The Five Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Teaching Habitudes

For more than ten years, schools, universities, athletic teams, corporations, youth groups, and non-profit organizations have used Habitudes® to ignite conversations and build leadership skills in the emerging generation.

sitting teens

Along the way, we’ve partnered with a company to assess outcomes and discover what is working and what is not. One observation stands out. When the images have produced less than stellar results, it’s usually because of a failure by the instructor. In other words, the students or athletes reported they felt like the content was relevant—but it was lost in translation because the “facilitator” failed to deliver it in an engaging manner. Below are the top five mistakes instructors make:

1.  Leaders teach it in a traditional fashion.

Instead of anchoring the lesson time with the image, and consequently, turning the time into an engagement of their imagination, the image was inserted somewhere in the midst of lists and facts to remember. It felt like a class.

In order to differentiate your lesson time, use the image up front to anchor all you plan to say. These young people listen to traditional lectures all day and crave instruction to be engaging and different. To be remembered, the image should be the “steering wheel,” not a “spare tire” that you bring up briefly at some point.

2.  Leaders don’t prioritize it with their attitudes or time.

Instead of entering the session with passion and a positive attitude, leaders model an obligatory mindset, treating it as a waste of time. You can be sure of one thing—if you presume it’s a waste of time, it certainly will be. When approached with a sour attitude, or when given very little time or effort, it sends the wrong message.

If you are required to teach a Habitude, you might as well make the most of it. We have found that students mirror back the leader’s attitude over time. Enthusiasm and apathy are both contagious. Give it your best effort and watch what happens.

3.  Leaders don’t translate the timeless principle into a relevant issue.

Instead of introducing a dilemma that’s common to young listeners, instructors simply jump in, talking about the principle without tying it to something relevant they’re facing. The facilitator forgets that students learn on a need-to-know basis.

In order to be viewed as relevant, facilitators should create a dilemma in the minds of their audience first. Introduce a common problem, perhaps even from a story in their own life that the Habitude will address. For example, before teaching the Starving Baker, talk about a time you faced burnout. Remind them of how common burnout or plateauing is in today’s world—then expose them to the principle.

4.  Leaders consume all the time with instruction.

Instead of making the Habitudes time an invigorating discussion, the leader turns it into a soapbox—a time to lecture or tell stories that consume most of the time. They ignore what students report as their favorite time during the Habitudes session. In every single case, they enjoy the opportunity to talk and discuss the principle. I believe there is no “life change” without “life exchange” in small group discussions.

So guard the time you have. Get them used to conversation in smaller communities, where they weigh in on the issue. Make sure half your time allows your students to answer a couple of well-crafted questions on the topic and weigh in with what they think. Then, take time to listen to their ideas. Earn your right to be heard.

5.  Leaders don’t follow up on how students apply the principles.

Instead of expecting the Habitude discussion times to actually help them improve their life and leadership, instructors simply tread through them to get them out of the way. It’s something to check off their list, and often times, they neglect to follow up and ask how students applied the principles the previous week.

The truth is, students live up or down to our expectations. So, before each week, ask your students or athletes how they were able to (or not able to) the truth they discussed. It may sound cheesy, but this kind of accountability is what actually transforms our habits and attitudes.

Best Practices for Teaching Habitudes

Here are some tips leaders should follow to help bring their Habitudes teachings to life:

  1. Use fun, laughter, and theme-centered games to drive home the big picture
  2. Engage students to lead the event or game when it fits in the program.
  3. Allow for half the time to be used for small group interaction.
  4. Relate to each student and do their best to call them by name when they engage them as they cover the Habitude
  5. Use movie clips, pop culture, and real examples to make the Habitude even more relevant
  6. Demonstrate how they are embracing and practicing the principles of Habitudes
  7. Ask about how students practiced the Habitude from the previous week, providing friendly accountability.
  8. Gain buy-in from the main influencers in their organization by sharing with and adding value to them
  9. Introduce Habitudes in an event but let students process them over time

The Bottom Line…

Remember—the only way Habitudes is going to make a difference is if you make your sessions different. It cannot look or feel like a class lecture or a punishment. The images are designed to empower students and athletes to build an influential life.

And if you’re successful, leadership will become less about their position and more about their disposition.


Looking to develop leaders? Check out

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes


The Five Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Teaching Habitudes