Power of HabitLast night’s Super Bowl was an exciting game of American football. The outcome was not certain until only 17 seconds were left in the game. In the final contested play, a New England defensive back stepped in front of a Seattle receiver and intercepted the pass.

After the game, the back was asked about the play. He said he couldn’t describe it. Of course, asking people to analyze something in the height of great emotion is pretty stupid, but I bet it’s true that he didn’t know. His coaches had taught him cues to watch and responses to make. Then they practiced it over and over. It became a habit. He saw the play develop. His muscle memory recognized the situation and acted just as he had been trained. This is what happens when coaches are leaders.

If you have read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit,” you would have understood. Learn to read the “cue;” take action; reap the reward.

We need to understand and practice this both in our work life and our “personal” life.

When we understand the cue–>routine–>reward cycle, then we can personally discover what makes us more productive and effective at work, as well as in our life outside of work. Not only for the individual, understanding this cycle for the way things get done in business or other organizations can change the culture of the organization.

Duhigg cites the example of Paul O’Neill’s leadership as the new CEO of Alcoa. He started with one small item—quality—that had many layers around it. The focus on quality became an understanding of empowerment, communication, and, yes, quality, such that the company began to prosper.

Whether you supported one team or the other or whether you thought the play call was unwise, celebrate the coaching and the habit building that led to the game-winning interception.

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