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Boost Your Personal Effectiveness with 5 Key Habits

As we continue our series on how to unleash your full potential, keep in mind that it’s the little things that count. Personal effectiveness is a good example. Instead of being one big thing, personal effectiveness is the sum total of little things that you do every day.

The Link between Personal Potential and Personal Effectiveness 

Graphic Showing Holding Map and Found X MarkPotential is activated by commitment and focus. Personal effectiveness enables you to allocate more time and attention to pursuits that unleash your potential. Instead of being mired in unproductive activities or angst, improving your personal effectiveness will liberate you to try new things and focus on what matters.

Effectiveness, by the way, is not the same thing as efficiency. Those two terms often get confused. Effectiveness is the ability to get things done. Efficiency is the ability to get things done, but it's more about getting them done quickly, whereas effectiveness has to do with quality and sustainability… and making an impact. 

Effectiveness is what raises the level of your performance, your achievement, and your satisfaction. Not only that, when you're effective you’ll have a contagious effect. Others around you will also be able to perform and achieve at higher levels and will likely feel more satisfied too. 

You Don’t Need a Personality Transplant! Just a Few New Habits Will Help 

Here's some good news. 

Effectiveness is not some sort of personality trait. It's not a characteristic that some people are born with, and some people just never have a chance to access. Just the opposite! Effective people have all varieties of temperaments. What they have in common are the practices or the habits that they employ. 

What that means is that effectiveness is learnable and accessible . You, too, can become more effective! You can acquire the skills and habits that make people more effective. 

Habits are learned. Habits take 15-30 days of sustained practice to become habits, so this will be well worth working on. 

5 Key Habits for Personal Effectiveness 

Habit #1: Evaluate your choices wisely 

We have many, many choices in nearly everything we do. Sometimes we make hasty decisions and end up regretting them. To prevent regret, build a habit of objectively evaluating choices before you make them or before you reflexively enact a decision. This requires intellectual honesty and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and entertain new ideas. 

More often than not, evaluating options involves more that determining what’s right and what’s wrong. There can be more than one “right” choice. What you’ll be evaluating are different courses of action. Evaluating them without judging them will help you stick to the facts and maintain a more neutral perspective.

In evaluating choices and making decisions, step one is to make sure you’ve identified the real problem. Addressing superficial issues or symptoms of a problem won’t make the problem go away. Get to the root cause and focus your energy there. 

Next, ask questions to better understand the situation and others’ perspectives about it. Don’t fall into the trap of only gathering information that supports your preconceived notions. Instead, actively seek diverse points of view and work to fully understand them. 

Questions that will help you to evaluate your options objectively include: 

  • What is the real problem that we’re trying to solve?
  • Why does this matter?
  • Who is directly involved and who will be impacted by a decision or choice?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What are the “must haves” that must be included in my choice/decision?
  • What are the “nice to haves” that must be included in my choice/decision?
  • Why am I leaning a certain way in this? Am I biased in any way toward that option?

Using a process like this should improve your decision quality. It will make you more confident about the choices you make. Others will be more likely to understand and respect your choices. As a result, you will be more effective – better able to get things done and to make an impact. 

Habit #2: Be credible in the way you speak and act. 

Being credible means that others can believe in you. People can't believe your message if they don't believe in you, the messenger. 

Being credible means that you’re demonstrating clarity, consistency and alignment in your words and actions. It means you deliver on time and uphold your promises and commitments. 

When you make choices based on a thorough and objective evaluation of the options, you’ll be more credible. Listening to others, inviting their input, and asking questions to genuinely understand and solve problems will make it easier for others to support your choices. 

Habit #3: Show foresight 

Being credible puts you in a position where others will seek out your ideas and your input. You’ll continually build on your effectiveness by being adept and predicting likely outcomes. When you take a forward-looking view, people will feel more confident because you’re not blindly proceeding without foresight. 

Foresight keeps you from looking too narrowly at the present or status quo. It also keeps you from looking backwards where you have no impact. Looking forward makes you proactive, prepared, and inspiring to others. 

Habit #4: Maintain your composure 

keep yourself under control! When you lose control, it's frightening to other people. Develop the ability to limit your expression to whatever's appropriate at that moment in time, that place, and that person. 

This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn't have feelings. Feelings are valid and important. But pure, spontaneous feelings can be reactive and hazardous if not tempered with reason. 

This includes controlling what you express to yourself. Be sure that what you're putting out there for others is useful and not meant to emotionally manipulate them. You don't want to come across as someone who's only in it for yourself. 

Self-awareness gives you insights about why you feel the way you feel and why others feel the way they feel when they're around you. If you’d like to work on developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence, this assessment tool is a great place to begin. 

Habit #5: Invite feedback 

This one is tough. Criticism stings, and our automatic response is pain. 

A single word of criticism can drum up a lifetime of similar criticism, including self-criticism. To avoid all that pain, we avoid asking for and hearing criticism. 

For some people, the avoidance of criticism is to be overly defensive, to try and justify or minimize the situation that you're being criticized for. For others, the criticism is not only accepted, but it ends up being magnified with a lot of self-condemnation. Some people do both. They minimize in public, and they maximize the criticism when they're alone. 

Another common and ineffective response is to shift blame or externalize all criticism by denying responsibility. If you can't accept responsibility, what you're saying is that you are not in control of the situation. That shows limitations to your effectiveness. 

To invite feedback and process it without becoming overly defensive, use these tips: 

  • Ask for narrow feedback instead of broad or generalized feedback. Say “I’d like to know your thoughts about the way I provided a narrative overview about the data in the latest report” instead of saying “How did you like the latest report?” 
  • Remember that you don’t have to respond to feedback right away. Simply thank the person who offered it and let them know you’d like some time to process what they said. That way, you can get back to them after you’ve had time to consider the feedback and sort out your emotions. 
  • When you get vague feedback, ask for clarification and examples. Do this with a neutral tone and explain that you’d like to understand the specifics so you can fully understand. 
  • Take time to distinguish between what’s actually being said in this situation vs. similar things that others have said to you. Measure your response so that it is proportionate to this feedback alone. 

If you’d like to learn about 5 more habits for personal effectiveness, enroll in our free, self-paced, eLearning course called The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness. It’s available only in the People First Leadership Academy, a resource you’ll definitely want to bookmark and visit often!

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