It doesn’t just take smarts and skills to build strong leaders. It’s up to us to enable the leaders of the future to engage their teams and give people purpose and fulfillment in the workplace. I am not talking about the grade school or high school students in the distant future, I mean the ones we have been neglecting in the workforce for all the years since we promoted them. They may have been your top distinguished engineer or your number one performer, but you can’t just assume that he or she can just jump right into managing people.
The 7 Habits was published in 1989 by Stephen R. Covey, that might seem like it was a long time ago and you may be thinking “too much has changed since then for this to be relevant to me.” I have to admit that as a new member of the FranklinCovey team, reacquainting myself with these concepts reminded me how much they impacted my transition to a leader and helped me to refocus my personal life to get me on the road to personal fulfillment. As a wife, sister, mother, grandmother, friend, and colleague I recommend some self-reflection around these simple rules for everyone.
Developing good behaviors as a foundation is important for someone you are grooming for leadership, they need to develop personally first, to move from dependence on others to an independent, high functioning individual contributor that kicks butt.
What does that look like?
First, you have to learn to be proactive and understand that you are responsible for your own happiness. Proactive is “creating a situation by causing something to happen, rather than responding to it.” You need to understand a few basics related to communication, mutual respect and positivity. You have a choice to use “yes, and…” language vs. “no, but…”. You have a choice to pause between stimulus and your response and use your self-awareness, imagination, and free will to formulate how you will react. You have a choice to walk away from things you can’t change and focus your energy on the things you can influence. YOU HAVE A CHOICE, once you recognize that you are on your way.
The next thing that you need to tackle on your journey is what sort of outcomes you are looking for as you advance in your life and your career, don’t just wander blindly from situation to situation. If you want success you have to soul search and figure out your short-term goals and your long term outcomes. You can start with a personal mantra or mission statement to inspire you be your best self. It can be as simple as “We enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere” which is FranklinCovey’s mission statement and consequentially, their enduring belief in that mantra from the top down is what drew me to the company in the first place.
Learning how to spend your time on what is important in all aspects of your life, is the next big step to independence. We call it the big rocks and the gravel. Big rocks are your highest priorities, and the gravel is all the little fires you like to put out because you want to be the hero, the meetings you don’t need to be in, the non-stop messaging from multiple sources, etc. You must be able to identify the most important and then stick to your guns when the time comes to prioritize your time. Managing yourself is one of the most important things you should learn to do effectively to move to independence in life and work, it can also be one of the hardest.
If you manage to change these three behaviors and you are constant with their practice, you are ready to start the move toward a state of interdependence where collaboration and openness drive innovation and successful leadership begins to take shape. When I use the term “successful leader” I am not talking just any success, it’s not making a revenue goal at all costs or some M&A strategy that happened to work out. It’s creating an inclusive environment where people feel like their work is purpose-driven and that they are valued. Where people feel engaged, their voice is heard, and they are accomplishing their goals individually and as a team.
You must create win-win situations, whether it is at home, with your co-worker, your customer, or your direct report, it needs to be a priority. You have to adopt the mentality that there is PLENTY to spare for everyone out there, money, recognition, responsibility, customers, love, you name it. If you believe this, along with having a respectful open dialog about what it means, you will create partnerships with the people in your life that result in mutual success.
We all know that listening can be hard, it’s hard and it’s important, and if you can’t learn how to do it, you will shut people down and stop open dialog cold in its tracks. Always make sure that you understand what the person you are listening to is trying to say and respond in a thoughtful and respectful way. When you listen and respond empathetically, you create an environment of openness that promotes two-way feedback and trust.
When you believe in your ability to manage yourself and to create open, inclusive relationships with the people around you, you naturally move from an individual contributor to a collaborator. Adopting the mindset that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts will catapult you into a new world where you can learn to value the differences in people and their strengths and weakness. When you come to the realization that sameness is boring and differences evoke creativity, you increase your team’s ability to succeed tenfold.
Last but not least, none of this matters if you don’t take care of yourself! Plan time for yourself every day to renew and revitalize your body, mind, heart, and spirit.
I would love to hear how you feel about the 7 habits and how they can impact your personal and professional effectiveness. I would also like to hear if you had some preconceived notions about the practice of the 7 habits that might have changed after reading this article.
My mantra is simple: “Get better every day.” What’s yours?