The four habits that changed our workplace

One of the greatest ironies of change is that while we think about the large, exciting end-result of change, change is actually created by taking small, consistent action over time. This means that while talking about the impact of change is exciting, talking about the process of change is not.

No matter what change you’re making in the world right now, you will need foundational systems for how you get the work done, as well as the right talents on your team to work within those systems.

And you’ll need solid habits.

So what are the most important habits and best practices that those talented people can use to maximize their strengths?

1. Invest time in thoughtful planning

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” It’s one of my favorite cliches.

“For every minute of planning, you gain an hour of productivity.”

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

I could keep going.

Funny thing. I could include a hundred trite sayings about the importance of planning and it wouldn’t make it any easier to just do. Like all of the most important things in life, it is not easy. But it is vital.

When you create a culture of planning in your organization, you will revolutionize the outcomes you’re able to produce. This is because all of the sayings I copied and pasted above are true. When you plan, you are more efficient and more effective. Planning enables you to:

  • Anticipate and correct for challenges before they occur
  • Proactively communicate to others who can help you along the way
  • Calculate the most efficient course of action
  • Build in buffer time for the unexpected

Hopefully, we can all agree that planning is important. But how do you encourage a group of people to plan? Here are some tangible tips we’ve found impactful for the Javelina team:

  • Instead of asking when someone will complete a task or project, ask them how they are going to get it done. Answering this question will force them to come up with an action plan on the spot. And if they struggle to answer the question, you have identified that the first thing they need to do is sit down and put some thought into what their plan of action is. Helping them do this by breaking it down into individual action steps will be super helpful and greatly increase the chances of them completing the project on time.

  • Schedule a standing, weekly 30-minute meeting where every team member comes ready to present their plan for the work week. They should discuss their major goals, their most important tasks, and discuss any problem projects they are struggling with. The value here is less in the check-in itself, and more in the accountability it provides in ensuring every team member has thought through their biggest priorities and how they will get them done.

  • Create a planning checklist. This can be as simple as a series of questions that you equip your team members to run through at the beginning of a new project or task. Include things like “What are the tasks I must do?” “What are the tasks I can delegate to others?” “What are the most important benchmarks and milestones in this project?” By encouraging your team members to run through them every time, you will build the planning habits.
2. Effective time management

Time is the great equalizer, isn’t it?  It’s the only thing that every single human being has the exact same amount of on any given day. We all have 86,400 seconds in a day.

Time management is super, duper hard. I actually give presentations on this stuff and most of the time, I suck at it too.

I’ve written about mastering time management before. Here are some quick and easy things to do with your teams to get into some better time management habits:

  • Talk frequently with each other about time management – how hard it is, tips and tricks for success, stories of winning and losing at time management. Discussing it takes the shame out of it, and allows team members who are struggling realize that they’re not alone.
  • Have a very clear idea of what you should be saying yes to and what you should be saying no to – as an employee, a member of your family, a friend. Poor time management is essentially saying yes to too many things – or the wrong things. Gaining a very clear idea of what your priorities are – as well as the tasks associated with those priorities – will help you create two lists: Things I Say Yes To and Things I Say No To.
  • Saying no is hard, so find a way to minimize your no’s. If someone asks you out for coffee, and it doesn’t align with your priorities – then simply suggest a quick call, or refer them to another person who they should meet. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.
3. Kind, honest and direct communication

If I had to pick one from this list that is the most important, it would be this one. To me, kind, honest and direct communication lies at the center of human advancement. Without it, we will languish. With it, anything is possible.  

To the Javelina team, direct, kind and honest communication means:

  • Being proactive about telling others important information, whether it’s client information, project updates, constructive feedback, good news, or anything else.
  • Talk to people, not about them.  
  • Being nice isn’t always kind. There are times when you have to give people constructive, even critical, feedback. Stand up for your coworkers and tell them what you really think – you’re doing them no favors by saying one thing and thinking another.

Kindness is a skill. And like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Demanding kindness in the workplace in every circumstance will fundamentally shift how your organization operates. It will strengthen outcomes and positively impact your bottom line

Talk to your team about what kind, honest and direct communication means to them. Think about:

  • What are the behaviors that you can encourage and celebrate?
  • What are the behaviors you choose to minimize?
  • What should you do when someone on your team isn’t kind – whether they meant to be or not?

Create a definition of what this means for you all, then start to equip each other to practice kindness day in and day out to make it one of your essential habits.

For more about how kindness is life-changing, don’t miss our moving podcast interview with Jeannette Mare, the founder and Executive Director of kindness-focused nonprofit Ben’s Bells.

4. Never stop improving

The final habit in Stephen Covey’s seminal book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is continual self-improvement.

Simply put, self-improvement is the practice of:

  • Getting to know yourself really well, so you can pick how you want to…
  • Improve, excel and master, while learning to…
  • Like yourself just the way you are.

There are strong, time-proven links between personal development and professional success. For organizations and individuals alike, striving for improvement means you learn things.

When you play it safe and stay where you’re comfortable, you rarely grow. As we often say at Javelina, the magic happens when you are out of your comfort zone. Continually striving to improve pushes you right to the edge of what is comfortable more often – meaning faster growth for you and the people around you.  

Here are a few ways you can encourage perpetual improvement in your organization:

  • Attend trainings as a group. There are many free trainings offered through local universities, colleges or incubators. Find one you will all find interesting, and grab lunch together right afterwards so you can discuss what you each took away.
  • Ask everyone to identify something they’re scared to do but that they know would be helpful for them. Then help and support one another to tackle those goals – one by one. For example, if one person is terrified of public speaking, encourage them to give a short speech and give them feedback.
  • Share interesting articles, books, or podcasts that you think others would find helpful and talk about what it highlighted for you. Seeing others learn in front of our very eyes is nothing short of inspiring.  

Let’s be real. I cannot claim that every member of the Javelina team practices these habits all day, every day. I know I certainly don’t, and I’m the boss. But we certainly strive to intentionally strengthen our abilities in each area. And we know that somewhere in the middle of practicing these amazing habits, we’re better able to work with our clients to change the world.

Javelina Blog Author Ariel Reyes
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Sample caption text lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit Everything is political. You can’t run from it and you can’t hide. You shouldn’t want to though, because it’s not something to be feared, but embraced. People like to say they’re neutral or...

Javelina Blog Author

Catherine Alonzo, CEO & Founding Partner

Catherine Alonzo is the CEO and founding partner of Javelina, a company that brings brand experience to life for non-profits, businesses, campaigns and individuals. Having played a pivotal role in growing Javelina into a leading branding and marketing firm, Catherine specializes in effective messaging, brand development and business strategic planning.


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