Susanna is a firefighter and willingly rushes into dangerous situations with her teammates to save others. Asim is a nurse, working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. These examples of individual choices are dramatic, and they may seem more in line with our picture of a “leader” than someone who works as part of an “ordinary” team.

The fact is that every single person is presented with daily opportunities to be a leader – to act in the service of the greater good and be all-in to make the right impact, even when it is not easy. Leadership is not about the position you hold. What makes people leaders is their moment-by-moment choices.

It may seem that daily behavior is not really a choice. In fact, the majority of choices are part of our routines and are habits developed over time. When it comes to behavior, people fall back on what is comfortable most of the time. That’s why our daily choices don’t feel like conscious decisions.

So how do you get out of auto pilot and make intentional choices?

  • Keep perspective on difficult situations, using CIMA. Get very clear about what you can Control, Influence and Mitigate. Everything else must simply be accepted. This calibration keeps you from spinning your wheels trying to make something happen when you really cannot.
  • Understand your habit loops and what reinforces your routine responses. For example, if you typically express hostility toward a person who’s late for a meeting (Routine), isolate the Cue. Maybe it’s a person who really bugs you, but it could be lateness by anyone. Then, think about what reinforces this behavior (the Reward, in this case, feeling superior). Experiment with some new reinforcers. For instance, you may see an improved relationship as a reward for engaging the late person after the meeting, rather than being hostile when they arrive.
  • Increase awareness of your choices by using Notice, Stop, Think and Choose.
    • Notice: Tune in and recognize how you’re feeling. How is your body reacting? Pay attention to the clues your body is giving you.
    • Stop: Create a choice space by not reacting right away. Breathe. Count to ten. Grab a notepad and pen so you can buy yourself a few moments. Cup one hand in another hand as a physical reminder to be centered before reacting.
    • Think: Where is my CARE* now? Am I strongly committed to impact (COMMITMENT*)? Am I aware of my own emotions and those of others (PEOPLE*)? How can I best make a choice that keeps the greater good, impact and relationships as the focus?
    • Choose: Now you are able to make a conscious choice about your behavior.

*For more on choices and their impact, get our new book, “What Great Teams Do Great: How Ordinary People Accomplish the Extraordinary” at your local bookstore or online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Do you have a favorite method for making your behavior intentional? Comment below or message us.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash