May 1, 2012

The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg has written a powerful book that is a must read for anyone serious about leadership and success.

In The Power of Habit, he documents how our everyday actions are governed by habits and how changing even one habit can have a massive domino effect. One case study worth mentioning concerns how Alcoa, a US Aluminum manufacturing company turned around the company culture with just one small change.
In 1987, at a time when people were more focused on maximising profits than worker safety, the new CEO, Paul O'Neill, announced plans to "Make Alcoa the safest company in America."

Investors were not impressed and many sold their stocks based on that speech. Big mistake. Within a year, profits rose to their highest ever and by 2000 Alcoa's market capitalisation had risen by $27 billion.

How did this happen?

Two weeks after O'Neill implemented the new safety rules he noticed a small decline in injury rate. Rather than waiting to see if this was a trend, he immediately congratulated the entire company with a heartfelt note celebrating the collective work that saved lives.

By connecting and acknowledging people on a heart level, he seeded pride throughout the organisation. This led to other small changes in behaviours and habits. People started coming in with ideas on how to be more productive, working late, coming in early and so on. Pretty soon, the entire culture of the company started to change to what eventually became one of success.

Habits are infectious. Small wins seed larger ones.

What small seed can you plant today that will make a difference tomorrow?

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