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Habits that Empower

Habits that Empower

I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and love the habit loop. It covers alot of territory. Here is one passage that stood out for me which has huge implications to increasing productivity, encouraging personal responsibility and providing deeper job satisfaction:

A study showed that students who had been treated kindly had more willpower, and the key difference was the sense of control they had over their experience. When people are asked to do something that takes self-control, if they think they are doing it for personal reasons – 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’re just following orders, their willpower muscles get tired much faster.

For companies and organizations, this insight has enormous implications. 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.

One 2010 study at a manufacturing plant in Ohio, for instance, scrutinized assembly-line workers who were empowered to make small decisions about their schedules and work environment. They designed their own uniforms and had authority over shifts. Nothing else changed. All the manufacturing processes and pay scales stayed the same. Within two months, productivity at the plant increased by 20 percent. Workers were taking shorter breaks. They were making fewer mistakes. Giving employees a sense of control improved how much self-discipline they brought to their jobs.

The bottomline? People want to feel that they are in control of their own lives.

Such a simple concept, but profound for leaders and their organizations that can implement it. What will you do with this information?


  1. Carly, I enjoyed this read as well.

    I used it to satisfy my chocolate cravings around 2p in the afternoon. I prepared a protein drink with fruit at the beginning of the day. I changed my routine.

    Interesting study regarding the production team. When people feel they’re being controlled, they’ll do the least amount of work possible just to keep their job. They’ll do the minimum.

    • Good for you Steve. I’ve also found I’ve changed eating habits this way.

      Sounds so simple, to give employees more responsibility for making decisions that directly impact them. I understand what the quality control experts might say, so it’s a matter of selecting the things that can be given back to employees, because the payoff is huge to do so.