The Importance of Habit
Take a beat and think of the highest performers in any sport, business, or academic realm. Who comes to mind? Probably giants like Michael Phelps, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, or maybe people like Albert Einstein, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk hit the top of your list. What is so special about these high-performers? It certainly seems like they have just that "something extra". Certainly, many of them have an aptitude, but it's persistence that helped them change the world in their field.
Einstein's famous theory took a decade of working on every single day to yield its fruits.
Bezos' empire started off as a struggling online bookstore out of his parent's garage.
Musk has been working in business for 30 years, and it's only in the last 5-8 that he's really started rocking the spotlight.
Phelp's success was due to constant practice to hone his craft. He literally spent eight hours a day in the water.
This is the power of practice, and without making it a habit to practice, you end up with a haphazard collection of experiences that barely moves the needle.
This is where for us as coaches and trainers we feel the burn. Our clients make progress while they are with us, but they are not as good "out of class". How can we help them to create habits that will serve them and push them towards success? Simply put, we remind them at the opportune time and help them develop systems to force the habit when we can.
We humans have a shockingly poor recall for the things we are intentional about learning. On average we retain only 10% of what we've learned after a week, devoid of reinforcement. We can do better. One way is to practice, and repeat the material. But apparently timing matters in when we review material.
When you repeat an activity several times throughout the day, you will get better and closer to the goal of mastery, but most of our clients, simply don't have the bandwidth to do that. When we rest, our minds sift through all the information we acquired during the day. Think of it as the deleted box in your email. Our brain deletes all emails that didn't really connect with us on a "required" level. It then emptys the "deleted box" after about a week. So a week later, when we get that same email, it doesn't really do much.
Now, if we get the same message every 24 hours for a week. We will start to anticipate it and maybe take preemptive action on that, like hitting "unsubscribe". This is what we are talking about! They take action as a result of that consistent communication.
The best time to follow up with a client is the next day. This is after they have had a chance to sift through the previous day's information. Once they have done this, your information will be much more relevant as you have another similar message still sitting in the mental trash can. This will give the brain a second check on that information, and we have a much higher probability of our client's mind deciding to lock that onto that long-term needed information.
The next way we can help our clients learn is by influencing their environment. This is way easier to say than to do. You don't live with your clients, so the only environmental factor in their world you have "control" over is their direct interactions with you, and to a lesser extent the communication device they hold. I don't know a single coaching professional who calls their clients every day to make sure they are practicing what they are supposed to.
This is where automation comes into play. When you can automate an environmental change, you are going to experience greater success rates. Adding daily reminders on their phone is a great way to do this if you are with them. In fact, I recently did this with one of our trainers.
Thomas is a fantastic coach, but he constantly neglects to report his training activities at the end of the day. This results in inaccurate pay for the work he has done and a mostly untraceable coaching chain where no-one could pick up with his clients in his absence. He has been warned, written-up, and suspended due to his constant failure to meet this requirement. Finally, I grabbed Thomas' phone and added an automation that would go off every day. This reminder will ring his phone and simultaneously open the reporting log.
Guess what? This is the first period where he has actually completed his reporting daily.
These are by no means the only ways to help your clients make the targeted changes, but it's certainly someplace to start. What is your most out-of-the-box systemic change you've made for one of your clients?