The habit of doing

“Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all”

Rag‘n’Bone Man – a comment on our times. An esoteric link to running a business? That too.

The Habit of Doing – something that we see time and again within business; some habits for good and others not so much. Psychology Today describes habit formation as the process by which new behaviours become automatic… because the behavioural patterns we repeat most often are etched into our neural pathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it’s possible to form—and maintain—new habits. The bad news is, sometimes the ones that serve us least well in business are those most engrained.

But which ones to form anew and which to replace, and how do you know? For example, is the habit of always answering your team’s questions with the complete answer or an instruction a good habit or not?

Does it save you time?

Undoubtedly in that immediate moment – and if you’ve been around the block more than once, the chances are (or the risk is!) you don’t even have to really tune in to offer that answer up. So it saves on grey matter too.

But in the longer term what does that habit create around you?

A dependency on you for the thinking or problem solving? Perhaps.

A paralysis of action in your absence (when you’re off buying tea-bags, fixing chairs and dashing about)? Almost certainly.

A willingness to blame the owner of the instruction when something goes pear-shaped? More than likely.  Oh, and that’s YOU getting the blame, by the way.

And in the blink of an eye it also becomes your culture. Not written down anywhere. Not printed onto posters on your notice board and definitely not in your employee handbook: but your culture nonetheless.

And back to the question “Does it save you time?” Actually no.

It costs you in all sorts of ways.

No one learns what’s in your head and informed your answer…so no “thinking for yourself” will show up any time soon. Nor do people catch this information by osmosis as you’re sharing out the biccies.

No one gets a part share in your experience, wisdom and life-lessons…so no one learns and develops greater capability.


No one feels the joy or the pain of making their own decision and being responsible for the consequences – intended or otherwise…so no accountability peeps around the corner to grin at you.

Oh, and by the way…you’ve either caused it or endorsed it.

Time and again when we’re working with Business Owners and Leaders they worry about their own immediate team. They’ll share their concerns about how able their team are to step up and run the business (or at least some part of it)

Whether that’s the challenge of developing a strategy to sustain exponential growth; or to re-ignite a stuttering performance. Whether it’s about engaging their people in the energy and purpose of why they all come to work and why they should continue that habit for the foreseeable future. Or whether it’s about being able to execute activity and plans with excellence and cohesion.

The worry is real.

Whilst Rag‘n’Bone Man doesn’t do business consulting – what a gig and a half that would be for a Wednesday afternoon meeting – his words are nonetheless profound. The Habit of Doing is hard to see looking behind you and many owners and leaders are blind to it. Not intentionally or wilfully, but still blind.

Helping them see and understand the impact of their own Habit of Doing on those around them is often where we begin in helping untangle sales or the wider business. Quantifying the time spent and the ‘cost’ of this behaviour on others and their own business helps. Qualifying the value of replacing it with other habits does too. Sometimes the solution also involves creating a purpose and identity with the owner that allows them to be something other than “Doing” all of the time.

From that, good habits can be found and formed.