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Wondering what footwear has to do with leadership? Give me a few moments of your time and I’ll make the connection for you.

We all know that blindly following old habits and routines doesn’t get us new results, just the same results. Good routines mean good results. Even when some changes could mean great routines and great results. We know the potential is there, and we want it, but looking for our habits and routines takes effort.

Changing them takes far more effort. You give yourself permission to procrastinate: You’re waiting for things to slow down so you have more time, you’ve got deadlines approaching, you’re not really qualified to analyze it all or your routines work for you so there’s no point to examination or change. Good is good enough? It’s painful to see it out there in black and white, but that is what the excuses really say.

What in your life could be better? What do you want to change? Most of us have used those questions as a starting place for improvements that really made a difference in our lives and our work. But sooner or later, we all end up at the next plateau, asking “What now? What next?” Socrates said “an unexamined life isn’t worth living”. Well, where do you start the examination? Start with socks and shoes!

When my daughter was young, she asked me one morning about the order in which I put on my socks and shoes. She asked if I put them on by “sock-shoe, sock-shoe” or “sock-sock, shoe-shoe.” I actually had to sit down and think it about it. I couldn’t remember ever deciding how to put them on, or having a reason for my footwear routine. The exchange stuck with me because of the lesson I learned from it: My daughter’s question invited me to examine a routine I perform every day of my life without a single thought about “how” or “why.” Even if I’d tried to examine my morning routines, I’m not sure I would have focused on such a basic idea as the putting on of socks and shoes. Someone new at the business of socks and shoes saw that it was a choice and examined the choices.

This is the challenge: We need to think about the things we do every day that are on autopilot. Examine them from the perspective of someone new at the job! Opportunities for improvement come up when you examine your routines, and all of them should be moving you toward your goals and dreams in some way. Why orbit good enough and not keep moving toward great?

If we are to grow as people and leaders, then let’s be willing to go through the examination of our routines and processes, and evaluate them in the most basic sense of the word. Evaluate means to assess or discern the value of something. Is this routine valuable to you? Does this process further your goals or dreams? Does it move you and/or your company onward and upward? What changes can you make that will move you forward, not just keep you circling?

In case you’re curious – my routine is “sock, sock, shoe, shoe, lace, lace” when my shoes have laces as they do today!

How do you put on your socks and shoes?