We all want to be the best “self” we can be. However, sometimes there are behaviors and habits that get in the way of our personal and professional success. Is there a behavior that is consistently getting in the way of your best self in the workplace?  What behavior would you change if you had the opportunity?

For many professional women, the answers may include:

While these behaviors are certainly not limited to women, research and my own coaching practice shows that many women professionals struggle with one or more of these behaviors. If you recognize one of the items of this list as a behavior that you need to address, welcome to a not very exclusive club.

Good news: You CAN change big behaviors like the ones listed here or others you may have identified. Bad news: It takes time. And patience.

The first step you have already done: identify a behavior you want to change. The second step: List all the smaller behaviors you have in place that support this larger behavior. For example, if you think you are struggling with time management, think about how you run or organize meetings. Do you use and stick to an agenda? Do you keep a loose schedule with no set blocks for work? Do you have an open door policy that does not permit you to get work done?

Typically, leaders have a series of habits that support the overall behavior they want to address. I say habits because most of these smaller behaviors are repeated over and over throughout the day or week. They are repeated so often they become a reflex. So, to begin to change a BIG behavior like Time Management, you have to think about all the smaller habits you have in place that support your overall struggle with getting it all done in a day.

The next step: start tackling the larger behavior by making a change to one of the supportive habits. For example, if you are struggling with perfectionism and know that you have to review each email you craft at least four times, aim to reduce the review cycles to two. Instead of tackling the big behavior all at once, start by tackling the smaller habits that enable the overarching behavior.

If you need help with exactly how to change a habit, here is a quick tip:

  1. Find two colleagues or workplace friends and enlist their help.
  2. State the habit you want to change simply and quickly. For example:
    1. I want to stop interrupting people.
    2. I want to be sure my meetings end on time.
    3. I want to reduce the amount of time it takes me to respond via email.
    4. I want to be on time to my appointments.
    5. Ask each person for 2 ideas on how you can improve in this area.
    6. Say only “Thank you.” You do not want to get defensive or address any of the suggestions. Just jot down the advice and say “thank you.” Seriously. Do not respond or pontificate. “Thank you” is plenty.
    7. Ponder the advice you have received. And, then try at least one of the ideas. The point here is to get out of your head and try something new (since the habit you have identified that you want to change is not working).

Changing an engrained behavior that no longer works for you can be hard – but it can happen. And, it will happen if you tackle the challenge just one habit at a time!