The Pebble Principle (Habits)

I started this brief a long time ago and then 2020 happened. Something reinforced by this year’s events is that aggressive pragmatism holds the line through trends, and through crisis. You hear a lot about “pivoting.” How many leaders are pivoting from one trend to another trend?

There are moments that call for bold action but the pebble principle holds steady. Consistent, repeated small actions tend to generate the most returns. Often times the action is avoidance.

Here are 3 favorites:

  • Avoid trends — the amount of money and resources swallowed by well-marketed trends is staggering when weighed against value. Don’t be afraid to look back, take inventory, and acknowledge efforts that didn’t pay any returns.
  • Enable people — it seems obvious but so few leaders are really doing this. You should look for ways to delegate responsibly, move decision-making closer to the problem (even with juniors), and build clear growth-tracks for everyone. (this last one makes the first 2 increasingly easier)
  • Always be testing (ABT), validating results, and investing returns — another simple idea that gets lost in day-to-day. Given a lot of shifts in work (remote, reorganization) this is both more crucial and more difficult to keep a priority.

Habits are another way to think about it. A few topical books:

  • Managing Oneself, by Peter Drucker
  • The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Habits aren’t always easy and that’s why examining and adjusting my own is an evergreen item on my to-do list. They won’t all stick and it’s not worth getting stuck on the ones that don’t.

The important thing is being an active participant in choosing your habits instead of being a passive consumer of habits that serve someone else.

Thomas Irre is the founder of HK5, LLC, Practical Business Technology and Mental Self-Defense for leaders & teams.