— It’s faster to just stop doing stupid shit

Annulla, Brooklyn creativecommons.org /licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The title above is from a book of the same name by Henry Alford, who tries to showcase the purpose and principles of this modern guide to manners — and what’s happened to them in our crazy-fast, interconnected culture. A major premise of his book is for us to know the things we should stop doing, hence the name.

And damn, is it appropriate for leadership success.

When coaching clients, there’s only a couple of ways to help them become demonstrably better at leading: Start doing things they haven’t been doing or Stop doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

In my experience, it’s infinitely easier – and a hell of a lot faster – to stop doing something than it is to learn, internalize and demonstrate a new behavior.

Why? Well, it’s likely some simple human-behavior-psychology mumbo-jumbo or such, but for me, it’s mostly just common sense. For instance:

There’s just too many of them. When your leadership scope is significant, there’s just too many of ‘em. You can stop doing something that everyone knows is a bonehead behavior, or you can ask 100-10,000 people what new change they would like to see in you and get potentially 1,000 distinct answers.

Are you ready to execute to 1,000 new behavior changes? I’m sure as hell not.

Much simpler to work at stopping the 1-2 less-than-positive behaviors we identified in our 360 survey; the results are usually consistent, and we get credit for trying, even if we don’t eliminate the behavior completely.

It ain’t baggage if you don’t carry it around.

All leaders are lugging around various pieces of baggage from our past – some real, some perceived. Some are small carry-on, under-the-seat sized; others are honkin’-big valet-carried, excess-weight, $75 checked bags.

Either way, it’s easier to jettison that baggage – knowing you won’t have to lug it anymore – than to try and make everyone forget about the baggage with new smoke and mirrors.

And finally,

It’s like kids eating their vegetables. They don’t want to, but they’ll do it — but only because they have to, and mainly just to stay out of trouble.

Convincing some leaders to do new things is equally hard. Many times, they think others will see them as “soft,” or worse, “weak.” Other times, they may feel like they’re giving in to the entitlement mentality (don’t even get me started on how ubiquitous across all generations that can be).

Then there are the test-drives – trying out new behaviors, multiple times on multiple people, all to see if it works for them.

On the other hand, simply refraining from doing something seems altogether easier, and feels more like altering others’ perceptions than changing their personal, specific behaviors.

It’s a win all around.

Finally, no “Stop It” commentary can possibly be published without mention of Bob Newhart’s famous Stop It skit from Saturday Night Live. I use it with most of my coaching clients, and I’s funny as hell. A keeper.

In changing your leadership impact now – immediately – today – focus on what you can stop doing, allowing yourself the time to add “start doing” behaviors over time.

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