most of the staff are on site. Midweek gives everyone a couple of days to gear up and still leave a couple of days for work and issue resolution. But moving the meeting needs a conscious look at why we held them on Mondays to start with. Habit, like my phone call behavior or solid business reason?

Look out for those insidious patterns of behavior that can cause us extra work and effort, and are legacies of past logic.