Habits And Your Tribe

Office workers gathered around a conference table reviewing papers with an image of a manager overlaying the foreground


“People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” This profound quote from F.M. Alexander is a directive for managers to stop trying to manage production and start managing activities (habits).

For over 25 years, we’ve documented the habits of top-performing sales professionals and found they do all or most of what we call the Ninja Nine success habits. These are five daily and four weekly habits.


  1. Gratitude, Affirmations, Positive Reading
  2. Time Block. Stay on your agenda
  3. Write two personal notes
  4. Focus on Hot List (Buy/Sell in 90 days)
  5. Focus Warm List (Buy/Sell in 1 year)


  1. Client service calls
  2. Two live real estate reviews
  3. 50 live interviews
  4. Update database; look for matches

What holds people back from doing these simple habits? Why do they start a good habit and then stop? James Clear, in his excellent book Atomic Habits, provides some answers. The first challenge is goals. If the associate is merely goal-driven, once they achieve their goals, they stop doing the habits that got them there. We see people lose weight and then gain it back, accomplish a fitness goal, and suddenly stop working out, hit a sales target, and stop doing what got them there, etc.

James Clear observes, “Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a SYSTEM to improve. If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.”

Build Your Success System

A success system goes beyond goals. Goals are a start. Lasting change and consistent habits happen with a shift in IDENTITY. Who is the person you want to become? Is the goal to finish a marathon, or is it to become a runner? Is the goal to produce a certain income, or is it to become a top producer? Is your company goal to hit a profit number, or is it to become a consistently profitable company?

The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. Every action is a vote for the type of person (or company) you wish to become. Unfortunately, every time you choose a bad habit, it’s a vote for that identity as well. As Aristotle says, “We become what we do repeatedly.

Excellence, therefore, is not an act. It is a habit.” Help your associates identify who they want to become, and they are more likely to vote for the habits that will get them there. The same is true for you and your company identity.

How do you help an associate change their identity? There are four steps.

  1. Help them decide who they want to become.
  2. Show them how to reprogram their non-conscious using affirmations and visualizations.
  3. Have them vote for their new identity with their habits. (Ninja Nine)
  4. Encourage them to select a peer group that supports their new identity. (This is where you, as the leader, come in.)

One of the most important roles you have as a leader is controlling the culture (peer group) of your office/company. According to Dr. David McClelland of Harvard University, “As much as 80% of a person’s success can be attributed to their reference group.” What is the reference (peer) group you are creating for your organization? What is your company identity?

Why would an associate want to join your firm? Sales associates vote with their feet. James Clear’s recommendation for someone choosing an organization is this, “One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits and be successful is to join a culture where your desired behavior and identity is the norm.” What are the norms in your office/company? What kind of a tribe are you creating? Nothing sustains motivation and good habits better than belonging to the right tribe.


This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends, Inc. Copyright © 2020. To read the rest of this issue & more, please visit our Real Trends page online.


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