This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”Malcolm Gladwell brought this same phenomenon to our attention in modern times in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. A common theme throughout Gladwell’s book is the “10,000-Hour Rule,” based on a study by psychologist Anders Ericsson, suggesting mastery in anything requires a 10,000-hour investment.

It takes practice to become natural. We all need a certain amount of toughness, perseverance, and support to be masterful in our business relationships.

Once you know your weak spots when it comes to developing prosperous and satisfying relationships, then the key is to find practices that are going to really help you—practices that are easy, and even fun.

Bonus: Making it Real

This week, create a 30-day experiment.

Focus on an area you consider to be a weak point, then choose one small behavior to modify over a one-month period. Work the muscle every day, or twice a week, or 8 times in the next 30 days—you decide, just commit and stick to it.

Some additional tips:

  • Use the trust equation as your guide; focus on one of the following: credibility, reliability, intimacy, or self-orientation.
  • Make your experiment simple and something you will look forward to.
  • Choose one thing to try; don’t pile on.
  • Be very specific about what you’re going to practice—“Be a better listener” is too general; “Everyday empathy” will get you much farther.
  • It’s ok to experiment with people outside of work. The goal is to form the habit; it doesn’t really matter how and with whom.
  • Tell someone about your experiment and ask them to help you follow through.

Click here for a worksheet, including some experiment examples, to get you started.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).