The Power of Habit – Part 3

Starbucks And The Habit Of Success—When Willpower Becomes Automatic:

Starbucks has succeeded in teaching life skills to its employees,  All new employees spent at least fifty hours in Starbucks classrooms, and dozens more at home with Starbucks’ workbooks and taking to the Starbucks mentors assigned to them.

At the core of that education is an intense focus on an all-important habit:  willpower.  Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important Keystone habit for individual success.  Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.  And the best way to strengthen willpower and give students a let up, studies indicate, is to make it into a habit.

Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks told the author, “We’re in the people business serving coffee.  We’re not in the coffee business serving people.  The solution Starbucks discovered, was turning self-discipline into an organization habit.

This enabled Starbucks to effectively successfully achieve its rapid expansion.

Willpower isn’t just a skill.  It’s a muscle, like muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.

What employees really needed were clear instructions about how to deal with inflection points.  So the company developed new training materials that spelled out routines for employees to use when they hit rough patches.  The manuals taught workers how to respond to specific cues, such as a screaming customer or a long line at a cash register.  Mangers drilled employees, role playing with them until the responses became automatic.  The company identified specific rewards—grateful customers, praise from a manager—that employees could look to as evidence of a job well done.

Starbucks taught their employees how to handle moments of adversity by giving them willpower habit loops.  This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.  In essence, they decided ahead of time how to react to a cue.  When the cue arrived, the routine occurred.

Studies have shown some people were able to create willpower habits relatively easily.  Others, however, struggled no matter how much training and support they received.  What was causing the difference?

When people are asked to do something that takes self-control, if they think they are doing it for personal reason—if they feel like it’s a choice or something they enjoy because it helps someone else—it’s much less taxing.  If they feel like they have no autonomy, if they are just following order, their willpower muscles get tired much faster.

For companies and organizations, this insight has enormous implication.  Simply giving employees a sense of agency—a feeling that they are in control, that they have genuine decision-making authority—can radically increase how much energy and focus they bring to their jobs.  Giving employees a sense of control improved how much self-discipline they brought to their jobs.  People want to be in control of their lives.

The Power Of A Crisis:

Crises are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it’s worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down.  Good leaders seize crises to remake organization habits.  In fact, crisis are such valuable opportunities that a wise leader often prolongs a sense of emergency on purpose.

A company with dysfunctional habits can’t turn around simply because a leader orders it.  Rather, wise executives seek out moments of crisis—or create the perception of crisis—and cultivate the sense that something must change, until everyone is finally ready to overhaul the patterns they live with each day.  Rahm Emanuel stated,” You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”